My Experience with Mindful Eating Part 2

In my last post, I introduced the idea of mindful eating and Geneen Roth’s work. I wanted to step through each of the guidelines and share my experiences with practicing each one.

What I like about these is they are not diet RULES. Rules are something to be followed, rigid guard rails that are meant to control our behavior. Geneen refers to them as “if love could talk” guidelines. Its how you want to be with something that you love – attentive, aware, kind. If you choose not to follow one on a given day you are not a bad person. The practices are about being mindful and deliberate about the choices that we make.

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that change, even done with love, presence and patience,  can be uncomfortable sometimes. Just allow for that and know that you will be ok.  Geneen recommends working on one at a time, practicing, noticing and approaching the guidelines in ways where we don’t set ourselves up for failure.

Geneen Roth’s 7 Guidelines for Eating – Through the experience of Kara Silva. 😀

  1. Eat when you are hungry.  This was harder than I thought it might be at first. I quickly came to realize that tired feels very close to hunger to me. With practice, I have learned to separate head hunger and stomach hunger. I have also noticed that I felt guilty some times when I eat as I feel like I “shouldn’t” like some how eating is bad. I have to remind myself that its ok to eat when I am actually hungry.  I have also noticed that I can make up the hunger feeling on occasion if there is something I want to eat. I just notice that and make a conscious decision to eat something or not. I think with food lists and rules, things that are “good” or “bad”, we some times forget to get in touch with the simple feeling of hunger.
  2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car. This is actually pretty easy for me. I don’t have little children and my husband travels a lot so I can pretty easily create a calm environment for myself to eat in. I do choose to eat with my husband in front of the TV some evenings but other than that I tend to clear off my eating space and make things as clear and calm as I can. Also, I do still eat in the car on the way to the gym as I just like to do it. The tougher challenge for me comes with the next guideline. 😀
  3. Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music. Now this can be a challenging piece. I often want to grab my phone or read or listen to something while I eat if I am eating alone – which I do fairly often. What a different experience to be completely present with the food on my plate and the thoughts in my head. I want to nourish my body, why wouldn’t I want to pay attention and savor what I am eating. Yes, some times its boring admittedly but I rarely find myself over eating or thinking “Oh, its all gone already?” when I eat undistracted. While this guideline can be uncomfortable, it can also be beautiful. I love the focus on the every day moments and meals and the food in front of me. <3
  4. Eat what your body wants. If you knew no diet rules and food was just food – calories needed for fueling, living, savoring – what would you eat? I feel like since I have experimented with diets so much over the years that I know what makes me feel good and what doesn’t.  Most people think they would just power down all junk food – which you might, for a bit until the excitement and forbidden-ness wears off. I like foods that fuel me for the life that I want to have and the activities that I want to do (weightlifting!). I know a meal based on protein helps me to that and it helps if different tastes and textures are involved.
  5. Eat until you are satisfied. This is a subtle one to miss if you are not also following #3. Many times I will just eat what ever is on my plate regardless of satisfaction level. Some times I keep eating WAY beyond that for various reasons – I love the taste of what ever it is, I am nervous, or social or I don’t want to feel what ever it is I am scared to feel at the moment. But in the quietness of savoring food, there is a moment, I have found, where my body says that is enough right there. It can be quiet and I can miss it if I am not paying attention. It might mean there is still food on my plate and that a couple of bites was all I needed. This is still the guideline I need more practice with as I can still way over eat on occasion and need to understand more about the why that happens.
  6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others. This is so hard for me. It can make me really uncomfortable. I have spent years hiding food and eating in secret so that I can enjoy what I want with out fear of being judged. Judged for being slovenly, fat, undisciplined, lazy. So I sneak – bites and tastes of things I “shouldn’t eat so I can have peace and non-judgement of others. But is it true they are judging me? How much control do I really have over how others perceive me? If I am eating what my body wants and being present, does it matter that people may judge? So lots of open spots for me to explore here still. Kara and Chocolate
  7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto, and pleasure.  Yes, yes and 1000 times yes. I used to say food is fuel – which it is but it doesn’t need to always been utilitarian. Enjoy what you are eating. Savor what ever you have. Take pleasure in your meal and feeding your beautiful self.  Its fun to share a good meal

This post touches on my experience with the guidelines themselves and while the guidelines are valuable the growth tends to come from noticing where you struggle.  Its in these times when you figure out what you really believe about yourself, food, other people and questioning THOSE things are what brings the growth. I will cover this a bit more in part 3 of my Experience with Mindful Eating.

I hope this has been interesting and helpful to you. I have really learned a great deal about myself and my beliefs through mindful eating and Geneen’s work.  I would love to hear from you on any thoughts or questions you might have and any experiences you would like to share.