- Genuine hunger – instinctual us, animal us
- Meeting an emotional need. Using food as something pleasurable to get away from something painful we are feeling
- Being stuck in a pattern, a habit, automatic behaviour associated with certain activities
This week is all about the body and I felt it would be useful to summarise some information on our relationship with food. I am reinforcing these messages for myself as much as for everyone else and I hope you will find it useful.
We all heard of binge eating, emotional eating, overeating, over-consuming on calories, mindless eating, etc. These are unhealthy patterns of behaviour, which we either do consciously with a purpose or unconsciously.
There is one way of eating, which is natural and the most helpful is to eat when you are hungry. When we are consciously aware and mindful of clues sent to us by the body, NOT our mind, indicating it is time to eat. When we know we are ready for intake of food, we need calories and there is a genuine need for nourishment on a physical level. It is when we know that if we don’t eat we might not ‘survive’, it is instinctual function for our body to sustain life through taking in some food.
The other two ways of relating to food are the ones to watch for. One is us using food as a way of making us feel ‘better’, that pleasure trap when we seek a relief from a difficult emotional state and wanting to feel pleasure and we do it through food. This is emotional eating. I know, e.g. in the past my emotional eating had been connected closely to grief. It works similarly with other habits, like smoking, e.g., which for me, again used to be a way to gain relief when I felt unsafe. Very specific emotions that I would need to release through using something else. Once you identify what it is that you are ‘running away’ from through inducing pleasure using food, then it is time to FEEL that emotion, allow it to be, having courage to be with that, as it is part of you.
One other reason we eat is through habit. Something that we keep on doing automatically to a point that we are not always conscious of, we simply do it when engaging with a certain activity. A good example is watching TV in the evening. Many would reach for food when watching movies, favourite programmes, because this is something that they have done over and over again for a long time, hence a habit is formed and the brain knows it is food time once you are on that sofa switching on your television. The first thing to do is to become aware of where you might be using food, in what situations and circumstances that you might have not realised. The only way to break that pattern is to learn to interrupt that behaviour consciously. Once you are aware, conscious then you can begin to stop it in its tracks. It is like changing a cycle, interrupting something repeatedly should rewire our habitual thinking or automatic actions into doing something else. This needs to be practiced again and again and there will be time when you will be able to watch television without overloading on calories. This would happen overtime through interruption of the cycle and engaging with activities that take you away from that pattern and from food. Do something instead for a period of time to give your brain a different message. Remove your association between watching a film and eating.
Now think of nature in all its presentations and with all its inhabitants and species. What stands out to you when you look to nature? With me it is balance, it is a beginning, a middle and the end. It is time for everything where nothing is rushed or delayed, where everything has its place. Summer doesn’t come before spring, flowers do not bloom in winter and the earth is not producing food when the ground is frozen. Nature teaches us that there is a system of elements that constantly working together to achieve an overall balance. Sometimes challenges are thrown in its way in a way of adverse weather conditions like floods and droughts, yet it recovers, it catches up and it continues to live. There is a force of survival and thriving for that equilibrium state where everything is just as it should be.
Now think of your body in the same way. Evaluate when it is the right time for you to eat, e.g. are you a morning eater? Are you more of a snacker or a bigger, more regular meal eater? What is your body’s preference and schedule for calorie intake? What feels most natural and nourishing? Do you follow your body’s natural rhythms or are you even aware of it? The goal is to bring your body into balance with your mind, your spirit and your emotional world. Is it in balance? What foods bring you joy not when you use it to avoid something else, but when you seek to give your body nourishment and enhancement in order to feel better?
My connection to nature and the earth has helped me balance out my physical and emotional enormously. Eating produce that comes from earth gives my brain a message that it is fresh, it is filled with water and sunshine and it is full of nutrients. It is good for me. Remember doing something enough times repeatedly can rewire your brain into knowing it is working and good for you. Start small with changing one or two things a week in order to increase your potential for balance in the body, add something beneficial or take away something that is not good for you. Small, steady and continuous steps.
Remember to get sunshine and rain water on your face, as well as feeling the earth with your bare feet whenever you can. Connect to the wisdom of the intelligent system that is nature, the earth and let its wisdom go into all areas of your life, your relationship with your body and food included.