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All of us like enjoying our food. We try different things, we eat out.. and all this to get tastes that make us feel good, that give us pleasure. But, in spite of all our efforts to derive pleasure from food, often we find ourselves eating like robots. On any given day, we get down to eat on time, like an automaton, and we eat as much as we eat on other days. We don’t focus on whether we are hungry or how the food is tasting. We don’t enjoy the food. Enjoying food is reserved for the weekends. Even then, we have to find the right food that we can enjoy(usually the unhealthy type). ‘I can’t enjoy my regular, run of the mill food’, we say.
Do you enjoy every time you eat out? Most of the time, there is that guilt, hiding somewhere, biding it’s time. As soon as you start eating, it starts whispering into your ears, making you feel guilty, making you enjoy less. You don’t listen as much, you are enjoying the food. When you are finished with the meal and the pleasure of the food is past, it is then that Guilt comes out fully into the open to make you feel miserable. You might sometimes wonder which one was greater, the pleasure or the guilt?
Is this necessary? Wouldn’t you like to enjoy your food at all times, without guilt?.. whenever you are eating, whatever you are eating…
I think there is a way. There is a way to not only eat food with complete joy, but to do other boring things like exercising, or your work with the same complete joy.
First, you have to consciously and strongly decide you want to enjoy your food. Eating it mindlessly won’t do for you. If you are about to eat but don’t really feel pulled to your food, just stop!
Stop eating mindlessly. If you are not hungry, don’t eat. Be very particular about enjoying your food. Make yourself a promise to eat only when you are really enjoying it. And doesn’t that make sense too? You want to enjoy your food, you don’t want to become an eating robot. So eat only when, and only as much as you can enjoy. Then get on with other things to do.
Most people are always looking for something they can enjoy. But their real life is far from enjoyment. They don’t like what they do and they don’t know what they really like. There life and the decisions they take, have been motivated by fear and greed. So when you set food in front of them, they are going to eat, whether they are hungry or not. They will seek their, ever-elusive fun in the food. They keep jumping from one thing to another, in search of fun. They are gossiping with friends, they are watching TV, they are eating.. And when they finally stop, they wonder or feel guilty about why did they do it in so much access. Why were they doing it mindlessly, as if they were robots.
If you are this way, you can change yourself. Start by practicing mindfulness. You will get a lot of clear answers. But I digress, back to eating..
Eat whenever you are hungry but eat only as much as is required to just stop the hunger. You will have to observe carefully. You will have to be mindful when ever you go into the kitchen and pick up that cookie or that packet of chips. Before taking a bite, ask yourself – ‘Am I really going to enjoy it fully, or am I just going to it eat mindlessly?’ Ask before each bite. This will involve being very aware of eating, it involves being mindful. Stop as soon as you feel you can no longer enjoy fully, your hunger is satisfied. Don’t stuff up, don’t continue eating to finish what’s on the plate(have small servings to begin with) or to just eat as much as you eat daily.
If this makes you cringe a bit, if you think this amounts to starving yourself, think again. You are not going to starve, all you are doing is to eat just enough to satisfy your hunger and no more, all you are doing is to not compromise on your joy of eating. If and when you feel hungry again, you are going to satisfy that hunger again. You may be eating more often during the day but that is all right.
This way, you feel more energetic and alert, rather than drowsy, dull and, well… guilty. You are more present, more aware, and you enjoy your food more, even the regular stuff! Once you get the hang of it, it is not difficult to maintain. On the contrary, when you have once felt what it is like, you might not want to go back, you will try hard to hold on to this way!
Right now, you are not used to being mindful and alert all the time. So when you do try, you will unavoidably slip back into mindlessness and, consequently, into eating without any need. This will happen quite often in the beginning. This is OK. This is the natural process of learning a new habit. As soon as you notice you have become mindless, bring your focus gently back into mindfulness. No need to feel angry at yourself, no need to feel frustrated. Just keep bringing your focus back. As you keep doing, it will become more and more easy to hold mindfulness. It’s slow and gradual. As long as you keep at it, you will keep progressing until, one day, you become totally mindful, until the habit is fully formed. Just keep doing it, don’t think or analyze too much
You can extend mindfulness to everything else in your life. Mindfulness is a way of life.. We will continue our discussion on mindfulness in the next post.