The clickbait headline that I love to hate because, of course, I really need to scroll through 20 different slides to know that mostly nothing happened
However, in the past several weeks, I have indeed immersed (and I use that term loosely) myself in learning more about the Health at Every Size Movement. In my spare time I’ve downloaded several audio books, leafed through articles, followed blog posts, and listened to several podcasts on Mindful and Intuitive Eating practices. I know, I know, a far cry from expert status, but a start to something I see as a potential game changer.
Frankly, I met the movement with some resistance. I immediately embraced the idea of extending our cultural ideals of what health and beauty encompasses and I was down with the idea of questioning the powers that be about constructs like BMIs, healthy height to weight ratios, and any such thing that mandates that we are all have to within about 20 or so pounds of one another to be labeled “healthy”. My resistance came with what I perceived as the assumption that anyone in the health and fitness industry is, by default, overly concerned with energy systems and the push of calorie counting, restriction, and the shrinking of bodies.
Admittedly, I haven’t been in the industry for very long, but it is easy to see how the assumption can be made that we are all a bunch of macro-counting, carb-cycling, protein shaking Nazis. We’re not. There are a number of us who are very open and curious about individual experiences and differences. My feelings aside, I believe firmly that this rising movement encouraging critical thought, self-acceptance, and a revolutionary move towards trusting self deserves to be heard.
There is much to be gained from befriending oneself and cultivating an internally trusting relationship. An excellent tool to attaining self-trust, is implementing mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness is the maintenance of self-awareness without judgment as we navigate through life. This practice, rooted in Buddhist ideals, has been highly secularized in our western culture and can be beneficially added to the practice of most healthy individuals. Mindfulness as it relates to eating is the act of eating with the intention of caring for oneself and simultaneously giving attention to the enjoyment of eating and how food makes one feel.
Sounds interesting, right? As I have learned more and more about this practice, I have become more concerned with truly understanding the role of food in my life. Food and I have had a tumultuous relationship and I have had many years of preoccupation with over-consumption, over-consumption, guilt, etc. I am currently in a much better head space, but when I eat, do I truly enjoy my meals? Am I rushing through and just going through the motions? Do I have arbitrary rules about when and what to consume? Why am I even eating? All of these questions have been fore-front in my mind and giving this very important life component some attention seemed necessary.
After some digging around, my interest was piqued. I need to practice more mindfulness generally, but I could really get behind this with my eating. I set a start date, but I’d been playing with the principles of the BASICS since reading about them on one, both, or even all of the websites listed below. Forgive me, but my research skills aren’t quite up to par these days. My immediate sources are all listed, but I’m not quite so organized as to recall where each bit of the information I’m sharing originated. But bear with me.
Anyhow, the BASICS are a set of guidelines, not rules, for eating mindfully. They are as follows:
B: Breathe deeply and do a belly check for satiety and hunger.
A: Assess your food with all of your senses. Smell it, consider its texture and appearance. Is it healthful? Where did it come from? Was it grown on a local farm? Did someone care for and nurture it? Or, is it more “food-like”?
S: Slow Down: This encourages us to enjoy and experience our food more. Put your fork down and pause between each bite. Slowing things down helps to register the sensation of being full more readily than rushing.
I: Take the time to Investigate your hunger. About halfway through your meal, check to see if you are still hungry and decide if you will continue on or finish right where you are.
C: Chew thoroughly and try not to add more food to your mouth until it’s empty.
S: Savor your food. Notice the textures, tastes, temperature, etc. and enjoy.
Sounds simple enough, right? Surprisingly, I experienced a significant amount of struggle in my process. Firstly, I noted that I have been eating without truly experiencing my food. Sure, I feel mostly sated, I can discern what tastes pretty good and what I’ll pass on, but it’s been such a shallow relationship to date. Using the principles of the BASICS, I was able to note the cooling sensation of the cucumber in my salad in contrast to the chewy depth of the sweet raisin next to it. I love cooking with herbs and spices, but I was much more in tune with the flavor bursts in each mouthful as I took the time to consider my food in all of its elements.
Through this process I learned that I am generally satisfied long before I experience the sensation of “full.” However, it was not until closer to day six that I was able to stop eating at that point. Prior to, I just noted the experience, sat with it, and acknowledged the truth of it.
I also noticed that eating mindfully helped me feel as if the work I put into preparing my meal was worth it. Really, do you know how many times I’ve slaved in the kitchen for hours for a meal to last about 10 minutes??? Yes, I’m a little embarrassed, but this is where we are today. Slowing down, putting my fork down, and chewing thoroughly extended most of meals to at least 30 minutes of actively eating and enjoying my food. In addition to dedicating a good amount of time to the process of eating, I was satisfied for much longer. I ate fewer snacks and was better able to refuse food that was not appealing.
I did have moments when I did not want to take the time to eat mindfully. And because this process is as much about honoring personal experiences as it is about slowing down and practicing the BASICS, I did not judge myself for not wanting to participate. Practicing mindfulness replaces judgment with curiosity. So instead of negative self-talk about my lack of commitment, I explored my opposition and noticed that more often than not, I was at the point of being overly hungry or there was the perception of the lack of time. In both instances, I was still compelled to chew thoroughly and rest my fork between bites and I was mindful of the fact that I was not eating mindfully.
Please note that this is an extremely simplified version of a much deeper process. It’s a starting point and it’s caused me to consider more my relationship with food consumption, emotions surrounding my nourishment, and any rules and regulations I implement consciously or even subconsciously.
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all knowledge. Understanding your relationship with food can be as eye opening as any other deep psychological digging and spiritual work. I hope this tidbit of information has sparked some curiosity in you and that you can find the time to do a bit of research in this area. Mindful and Intuitive eating practices are not weight-loss mechanism. The process is to heal yourself through getting back in tune with your body, finding your body’s natural set point which may be higher or lower than where you are today, and opening yourself to the ability to truly live a healthful life that’s not governed by the scale, guilt, restriction, over-indulgence or any other ideal beyond good health for the sake of good health.
How do you experience eating? Is it a means to an end or an act of joy?
Peace and Blessing,