Are you mystified with your inability to listen to your body and stop eating when you’ve had enough? For more than seven years in both my personal life and in my psychotherapy practice I have been studying the reasons why we reach for food when we are not hungry. The best answer I have found is that we reach for food when we are not hungry because …we are hungry. We are deeply hungry – only it is not the food that we are craving. It is a multitude of other things that unconsciously drive us to return to the fork again and again.
Mindfulness is all about getting conscious. You’ve likely heard the word before. The buzz about mindfulness is all around us. With thousands of research studies impressively demonstrating the mental and physical benefits of implementing this ancient practice into our daily routines it’s little wonder that the word is everywhere these days. Most predominately we hear about mindfulness for stress reduction but those whom have adopted a mindfulness practice for the purposes of healing our relationship with food and our body we know that it significantly transforms our eating.
Case in point…Earlier today I was sitting in my office fully satisfied by the lunch that I had half eaten 10 minutes earlier. I was working on constructing an email that I have been putting off for some time. Mindlessly I broke from my screen to reach for my fork and was just about to take another bite of my, now cold, now unappetizing, left over lunch when I woke up out of my fog, stopped myself and recognized that I was not at all hungry. What was I doing? I did not want the food in that moment and yet there I was reaching for the fork. What did I want in that moment? Relief. Escape. Distraction. A way out of the monotony. Recognition that what I was doing was hard.
When you have a history of battling food the reasons for eating when you’re not hungry are many. Sometimes food is the elixir that cures the loneliness. Sometimes it is the punisher that allows you to feel even more shameful after a day of disappointing yourself. Sometimes it is the escape hatch when the moment feels unbearable: Unbearably boring, unbearably stressful, unbearably awkward…on and on.
Healing from compulsive or emotional eating requires waking up. It requires enough mindfulness so that you can catch yourself as you reach for the fork or return to the kitchen and enough courage to ask yourself what is really going. Sometimes it is very subtle. Sometimes we won’t know the answer but it is enough to compassionately hold the question. “What am I truly hungry for?”
Sometimes the answer will leave us feeling even more empty. I am hungry for love. I am hungry for belonging. I am hungry to know that I am enough. We are then confronted with some of our deepest fears and some of life’s deepest sorrows.
However, this is the place where beauty is born. This is the place where we sit with what is real and come to know our deeper cravings. It is in these moments when we confront the truth that the possibility of change awakens. Then we can authentically move towards wholeness. We can then commit to a journey that leads to showing up in the world as we believe we are meant to. Only then can we get full enjoying every beautiful bite of our delicious lives.
Wishing you joy and peace in your beautiful body,