After experimenting with the guidelines for healthy eating from part 2 of this series, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed! When I first read these guidelines several years ago, I also felt pretty overwhelmed. My mealtimes were anything but peaceful or mindful. When I began trying to sit down at the table and eat my food without reading a magazine or turning on some music, I found myself getting extremely agitated. I was so used to eating in a distracted environment, or using food to distract me from uncomfortable emotional states, that I felt trapped. However, I kept practicing and the discomfort slowly began to ease. I started to notice the flavors and textures of my food more. I also began to eat smaller portions because I was able to focus on my internal sensation of fullness rather than just finishing what was on my plate. I didn’t snack as much either because when I made myself eat the snack at the table, I realized I was more bored than hungry.
It has been a long journey and I am still not 100% consistent, but my attitude toward food has really been transformed through these daily practices. Instead of using food to reward or punish or distract myself, I now view it from a more neutral perspective as basic nourishment. I know that in order to have energy and feel more emotionally balanced, I need to give my body the building blocks to create those states. I also know that I need to create consistent routines surrounding my meals so that my body knows it can depend on a stable source of fuel.
Ayurveda is all about moderation. There’s no need to adopt a “take no prisoners” approach to changing the way you eat. In fact, that’s only going to lead to you feeling deprived and resentful. Start small by choosing an area where you feel like you could have some success and also enjoy doing it. Maybe for you that’s the food journal, or maybe it’s starting to sit at the table for dinner three times this week. Whatever it is, approach your new project with a sense of curiosity and experimentation. Meals are often very social times, so talk to your family members or coworkers about what you’re doing and let them know how they can support you. When you feel like you’ve been about 75% successful at adopting one of the suggestions, think about which one you’d like to try next.
If challenging emotions start to come up — which they likely will, invite yourself to hold them with compassion, breathing deeply and sensing where you’re feeling them most intensely in your body. See if you can just be present with each physical sensation rather than getting caught up in the story or the drama behind it. Oftentimes, you’ll find that the sensation begins to shift. Above all, be patient with yourself. It took each of us a very long time to develop our current relationship with food, so we need to give ourselves plenty of time and space to build the foundation for a new way of relating to what we eat.
P.S. If this series stirred something in you and you’d like some support to move toward a way of eating that feels right for your own mind, body and spirit, please get in touch! This topic holds a special place in my heart because of my own past challenges with emotional eating, and I’d love to help you navigate your way to a more peaceful relationship with your food.