I read a great quote by my teacher and friend Susan Hyatt last week from her upcoming book, "Bare". She says, "When food feels like the only reliable source of pleasure in your day then food becomes a fixation. An unhealthy obsession. You' re starving for pleasure and food is easily and readily available. Of course you're going to overeat. Who wouldn't? You're not overeating because you’re weak. You're overeating because you're starving for pleasure."
This quote struck home for me in a few ways. I've been going through some stressful things of late and haven't been paying as much attention as I normally do to the way I've been eating. As a result I've gained a few pounds, my clothes are tight and I'm generally dragging. It made me think about what I'm feeling (or avoiding feeling) when I don't eat mindfully.
It made me question what I am really hungry for right now.
I am hungry for connection.
I have always had a serious appetite for connection and I typically find it in conversation with my friends and family, in music, books, films and art, and in my virtual community (hello Facebook!). But my hunger for connection is growing deeper these days and I want to find some new (or old) ways to feed it. Thinking about it like this made me realize that one place I can find what I'm looking for is inside myself. I've meditated on and off for the last several years but have never had a regular practice that's lasted more than a couple of months. There's always something else that seems to be more 'important', like exercise, errands or sleeping (lol) and while those things are important, telling myself that I don't have time is a lie. I can find the time for anything when I choose to do so. The truth is that I have been avoiding it because it can be uncomfortable. Here I am preaching about "audacious living" and "stepping out of your comfort zone" while I am hovering around the edges of my own discomfort. Busted.
I'm happy to say that I've been meditating for 15-30 minutes every day for the past 10 days. Some days have been more challenging than others but I'm determined to show up and sit through the discomfort in the spirit of feeding my hunger for connection.
I can also turn to my version of prayer, which for me is really a conversation with God, the Universe, Divine Order or whatever you want to call it. I say "conversation" because when I pray it's rarely one-sided. When I have questions I usually get answers even if they don't come right away. Praying is also a way of practicing gratitude and reminding myself to stay open to whatever might want to happen which can also help me feel more connected. Sometimes journaling can also be a form of prayer and conversation with the Universe and it absolutely has led me to feel connected to myself.
Another way I can feed my hunger is to STFU (as in shut the fuck up) and remember to listen to others more deeply so that connection has the fertile ground to grow. I am an excellent listener when I am coaching but sometimes in my day-to-day life I can be an interrupter. I believe there is something about wanting to 'be seen' (i.e., feel connected) that can make me jump in without listening more fully, but in reality it has the opposite effect. It's ime to pay closer attention to that as well.
I am hungry for ease.
When things feel difficult I naturally crave more ease. By being crystal clear on what I want or choose to do vs. what I think I 'should or need' to do, I can start to make my life more simple right away. I can delegate more, I can stop multi-tasking and I can choose to do things that I really want to do (or not do as the case may be). This will create some ease.
I also won't find ease in mindless eating. Our culture has gotten so accustomed to looking for answers outside of ourselves that it can actually feel more difficult to go within and consult our own bodies. The body always, always, always holds the truth about what is right for us. I teach my clients a tool that I learned in coach training called The Body Compass, which is a way of tuning into your inner navigational system. It seems I have accidentally been tuning mine out for a while. Ultimately, there is far greater ease in checking in with your body about what it actually wants and needs instead of just following a set of guidelines that someone else has decided is right for you.
Susan Hyatt and everyone else who says that diets don't work are correct. Diets offer a false sense of ease because the set of guidelines or rules implies that all will be well as long as you follow them. But it's not real ease if you overeat the things on the "ok" list or you go right back to old habits when your diet is "done". I feel it's important to note here that there is a difference between diets and lifestyle choices or changes. If you are choosing to be a vegetarian or decide to keep kosher you are not on a diet! I have learned that my body feels better when I don't eat gluten, corn, soy or dairy so I mostly avoid them. But even when I'm eating foods that my body likes, if I'm overfeeding myself or repeatedly wandering into the kitchen for handfuls of almonds when I'm in procrastination mode, then I am following a path that will lead me to dis-ease.
I'm trying to remember to connect with my body much more regularly now and to do it with love, patience and empathy. This may initially feel more difficult but I know it will lead me to the path of ease.
I am hungry for play.
This one comes up every now and then and it's a hunger that's fun to feed. When I am super stressed I have a tendency to hang out in my head where my "lizard brain" whispers things like "you don't have time to play right now," on the regular. But since I am trained as a life coach (and the Path of Playing is one of my 5 Essential Paths to Self-Care), I can tell my lizard with some authority that that's a bunch of crap. I just spent a weekend singing and dancing at Bumbershoot (a local music festival), I am currently planning some super fun Artist Dates (shout out to Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way") and I'm signing up for an Improv class that starts in a couple of weeks.
So there you have it: Connection, Ease and Play. This is what I am truly hungry for right now (not almonds!) and when I feed myself the foods that really fill me up it's much easier to eat mindfully.
What are you hungry for? Let me know in the comments below!