by Alyson Hazlewood
Life coach and meditation teacher John gave the community a really valuable workshop on mindful eating and the seven types of hunger recently.
At New Life we are deeply fortunate that vegetarian meals are prepared by our wonderful Thai cooks and served as a buffet three times a day, but sometimes the temptation can be to fill plates with a little too much food, or perhaps just not pay quite enough attention to process of nourishing our bodies. Food can be a very emotive issue for many, and in a place of recovery and healing such as this, it’s useful to stay present with the sometimes conflicted feelings we have about food, and to be mindful of the possible pull to replace one type of addiction with another, such as over eating or comfort eating.
Mindful approaches and strategies to deal with cravings
Personally, I’ve noticed myself reaching for the dark chocolate on many occasions when feelings have been running high, and whilst this is certainly no cause for self-recrimination, I’ve also noticed that often I’m not actually savouring the taste or texture of the chocolate, I’m simply eating it out of a misplaced habit of ‘needing comfort’. Skilful behaviour is about developing the capacity to notice the feeling tone, to name the ‘need‘, perhaps even rate it on a scale of 1-10, to allow its presence in your body or mind, and offer kindness to it. You could even thank it for bringing the underlying need to your attention in the form of this craving.
Other skilful means could be to set yourself a realistic goal. “Today I will have just 2 squares of dark chocolate (instead of a whole bar) if I feel some emotion or craving.” For if we were to ban ourselves from eating chocolate altogether, it’s highly likely we’d fail in this attempt and set up an unhelpful cycle of self aggression that leads to further addictive strategies to ease our discomfort.
We can also check in with our values to help reinforce skillful behaviour. What matters to you? Is it important to have a healthy body, or to manage your weight? Would you like to be more active? Will unconscious and possibly unhealthy eating habits move your life forward in the right direction for you? Really taking the time to embrace your values can make the difference between applying restraint with portion sizes and or succumbing to greedy urges.
John incorporated material from Jan Chozen Bays book Mindful Eating. Bays discusses the ‘Seven Types of Hunger‘ as follows:
- Eye hunger – Increasing awareness of eye hunger, and how the appearance of food can influence our choices. Take time to really look at your food and appreciate it before taking the first mouthful.
- Nose hunger – Certain aromas can provoke a hunger response. Can you take the time to notice any changes in your body, heart or mind as you inhale? Lift your plate and smell your food, perhaps try to guess the ingredients that were used.
- Mouth hunger – If we want to be satisfied when we eat, we must be aware of what is happening in our mouth. Does our mouth want salty, sweet sour, hot, crunchy… or is it thirsty? Notice the texture and flavours of the food as you chew.
- Stomach hunger – Check how your stomach feels throughout the day, particularly before and after you eat. What are the signs of hunger? Is it the clock, or your stomach’s sensations? Notice the difference when you eat healthy or unhealthy foods, small portions or large.
- Cellular hunger – Conditions such as the seasons, our age or how much physical work one does affects what your body requires. Ask it what it needs and listen for the answer. The body has wisdom. Sometimes it requires, liquids, solids, protein, fats, roots or leafy.
- Mind hunger – What we read/hear/think about food obviously impacts our choices, especially with fad diets being so popular, and largely conflicting in their advice. We can get lost in shoulds/should nots instead of tuning in to what makes our body feel good and operate optimally. Mind hunger is the most challenging because we have our noisy inner critic to contend with. Letting the mind quiet before making food choices can help us to discern what our body really needs.
- Heart hunger – Learning the skill of tuning into our emotions and associations around food is useful. Are we lonely or hungry? What memories come with certain foods? What are we hoping eating the food will make us feel? When one has heart hunger, try having a small portion of what one craves and really savour it. Intimacy is the antidote. And if you can’t be with others, meditating on inter-being while you are eating can be helpful.
Aly Hazlewood is a Writer, Beauty Editor and Make Up Artist from London, currently exploring new ways of living and being. She blogs at http://www.