Mindful Eating Series: Listening to the Body, Quieting the Mind

By Marsha Hudnall
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As part of our mindful eating series, we have been exploring the seven hungers, as discussed in Jan Chozen Bay’s book, “Mindful Eating.” Eye hunger, nose hunger, mouth hunger, stomach hunger, cellular hunger, mind hunger and heart hunger, each provide a unique lens through which we can investigate our relationship to food and the body. For those who come to Green Mountain at Fox Run to create healthy lifestyle changes, noticing eating through the seven hungers can be very helpful. 

When we are just beginning this process of consulting the body and identifying hunger, fullness and information about what the body needs, most often the mind responds. The mind provides a running commentary about our food and our body. The mind is the convincing voice with everything it knows about food and nutrients, the voice that reminds us which foods are healthy or not, and then translates that into a judgment of our character.  Dr. Bays says you can recognize this voice as it speaks in “shoulds and should-nots.”

Our thoughts about food can override our body’s signals or keep us from getting our body’s messages all together, particularly when physical hunger hasn’t played much of a role in our eating.  Eating out of mind-hunger, it’s really tough to know when to stop.  Mind hunger is not fed by food, never seems to be satisfied, and is always changing. The voice may sound something like:

“I’d really love to have the lasagna, but I should have a salad instead,” or

“I wish I hadn’t eaten that fried chicken, it’s fattening/bad for me/not on my eating plan,” or

“I’ve been good, I deserve to eat this cake,” or 

“Carrots are good for me, I should be eating these every day.”  

 

While some information can support our health goals, or our values around food, what is not helpful is a voice that’s critical and perfectionist.  Unfortunately, many of us have been led to believe that we need that critical voice to keep us on track.

When applying mindful awareness to our eating, we may notice our thoughts or judgments about our food or our bodies, and then, if we can release them for the moment, come back to the plate, with our next bite.  When we arrive, with our awareness, to our food, then we can notice if we are hungry or not?  Satisfied or not?  What do we taste?  Smell?  What does the food feel like in our mouths?  Our bellies?

And this is the practice….returning to the moment….returning to the food….again and again.

Have you been practicing? How is it going?

One Response (Add Yours)

  • Victoria says:

    Hi Barbara,
    I love your latest post and am grateful for another day of mindful eating. As my journey after Green Mountain continues, I appreciate Bay’s work and the new language needed to address the different hungers she describes. They are such powerful concepts! Of course my mind hunger isn’t nourshed by food! I can notice and identify now, when my stomach is hungry for food versus when I’m not hungry but just bored, or tired, for instance. I hear my voice say, now, “Good, it’s time to eat now.” This connects me to my desire to eat healthy, nutritious food and feels VERY different from when my emotions used to be in control.
    As I began to notice my emotional eating prior to my first visit to Green Mountain, I recall walking to the refrigerator if I was experiencing stress or worry. Knowing I wasn’t hungry, but feeling pulled as my emotions were in control. In 30 years of dieting, I never asked myself these questions. I can now ask myself, however, “What WOULD feed my mind hunger or my heart hunger?” This new dialogue is a great way to lessen and change my tendency toward emotional, impulsive food choices. Being more mindful helps me to satisfy my other hungers first. Emotional eating is not longer in my vocabulary!

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