One of the common cognitive distortions I hear from my clients is, “I can’t trust my body. If I listen to my body, it will tell me to eat junk food all the time.” I can understand this belief. It used to be one of my own until I tried an experiment: for just one day, I would pause before eating anything (planned or unplanned) and ask myself, “What do I really need right now?” The answers surprised me. After packing what I thought was everything I needed to eat that day, at lunch time I asked myself, “What do I really need right now?” and the answer was “chicken”. Well, I didn’t have any chicken in my lunchbox, but I was fortunate to have access to the cafe on campus and I knew they served chicken salad. I bought some, ate it slowly and mindfully at my desk…and I NEVER FELT BETTER. It was amazing how good it felt to be mindful of my body’s need in the moment and be able to give it what it needed.
Mindful eating is the idea of being fully present and engaged with one’s food, without judging the foods as “good” or “bad” or “healthy” or “unhealthy” (something which our diet-obsessed culture does NOT want us to do). When we eat mindfully, we’re eating slowly enough to recognize internal satiety cues and nutritional cravings. Mindful eating is a practice and a journey, not something one just does easily. (Well, at least no one I know does this easily at first.)
I definitely don’t eat mindfully all the time. I get caught up in the rush of back-to-back counseling sessions and personal commitments and just toss food in my mouth as “fuel”. But, when I take the time to be still with myself and eat mindfully, I’m amazed at how enjoyable food can be. Imagine how enjoyable it could be to mindfully eat some of your favorite presumed-bad-for-you food without the guilt and self-loathing that often follows when we eat quickly, label foods as “forbidden”, or eat with shame.
There are many articles on the internet about how to start your own mindful eating practice. You may want to consider it. It would be a great step towards self-care and self-love.
Peace, joy, and health,