Today, I was supposed to work and train with my horses. For those who don’t know what I do: a big part of my job is horse assisted coaching or therapy. I give training and coaching without my horses. But the horse is an extremely valuable being that has so much to teach us, that working with horses always gives surprising and confronting results.
But since today it turns out to be very rainy, cold and windy, I decided to postpone for today. Listening to yourself, your mood and what you feel like doing is very important too. So blog writing today, with a nice, hot green tea to go with that. 🙂
I am currently reading a very interesting book from Doctor Jan Chozen Bays, titled “Mindful Eating”. I’ve only started a few chapters, and I already find it incredibly interesting and logical.
For years I have been struggling with feelings or emotions linked to food. Not that I am an emotional eater! It has to do with my growing concern for our food and food industry. There is so much unhealthy food in the supermarkets, overconsumption, industrial products, sick meat, GMO’s, etc. So I became the kind of person that reads all the labels in the supermarket, to check whether the product contains chemicals, additives or too much sugar, etc. I often get frustrated when I do that, because 80% of the food products seems bad for us. That’s also why I decided to grow as much veggies as possible in the garden. But also there, no illusions: I know I don’t use any chemicals and everything grows naturally, but since the local farmers spray their corn and wheat in the surrounding fields, our soil cannot be super healthy as we’d had hoped when we moved to the countryside.
But Dr. Jan Chozen Bays makes me now see things in a different light. She explains how the body knows best what it needs and how we all have forgotten to listen to the needs of our body.
And there’s more: it is not only important to listen to the body’s needs, but also be conscious about all other parts of us. Let me clarify:
When you feel hunger, you listen to the hunger (where does it come from? What kind of hunger is it?). Then, you decide to feed the hunger and pick something very nutritious like an orange. You then peel the orange consciously and mindfully. You observe and look at the orange as if it’s the first time you’ve ever seen an orange. You ask your mind whether this will satisfy the mind’s needs. You ask your body as well, AND your heart. Then you savour the orange piece by piece: you take in the orange, have small and slow bites first. You let the juice and texture of the fruit feel your mouth. You are aware of your taste buds and the orange sliding into your body, nourishing it.
Eating then becomes a sort of sacred ritual full of love, pleasure and mindfulness! The fact that you are fully present while eating, you are more aware of what is happening in your body. You may feel that just this orange was enough for now, or that you are still hungry for something else. The fact that you eat more consciously and slower gives your stomach (and body) the time to communicate to your mind that you are satisfied.
It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to signal the brain that it is full/satisfied. When we eat too fast, by the time the signal reaches our brain, we have already stuffed ourselves beyond the stomach’s limit. Result: we feel full, the stomach expands and becomes larger and larger, giving in turn constant signals of hunger (because it’s huge and so often empty), we can’t control our hunger anymore. Either we become fat or unhealthy or we seem to never be able to get enough. This can easily be reversed by eating mindfully. And just as the stomach can rapidly expand, it can also easily shrink again to its normal size. Reducing belly bloats or belly fat, enhancing the whole digestive system again.
There’s another important matter: when a feeling of hunger arises, it is important to ask yourself where this hunger comes from or what it represents! If you crave something very sweet or unhealthy, then which part of you is really hungry here? Do you crave something because you are in an emotional or stressed state and your soul needs comforting? Or is it your mind triggering a sugar addiction, for example? Or is it real hunger?? In Western society, I believe we don’t really know anymore what real hunger feels like, as we are bombarded with food 24/7. Once you’ve analysed where this hunger comes from, you can then consciously decide what to do with it. Is it emotional hunger and do you really want to comfort yourself this way? Then do it and enjoy it to the fullest. Only then will you feel fed.
On the other hand if you don’t really want to succumb to this unhealthy snack, but you do it anyway and then you feel guilty afterwards, then your cells and your body acknowledge this as something really bad. So the effect of nurturing or nourishing is gone, and you still feel empty or unnourished and you crave for even more.
