Do you ever find yourself limitlessly snacking while watching television or sitting at your desk at the office? How often do you find yourself thoughtlessly eating, never really attune to what you are putting into your body? How often are you aware that you’re eating, but never really paying attention to the details of what exactly you are eating and fully appreciating it? More often than not, this seems to be the norm: eating out of habit and convenience. Maybe it’s that daily lunch run at the same time every day with your coworker, the late-night snack out of boredom while watching TV, or the Tuesday take-out because…cooking, who does that?
Letting Go of Emotional Eating
It’s these scenarios of habitual eating and a having a convenient relationship with food that first prompted me to make a change and dig deeper. I found myself as a teen, wrestling with a negative relationship with both food and my body image, eating what was made for me, eating whatever I wanted—regardless of whether it was nourishing for me—and never really listening to my body. I would eat when I wasn’t even hungry (donuts, sure! I mean they’re there, right?), I would eat when I was bored and the worst—I would eat depending on how I felt. Happy? Let’s eat! Sad? Definitely can eat. Angry? Sure, I’ll eat that. It all became the same…the behaviors and the emotions were so fluid that they would flow in and out like the ocean to the shore, and I never sat with any of them. I never tried to understand why I was feeling a certain way, I never allowed myself to really feel without judgement. Instead, I threw food at the problem. Emotional attachments to certain foods can override our ability to make conscious, sound choices—reaching for what is there or what we crave over what is nutritious and will actually improve our mental, emotional and physical well-being.
The foods we choose to put into our bodies greatly affect the way we feel in every way. Food can have a tremendous effect on the human body at chemical and psychological levels, and therefore, it is imperative to understand what our body needs and what it is signaling and asking for. This, for me (eating based on my emotions and with a disregard for my body’s needs and nutritional demands), was the paramount reason I decided to dig deeper into my eating behaviors, mental health and overall well-being, and to finally show up for myself. To finally show myself the self-love that can only come from a raw introspective approach and give myself a more mindful life—a more unified life.
Embracing the Mind-Body Connection
It took me a while to navigate the waters of wellness and find out what was best for my personal journey. It was nearly eight years ago (three years into my wellness journey) that I had a major breakthrough—one that ultimately led to what I believe and practice today. I started practicing yoga regularly, and I noticed a dramatic improvement in my physical and my psychological well-being. I felt more connected to every ounce of who I was and I started to have an elevated sense of mental clarity—even eating. I found that this mental clarity, this heightened awareness and attention to daily subtitles, once overlooked, enabled me to tap into the innermost aspects of myself, revealing the depth of the mind, the expansiveness of the heart, and the resilience of my physical body. I was finally living—and eating—with intention. Trust me, it’s possible.
I became enthralled with the day-to-day joys of my self-study of cooking and nutrition, fully immersed in my yoga practice, and more aware of the present moment than ever before. I was present even when doing something that used to seem so routine, so passive: eating. I stopped eating what was convenient, I stopped ‘eating my feelings,’ I stopped eating simply because it was a societally declared “lunch time,” and I stopped listening to the band-aid solutions and media-driven answers to what health was. I started listening to myself and listening to my body.
When crafting my grocery list, I do so with clarified intention, asking myself questions like “what do I feel my body needs this week?” and “what is my level of activity going to be this week so I can ensure my protein intake is high enough?” or “how many colors are in this meal prep plan?” (because I believe in counting colors not calories!). The point of these questions ultimately being: how can I make the most optimal nutritional choices to ensure that I am preparing the highest quality meals with the most nutritious ingredients that will fuel my body and my life?
Eating with Awareness
Taking it a step further—recognizing that part of positively interacting with my food is eating with awareness. Paying attention to what I’m eating, how I’m eating it, what it tastes like, and truly being present with my food. This action of eating with awareness has cultivated a profound appreciation for food. It has allowed me to tap into my physiological responses—recognizing when I am truly full, what are appropriate portions and what my body responds to well, or conversely, what it does not.
Understanding the correlation between food—how and why I am eating what I eat, and how it fuels everything from my energy levels to my emotional and cognitive capacities, governs my nutritional choices. This is my food philosophy and this is what I call mindful eating. Cooking, eating, grocery shopping—all with elevated awareness and intuitive understanding.