Mindful Eating: Free the mind, enjoy the body
Plus 5 Tips for cultivating a healthier relationship with your body, your weight and the food you eat
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Ask any woman (or man?) and there will be things she does not like about her body, things that perhaps she even loathes. If we were talking about our car that might not matter much, but what happens to a living organism when it is not loved? It certainly does not thrive! Our relationship with our body plays a huge part in what it looks like!
Often the body is portrayed as an ongoing project rather than thought of as a dear living organism, and yet every thought and emotion is experienced in the body creating either a healthy or unhealthy context for the cells.
Calorie counting, always being on or off a diet, and exercise for the sake of shaping a body so that it becomes a flattering outward representation of who we would like to experience ourselves as, is often destructive for the body. In fact what it reminds us of most is the abuse cycle. We can only abuse the body when we don’t connect with it deeply, when we don’t love it.
Stop the counting of calories, and start living is the message from Dr Libby Weaver.
A new, alternative and healthier model for how we relate to our dear body emerges through mindful eating.
It throws out dieting, exercise for the sake of a perky bottom or avoidance of angel arms or for the fear of ageing. Rather it invites in presence by tuning into the body, it appreciates the rich abundance of food and its ability to nourish our body.
How we feel and whether we are stressed or not are probably more important for our health than the ‘right’ foods and exercise. It is our relationship with the body as an object that allows us to be counting calories and experimenting with bizarre often synthetic diets for the sake of slimness. The Dear body…
The more we fret about the size of our thighs, our inability to stick to a diet and the number showing on the scales, the more we are disabling the body’s ability to establish its natural health and weight.
The dissatisfaction with the body often leads to the zig zag cycle of dieting or not. When we are on a diet it is stressful as we are in a ‘controlling’ mode. We do get an ego high from dieting, but it is fleeting. When we are off the diet we tend to bombard ourselves with: ‘you are hopeless, you can never stick to anything, you are weak, etc.’ This again leads to shame, guilt, and feeling not good enough – which was what we were trying to get away from in the first place.
Let’s look at what happens in the body when it is experiencing stress.
We will get a little technical… the body interprets the experience of stress in the body as the need to fight or flee, therefore immediate energy is required.
It has two ways of getting that, glucose or fat. It is the nervous system that determines which it is. There are several parts to the nervous system; including the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which is subconscious. The Autonomic nervous system has two states, it is either in the state of rest and digest (parasympathetic) or fight/flight/faint (sympathetic).
There are two types of stress hormones, adrenalin and cortisol. Adrenalin is the short-term acute stress hormone; it is about getting us out of danger fast. When adrenalin is activated the blood supply to the digestive system is diverted to our arms and legs preparing us to be able to run or fight. In our time, our bodies are busy producing adrenalin in response to the body’s response to coffee… heart rate up and the reading by the body: – danger!
Cortisol is present when there is ongoing stress, like a famine, ongoing financial or medical situation. It slows down our metabolic rate to cope with ongoing uncertainly. It does this by breaking down muscle.
Would you think that many of us have both streams of stress going on?
Based on what information is given by the nervous system, a decision is made on which type of fuel should be used, fat or glucose. If there is any perceived stress (I can’t find my keys, I look fat in this, how are we going to pay the bills, I don’t know how I can stay married to such an idiot, I can’t believe he got promoted, I am not good enough, rush, rush, rush etc.) the subconscious will highjack all attention and declare: In danger!
The breath will change to shallow fast breathing and until that changes the body exists as if it is in danger. This requires fast burning fuel, as the perception is that we need to run or fight. For this it will choose glucose. Fat is slow release energy. Fat takes longer to ‘extract’ so it tends to be glucose that is used.
Glucose being dumped into your system is useful if you are running from a wild beast, but not if you are sitting in front of your computer in a soft chair with the heating on.
We have to make insulin to deal with the elevation on blood sugar – insulin is one of the primary fat-storage hormones. As soon as we give attention to the breath, to the stress response it tends to settle. By tuning in, becoming present, we change our breathing and the body gets the message that all is well.
By tuning in we also connect.
Fall in love with your body and fall in love with food so that both can be enjoyed and honoured for your delight and the earth’s survival. We protect what we fall in love with. Both the earth and the body will benefit from us falling in love!
5 Tips for freeing the mind and enjoying the body
Limiting external definitions of the body.
- Don’t weigh yourself unless you are able to do so without judgment but rather with curiosity.
- Don’t buy unwise women’s magazines or watch shows that are stuck in a simplistic and reductionistic view of the body and food.
- Do the body scan and start by greeting the body: ‘Dear body, I am listening, I hear your language’.
- Stop before you eat and check in with what the body needs.
Appreciate what is on your plate, the colours, the smells, and consider the journey the food has taken before landing on your plate.
“Real beauty isn’t about symmetry or weight or makeup; it’s about looking life right in the face and seeing all its magnificence reflected in your own.” —Valerie Monroe, writer