So, we need to learn how to get rid of guilt, frustration, anger (all the negative emotions) linked to our eating habits, before we can heal. Mindfulness is thé solution, according to Dr. Chosen Bays and many others, to heal from our unhealthy relationship with food.
And I agree. This morning I felt hungry just one hour after breakfast. I started asking myself why? Then I realised that very early this morning, I rushed eating my granola. I even don’t precisely remember when and how I ate them, because I was too busy getting my kids ready for their ice hockey camp and we needed to leave on time. So my body reacts as if I haven’t had breakfast at all.
So before I started writing, I prepared some tea and I really took the time to make it with love and mindfully, observing the tea, drinking it sip by sip and really enjoying it in my mouth. Feeling the warmth of the tea warming my throat and body. And guess what: the hunger vanished instantly.
As of now on, I will do my best to eat mindfully as much as possible! And it made me realise something I had forgotten in my frenzy to be super healthy: intention is at the root of everything. Our mind is so powerful in so many ways! We shape our own reality. We attract what we send out as thoughts. This is the fundament of cosmic law: your own thoughts shape your reality. You think negative, you’ll attract negative situations. You believe today’s food is poisoning you, then it will. You believe you can achieve anything, and you will! You believe you are super healthy no matter what, then you are! I apply this every day and see amazing results. Only, I had forgotten that it also applies to food!
So if you cook mindfully, with emotions of joy and love, your food is so much richer and more nourishing than when you prepare it with stress! If you place the intention before you eat that this food will fully nourish you, fulfilled all your needs, and that you are being grateful, then the benefits will be huge. You can also place the intention that whatever toxins or chemicals are in the food will not harm you and will be evacuated immediately. Again basic cosmic laws.
Which also means that even when you eat something unhealthy (because you ran out of time or craved something, etc.), it can still be good to you! IF you eat it mindfully and with the right intention!
I am not saying you shouldn’t watch what you’re eating anymore. We get our nutriments form vegetables, fruits, water, etc. But you can ‘enhance’ healthy food... You can ‘neutralise’ unhealthy food, and most importantly, you can get rid of your guilt and just enjoy! Simply with the power of your thoughts! Or even a step further: eating in a completely detached, non-judgemental and non-emotional state. Just begin present in the here and now and observing how your act of eating mindfully nourishes every part of you.
Dr. Jan Chozen Bays gives an interesting exercise to start practising mindful eating. The exercise is to have just one raisin (or one tiny piece of bread, a cherry tomato or whatever small you have at hand) and to imagine yourself being an explorer on a foreign planet. Your supplies are shrinking and you haven’t found anything edible yet on this planet. Suddenly you find something and pick it up (the raisin). You study it closely with your eyes. You smell it several times as well and you decide based on your five senses that this is probably something edible. You then put the raisin in your mouth and you roll it around in your mouth. You feel the texture and the first taste it gives you.
Then you just take one bite and you pay attention to what happens: the taste might change or become stronger. After that, you chew it and observe what happens in your mouth and in your mind. When you swallow, you pay attention to what flavours stay behind in your mouth, how your stomach reacts, etc.
Then you focus on the body: how satisfying is this raisin? Does your body want more of it, or is one enough? Or does you body need something else?
For sure, we all have a lot of practising to do before we can really eat mindfully again. But everything starts with awareness and a first step. You can only climb a mountain by beginning at the bottom with a first step. So my advice: become more aware of how you eat and what you eat. And pick out one meal to start with: be fully present and aware while consuming that meal. See what it does to you. Experiment! Discover your body again and all its sensations. Eat with joy and positive intentions. Stop the chatter in your mind and just observe, BE!
On this note, I’d like to end with a quote from Lao Zi: “Watch your thoughts, they become words! Watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character, watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
Let me know how it goes and feel free to comment below with your own experiences.
Have a mindful day!