Note: This post should have been posted the week I started eating mindfully – or trying to, but things have got in the way of me posting. So I’ve moved on a bit since then but new updates will be coming soon.
Well after a year of fretting over turning 40, my 41st year is going to be much more positive.
You see this year I have devoted to a year of learning to eat mindfully.
I’ve started a series of videos on what I am doing and how. Here’s a link to the first one below –
Note to self: Ensure you are aware of what face you’re making before you press the play button!
As the video tells, I’ve been overweight since aged five, and food is the last area of my life that I haven’t got under control. I’m successfully managing my mental health and anxiety through living mindfully. I’ve stopped accumulating debt, and am finally paying it off. I live a slower, happier pace of life most of the time.
Yet eating poorly and overeating is the last area of my life that I need to work on. I’ve been on diet after diet over the years and have lost some weight but always put more on afterwards. I have tried everything: Slimming World, Slimfast, Weight Watchers, 1000 calories diets, healthy eating, 5:2, intermittent fasting, the Cambridge Diet, juices, detoxes. Yet nothing has worked. I find myself at some point reaching for the foods I crave, or use to comfort myself, to reward myself, to soothe myself.
A little while ago I came across mindful eating as a concept. The idea of being present when eating, and bringing awareness to eating habits, what you eat, how you eat, when you eat. To stop stuffing down food whilst watching TV, driving, responding to emails…all things I am an expert at.
With mindful eating you pretty much commune with your food. You look at it, smell it, taste it gently, savour it. You wonder about who made it, where it came from. The result is that rather than scoff down a packet of hobnobs after a bad email volley, because you’ve spent a lot of time getting to know your food and being truly present, the sensations of taste and smell and sound are far more vivid and intense, and you need less.
This is coupled with an awareness of hunger, and of what you’re using food for. So for me, I often eat because I am upset, bored, happy, celebrating, commiserating, I’m cold, I’m hot, there’s a day with a y in it…you get my drift. I don’t use food for what it’s intended for – to sustain life.
I use food as a crutch and it’s a 35 year engrained habit I learnt from the world around me, and then adopted as my own policy.
These last few years as I have been given more and more wonderful opportunities; a happy marriage, a gaggle of fantastic pets, a cosy little cottage in a beautiful place the problem hasn’t gone away as I thought it would.
I always thought ‘When I was happy…’ (hands up here who’s had the same thought?) I would stop having eating issues. Oh no, because they’re there all the time. Those habits to eat on auto pilot have been strengthened year after year after year through neural pathways and now I have to break them. I’m going to need an axe.
Why do I want to do this?
I like being alive. I am relatively well to my knowledge, but I know being so seriously overweight isn’t good for long term health. It’s not just my fear of dying this affects, but also the idea of a reduced mobility, of the risk of more long term health conditions such as diabetes, dementia, and strokes that scare me witless.
So why a year?
Well I don’t think anyone is going to turn around 35 years of eating mindlessly in 3 months. Not even six months. If I’m honest within the 365 days I’ve set myself I think I will have turned round a ship as big as the Titanic but I am not sure it will be steering quite on course, but it will be a start.
I know that eating healthily is a massive, massive issue across the world. I don’t say ‘weight’ because that’s subjective. One person’s healthy weight is another’s unhealthy and we’re all too obsessed by a number. However if I eat healthily and limited the amount of crap I put into my body I’d be happy. I don’t think I’d be what number the doctors want me to be on a scale, but I’d be willing to accept myself.
If I can use mindfulness to manage my mental health, my anxiety and my wellbeing, surely it must be able to sort out my eating too right? It’s pretty powerful stuff.
On my journey with me I’ll be taking two books. These are books I’ve researched as being the most popular: Mindful Eating- A guide to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food by Jan Chozen Bays who is a paediatrician who has a mindful eating centre, and Mindful Eating by Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung. I’ll be sharing my discoveries from these books with you, both in this blog and in my videos on Facebook.
Why am I sharing so openly?
Because there is so much shame batted about, around being overweight, about eating unhealthily and so much unkindness, and actually if we hate ourselves, or others for how they look or act, how will we ever find the kindness and self love we need to nurture our body? How will we ever want to take care of it and feed it well? I hope that others of you will join me on this journey; as supporters, as observers, as fellow mindful eaters, as people with kindness to give.
The ship has left the harbour
I’m on my journey now, and I’ll try to update regularly in between everything else that’s happening. I know there will be many ups and downs, times of sadness and happiness but my ultimate goal is to create more awareness of how I eat, what I eat and how to alter my path. That doesn’t mean I will never spend a day eating crap and feeling guilty again. It doesn’t mean I will lose a lot of weight in this first year- although hopefully some will naturally occur. By the way I am not planning to weigh myself once. Those amongst the seasoned dieters of you are probably shouting out now ‘That’s no diet’ and you’re right, it’s not. Diets don’t work for the majority of people. Our brains aren’t wired to deny themselves and be miserable. They are however wired to be retrained, we can train them to pause, to be aware, to be thoughtful, to eat one slice of pizza rather than a whole one, to stop eating before we’re full, to have a couple of biscuits and not a packet, to see that not eating cake every week is not a sadness.
What do I think will happen?
I think I’ll be pretty pissed off and angry and sad at the start. I think I will rebel by eating lots of crap. I think I’ll find it tough. Then I will remember to read my books, do my mindful eating practices, take a breath, bring awareness to the moment and remind myself there’s no end point. If I don’t get it right at this very minute, there’s the next minute and the next. In the way that if you fail a diet you fall off a wagon and can’t get back up again, here a kind hand picks you up, dusts you down and you realise the wagon never left, because it was in our imagination. Our minds are amazing tools, I just need to train mine to remember food is for sustaining life and health, not for getting over a bad day or as an alternative to feeling emotions.
What do you think about mindful eating? Have you ever heard of it? Have you ever struggled with eating healthily?