I didn’t understand the concept of “mindfulness” oh, about the first 4 dozen times I heard it. It seemed like I was plenty “mindful” -- obsessing over every morsel I had eaten, would eat, wanted to eat. “Mindful” about passing up the 7-Eleven, the Red Ribbon Bakery, the Starbucks and the KFC. I was all too “mindful.”
It turns out I wasn’t actually.I was obsessing but I wasn’t being particularly thoughtful about it. It would cause me physical and psychic pain that I “had to” stay away from all of this food but I couldn’t get to the part in myself where I “needed” that food. I mean, sure, I could think about every bite I ate but what was it that necessitated that eating?
- Was it hunger? Rarely – unless I was completely starving.
- Was it pleasure? I would have to admit, almost never. I was so sad and angry that I was eating at all, I couldn’t possibly enjoy what I was putting in my mouth.
- Was it emotion? Usually, but boredom, habit and rebelliousness sometimes won out over sadness, anger and frustration.
One year ago this week, I figured it out. I figured out what mindful really meant. I have never in my whole life been happier. It’s a different way of thinking. It is not about punishing myself. It is not about rewarding myself. It is not about comfort or fear or “getting away with something.”
The “getting away with something” by the way, was a big one for me. Being alone with food? It was like finding a hundred bucks on the street. You look around to make sure that no one had dropped it before stuffing it in your pocket and walking away. With the commensurate guilt afterward knowing that it isn’t yours and the fear that you will be “found out.” One of the hardest habits for me to break in the last year is eating in secret.
I haven’t been perfect. In the last year, I haven’t always thought about what I was eating and why I was eating it. I haven’t always eaten when I was hungry. I haven’t always stopped when I was full. I haven’t always made the choices based on what was best for me at the time. Sometimes I made choices based on what was cheapest or fastest or easiest to get my hands on at the time. This happens mostly when I failed to feed myself enough in the first place.
I may have to purposefully “be mindful” forever. On the other hand, perhaps it will become habit (crossing fingers, toes, etc.).
It seems like such a silly thing. Everyone eats – every living thing. I imagine that most people don’t obsess (write diatribes, go to support groups) over this natural part of keeping ourselves alive. But I do.
For more information on Mindfulness, check out the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA.
Or this book that actually helped "change my brain." It's Not about Food: Change Your Mind; Change Your Life; End Your Obsession with Food and Weight. It's almost exclusively for women. A lot of these kinds of books (Geneen Roth, etc.), I found were really condescending - this one isn't. You've processed this. You've thought about it. You still can't figure out why you eat when you don't even want to be eating. They don't have pat answers like, "you're angry at your husband/mother/children/self. That's why you eat." They are writing for a more sophisticated audience, in my opinionI loved it. For about 3 months I kept it with me wherever I went.
Labels: Body Electric