Eating habits: may this year be mindful

Eating happits banner croppedDo you have an aspect of your life that repeatedly begs for understanding? Mine’s habitual overeating. This year, I’d like to make a tectonic shift

Happy eating habits – or eating happits, as they should be called. For very special, and very happy periods of my life, I’ve found them and held onto them. Other times, eating seems to run (and ruin) my life.

Although sometimes I’m sad that this one difficulty seems to follow me like a stray dog (don’t we all feel that about the parts of our life that send us SOS signals over and over?), thinking part of you is broken is unhelpful.

Instead, things crop up again and again because they have more to tell us. The fact I still have this on my plate means I’m going to have to listen in to it. Maybe I’m going to prioritise relaxation and mindfulness, and understand how I stress myself out and how that affects my eating. Perhaps I’m going to have to enlist a coach to guide me, or a specialist therapist, or find the right book. I’m making this area my priority for this next year.

My lighthouse is lit. May my light hit on the right place. If you spot it before me, let me know!

Going in deep: changing the how, not the what

1. Can I alter my way of being in my day? Marc David, who masterminds the Psychology of Eating Institute, puts forward the view that ‘how we are as eaters is often how we are in life’. Usually, I’m striving to find focus, and I’m a distracted eater as well as a novelist trying to overcome distraction and get down to work.

2. Can I improve my unconscious thoughts? Depression around eating comes from setting myself standards and then failing to meet them, and then giving myself a hard time about it in a very subtle, unconscious-level way. I think it’s time to understand once again what’s going on at the unconscious thought-level (it’s some years since I excavated that) and work there to get it on my side again. I haven’t yet found the person, or the right tools, to help with this – but I’m looking.

3. Can I give eating my maximum attention? I suspect trying to adopt slower and more focused ways of eating (as the Mindful Eating philosophy suggests) rather than trying to plan what I should and shouldn’t eat, is the way forwards. The trouble is, it’s not a transformation that’s happened overnight after reading one book. It’s a long-term habit, adopting it involves drifting away and reminding myself repeatedly, in and out the weeks. I’m sure it’s worth doing. All year long.

4. What are people talking about when they refer to ‘loving yourself?’ I’m curious about compassion, and understanding, and self-acceptance, since I’m a self-improver (which implies a certain self-judgment) and fierce self-driver by habit. I don’t recognise the feeling. Illumination, please.

Changing psychological habits is a less aggressive approach

Sometimes, I wish I could beat the urge to consume into submission; banish it like an enemy. I suppose this is partly my fix-it mentality, and partly society’s message that overeating is down to laziness and that taking more action (setting clearer targets and planning meals and exercise more) will solve it. Marc David is adamant we should be listening to it instead.

Self-hypnosis, mindfulness, yoga, enjoying summer weather, rigorously examining my self-limiting beliefs around body image, eradicating negative thinking – these are the deeper-level psychological habits that I’ve been practising when I’ve transformed my approach to eating in the past.

So I’m aiming this year to give these ‘how’ approaches my attention.