“You need to eat like a caveman” … “No, get rid of sugar and gluten only” … “No, go vegan!” Every week there is a new expert out there telling everyone the “right” way to eat, and every day I hear someone tell me that they are ready to give up figuring out how to take care of their diet.
No wonder everyone is confused. We hear testimonials from various people supporting various ways of eating. How are we supposed to find the “right” way to eat? We have forgotten how to tune into our own bodies and determine how we feel when we make certain choices for our health. Many of us go around the world disconnected from our bodies from the neck down. We avoid looking in mirrors and taking the time to really be in the moment to figure out how we feel.
Mindfulness has been tossed around in psychological literature in recent years. The word mindful means to be conscious or aware of something. Much of the time people in this culture are hyper-concerned with the past and the future, but not in the present. In order to figure out what our bodies are telling us, we need to survey the moment.
If we find ourselves trolling kitchen cabinets for food after we have just eaten, ask, “What is it that I need at this moment?” Is it at the end of the day, when we are trying to find some kind of reward or pleasure from the day? Are we sorely in need of sleep or an embrace from our partner?
It may be difficult to identify the reason at first glance, but if we try this method each time we eat when not physically hungry, the true reason may start to show up. It’s great news when we find a need that we can easily fill without food, but what happens when the need is more complex and not easily accommodated? It’s often disconcerting to acknowledge an unfulfilled need out loud. This is why we eat. Distraction is key; if we forget about what we really want, then we won’t have to deal with the feelings that come along with it.
First we have to decide if we really want to reduce/extinguish the eating behavior. If so, then it’s time to pull out your phone or notebook and take notes. Start tuning into the moment when you are grazing for extra food and note what you are feeling and what need you have. Do this for at least a week and see if there are any patterns to these needs. Now, how are you going to get those needs met? Sometimes folks enter into therapy at this point, and sometimes they enlist the help of their family and friends to help satisfy their need.
This brings us back to being mindful about how our bodies feel and how we nurture ourselves. Just like tuning into an unmet need, we can tune into how our bodies feel when we eat certain foods and decide for ourselves what a healthy diet is. If eating more fruit and less bread makes our stomach feel better, than this is our special diet. If not eating meat and eating more grain gives us more energy, then that works for us.
We have heard it lots of times—whole foods and exercise are the keys to health. Why do we have to buy off on the magic diet nuggets in order to find the key? Perhaps that information is firmly planted within, waiting for us to tune in and listen.
© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Christina Spears-Bartunek, MS, LMHC, CHC, therapist in Kirkland, Washington
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