62. How Do You Eat?

Good morning and welcome to your sixty-second meditation. How do you eat? You may think this question involves only what you eat and how much, but it’s actually much more complicated than that. Many of us have extremely complex relationships with food, and to discuss the types and quantities of food we consume is to only just scratch the surface of this issue. Some other questions we may want to ask on the subject that will likely be far more revealing and helpful are: why do I eat the types of food that I eat? Am I making a conscious choice about what I am eating, or am I guided to that food by habit or convenience or compulsion? Why do I eat this or that amount of a given food? Am I afraid of becoming fat if I eat more? Or am I afraid, on whatever level of consciousness, that it may be a long time before I have access to this food again, and, as a result, feel the need to eat as much of it as possible? What am I feeling before, during, and after eating? Do I feel excitement, relish, and then satiety? Or do I feel sneaky, a loss of control, and then guilt and shame? What am I thinking while eating? Am I focussed on my food? On the flavours and textures? Am I aware of my hunger becoming satisfied? Or am I distracted, on my phone, or watching TV, and barely aware that I am eating at all? And how do I view food more generally? Is it a source of joy? Is it fuel and a means to an end? Is it a source of anxiety?

We all have to eat, whether we like it or not. So we might as well like it. But how? If we regard food as the source of so much worry and guilt and shame, how do we reverse those attitudes that we have been practising every day, sometimes for years? In her book Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole tells us first off that dieting is not the way to establish healthy relationships with the food we eat. She explains that by making certain types of food or certain amounts of food verboten we imbue those foods with power – power that can easily dominate us. Take the example of a child who is told that he is never allowed to eat cookies. Well what do you think the first thing he will do is when he gets to his friend’s house? Head straight for the cookie jar, right? And he’s going to eat as many cookies as he can because he doesn’t know when’s the next time he will have an opportunity to do so. And, of course, it has nothing to do with the cookies themselves. It has to do with the power they’ve been imbued with by his parents who forbade them. And wouldn’t you know that if we deprive ourselves of food that we want or are hungry for – i.e., if we diet – we increase our risk of developing eating disorders. And guess what else? We increase our chance of weight gain. That’s right. According to Tribole, research shows that “the most consistent predictor of weight gain is dieting”.So now we know what not to do if we want a healthy relationship with the food we eat. But what can we actually do? Tribole’s answer is that we pay attention. Pay attention to what you eat. Taste it, feel it. Pay attention to your hunger levels. If you’re hungry, eat. If your body wants carbs, eat some carbs. Just pay attention to the food and your body’s response to it as you eat it. Don’t make macros your primary focus, stop counting your calories, forget about your weight. Pay attention to what is happening inside your body, and not only will this naturally lead you to a healthy diet, it will lead you to a healthy relationship with the food that you eat. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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