When ABC News Nightline called to say they were interested in doing a segment on the Mindful Eating program I teach at UNM Center for Life, of course we were overjoyed. Does anyone else out there think that the way we approach food and weight issues needs an overhaul in this country? In 2010 the weight loss market in the United States generated 67.8 billion dollars across the country (stat supplied by marketdata) and yet upwards of 97% percent of people gain the weight back in less than a year! It doesn’t take a statistician to see that something just ain’t cutting the mustard.
is a practice of bringing greater awareness to our relationships with food, with eating, with dieting, with how we see ourselves and how we deal with stress.
Every living being on the planet has to eat, has to find nourishment,
but it’s only in the human being
that the need to find nourishment can mean a heckuva lot more than what’s on the plate.
When we’re children, we all learn that when we are hungry, meaning our body has become depleted in nutrients, we start to feel bad – low energy, that kind of crumby, low mood feeling. Then we eat food, and within minutes we start to feel better. In a country where for most of us ample access to food isn’t an issue, it makes perfect sense that we reach out to food again and again to make ourselves feel better. In bringing greater awareness to our relationship with food and eating, we can begin to see that many times what we are actually hungry for has nothing to do with food.
And the important thing here is that nobody had to tell it to us.
It’s what we begin to connect to for ourselves within the trajectory of our meditation practice, which is a fundamental component of mindful eating. As we begin to develop some familiarity with the workings of our own mind, which is basically the practice of mindfulness meditation, we can begin to see these things for ourselves. If you’ve been on a diet your whole life, or have had what you feel to be an unhealthy relationship with food, I can pretty much guarantee you that there are certain habits of the mind that come into play just about every time you sit down with a plate of food. And for the most part, we are unaware of just how much these habits of mind inform our behavior. With awareness, with mindfulness, we can begin to become aware of these habits of the mind, and we can ask, do I really need to admonish myself every single time I take a bite of food? Or do I really need to push play on that soundtrack yet again of my mother telling me that in order to be a good little girl or boy, I need to clean my plate? Or whatever are our particular habits of mind.
Within the scope of awareness,
people begin to recognize that these are just thoughts, nothing more, nothing less. And these thoughts only have as much truth as we choose to give them. And this right here, this recognition of thoughts for what they are and our choice in how much truth to give them, is in my opinion one of the most liberating moments of recognition a human being can have. And this in and of itself can be one of the truly liberating aspects of the practice of mindful eating. Apart from losing weight. Apart from eating healthier. Which in my opinion are really by-products of the practice. And sure, they’re pretty great by products, but really, to get the most out of mindful eating, it’s not the goal to change ourselves once and for all through the practice, like mindful eating will be the diet to end all diets. No. It’s about cultivating greater awareness of our own minds, and how that awareness can impact virtually every single experience of day to day life, including how we eat.