Are you a mindless eater? Are you sure you’re not? Maybe you won’t admit it. Even if you don’t think you do on a regular basis, chances are you’ve eaten mindlessly before. Most people have.
If you’ve ever eaten anything in front of your TV, in a movie theater, in a car, in front of your computer, while walking down the street, or while reading a book, newspaper or magazine, you’ve consumed some food without realizing it. According to Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating, our minds make more than 200 food-related decisions each day, but many of them are without real thought.
How do we change our habits of mindless eating? It takes some practice. This habit of mindless eating is ingrained in us from many different sources. Eating on the go, working too much, social eating, and eating while doing other activities contributes to mindless eating patterns.
In New York City, there’s an event every year called Change Your Mind Day. It was originally started by Tricycle, a buddhist magazine, in 1993 as a day of free meditation lessons to teach people how to become mindful, or to “change their minds,” through meditation.
Many people believe that the purpose of meditation is to become enlightened. While it may be an eventual outcome of regular practice, the real purpose of meditation is to take you into stillness so that you can reconnect with who you really are. It allows you to come back to the present moment, to really live in the here and now – the place where we all exist, yet never seem to live in.
When you end up in the now, you naturally start to relax as you let go of memories of the past and worries about the future. You realize that here and now is really the only place you can be. You can’t live in the past because it’s long gone. You can’t live in the future because it’s always fleetingly ahead of where you are – you can reach for it, and it still doesn’t arrive.
What happens when we apply the idea of here and now to eating? Here you are, in front of the piece of cake. You have the memory of cake in the past, and attachment to this memory may be driving you to eat it – you are living in the past. You project into the future what it feels like to eat cake – the sugar high you may get, the taste of the rich, creamy frosting smothering the moist, soft chocolate cake, the texture of the deliciously sweet dessert.
But then, try changing your mind. Live in the present moment for a bit. Here you are in front of the cake. Your awareness goes to your stomach. How does it feel? Are you full? Are you hungry? If you are hungry, ask your stomach what it really wants. If you listen, you may be surprised at what it will tell you.
Depending on what you ate previously, it could be craving a number of different things. Perhaps it will tell you it wants something light, springy and green, like salad, or maybe it craves something more heavy, solid and grounding, like steak.
If you slow down the mind, and start to live in the present, you will learn how to listen to your body and understand what it really needs and wants. Then you will be able to change your mind. Instead of reacting to cravings caused by past memories or anticipated future events, you will find what you truly want in the present.
Next post will go more into detail about how to start practicing mindfulness…