Do I really pay attention to what and how I eat? Is it an intentional act, or a mindless activity? As an athlete, I generally do pay attention. I typically follow a "clean" diet. If I'm hungry I eat. If I'm training, I eat to fuel my body. During a race, I eat to give my body energy to make it to the finish line in the fastest means possible. But I'll be honest, sometimes I eat when I'm not hungry (for example the gazillion peanut butter cups I inhaled without thought on Halloween). I rationalized this in my mind that Halloween is a holiday made for candy consumption. So it was okay to indulge. Ah....rationalization. It's such a wonderful tool, isn't it?!
I attended a women's seminar this weekend, in which the program focused on meditation with regard to eating. It combined the concepts of science and spirituality, when it comes to food. It was not geared toward weight loss, but instead the act of complete concentration while eating. To start the exercise, we sat in silence as a plate of food was placed in front of us.
We were instructed to close our eyes, and were led through a guided meditation. We were asked, on a scale of 1-5 how hungry we were. Were we really hungry at all? Or were we completely ravenous. We were asked to relax our bodies; relax our shoulders, our bellies, and place our hands on our abdomens. We were asked to focus on what was currently on our minds, then release those thoughts. We were then asked to take one item of food and hold it to our noses and inhale. We were told to savor the smell of the food, and to note how our bodies reacted to it. Then we were asked to take one bite, hold it in our mouths for a second, then chew slowly, and finally to swallow. We were then asked to put our forks down and place our hands on our laps. After a pause, the process was repeated, and repeated again until the plate was empty or until our hunger was satisfied. I found I stopped long before the plate was empty, and that the sweets on the plate were really not appealing to me (they would have been the first thing I ate previously!)
It was an eye-opening experience. It really made me think about how I eat.
I have a busy lifestyle, work, training, writing, kids, etc. When I think about it, I'm almost always eating on the fly. There are some days I forget to eat, and other days when I can't recall how much I've eaten. Neither scenario is a good one.
I've always thought of food simply as fuel. And sometimes comfort. Today I am looking at food as nourishment for the mind, body and spirit.
Since the seminar, I've been slowing down and paying attention to my eating practices. I've found that I've eaten less, eaten healthier and have enjoyed my food more. When I concentrate on how I'm feeling, how the food tastes, smells and feels it is a very enjoyable experience. Almost sensual.
Meditation and yoga have completely changed the way I breathe, and now meditation has changed the way I eat. It's a beautiful thing!
Try it at your next meal. You might just surprise yourself....
See you soon!