Being an overweight child and then an overweight teenager set me on a long and winding path of body shame and constant dieting. As a result, I never understood what it was to be in true connection with my own body.
A little over two years ago, all that changed for me. I began to question the diet paradigm and instead began to explore how mindfulness meditation (bringing my full attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental way), mindful eating and meditation could transform my relationship with food and my body.
What happened for me was nothing short of miraculous.
Through mindfulness, I lost the obsession with dieting, years of body shame and pounds, 65 pounds so far. I realized that all along I'd been overeating to feed emotional and spiritual hungers.
I went to the fridge in search for peace, wholeness and connection, not understanding that what I was actually looking for could not be found on a fork.
Through practicing presence, as often and in as many ways as we can, (mindful eating, daily meditation, mindfulness practice, meditative movement, meditative art, journaling etc) we can transform our relationship with our body and with food.
Here are four gifts that a mindfulness practice offers:
1. It helps you become aware of what's happening emotionally.
Becoming present allows us to clearly see what is going on inside us when we reach for food when we are not hungry. We learn that we often use food to check-out, to distract ourselves, to give ourselves, and to procrastinate.
By shedding light on our triggers for overeating, we can then develop compassionate curiosity about what was happening for us in the moment. This allows us to create enough distance between ourselves and the eating behavior to make a different choice.
2. We start to listen to our bodies.
Our body is always whispering to us but when we are so distracted and disconnected from the moment we cannot hear it. We operate in a constant state of body rejection and denial. We are obsessed with our body’s appearance and yet don’t have much experience of really living in our body.
Becoming present requires that we fully inhabit our body. Then we can begin to hear what our body is saying to us and recognize true hunger and satiety cues.
3. Learning to be in our body allows us to begin to appreciate and connect with it.
Fully embracing our body, regardless of its size at the time, creates a desire in us to respond to it. We learn to move when it asks us to move, eat when it needs us to and stop when we have had enough.
This sense of connection also translates to our relationship with food. When we struggle with eating, we often tend to look at food in terms of numbers: calories, fat grams, etc. Mindful eating connects us to the life force within the food. Rather than eating out of guilt, fear or rebellion, we eat for pleasure and nourishment and truly enjoy food once again, like we did when we were young and didn’t yet believe that food was to be feared.
4. We learn to connect to our true selves.
There is a great sense of empowerment that develops when we recognize that our bodies can be trusted. That, if we let them, they will tell us how they need to be nourished. Then our years of body shame fall away. We live in our bodies in a way that is free and unencumbered.
Over time our bodies respond and arrive at their natural healthy weight. This is not because we are afraid that our peace and happiness depends on it, but rather because we are brought to the peace and happiness that is already contained within the present moment. There, we are already whole, we are always connected and so the deeper cravings fall away…and so do the pounds.
Try this experiment:
For one week eat what and when your body tells you to.
When you eat, pay attention. Bring all of your senses to your food. Turn off the cell phone, the television, the computer and tune into your present moment experience.
When you see yourself reaching for food when you know you are not hungry, be brave enough to explore what you are truly hungry for.
Move, not because you should, but because your body is asking you to. When you hear your thoughts hurling insults at your body, notice with compassion and connect back to the moment.
You may just find yourself taking the first steps on the journey back to your body.