There is only ONE reason you over- or undershoot on your hunger and fullness cues.
Did you play Hangman with the graphic? What did you guess is the answer?
Drum roll…. it’s…
Really, that’s it. Only one reason.
Three types of disconnection
The way I see it, there are three categories of disconnection. I say this with a little caution since everything is connected. These divisions are purely because I like neat headings :). Seriously though, separation/ disconnection are constructs of the mind.
If you’ve ever dieted, fasted or restricted food, or followed a particular ‘lifestyle plan’, ‘eaten clean,’ ‘been careful’ (call it whatever you’d like) you’ve likely overridden your body’s hunger and fullness signals again and again. You’ve also overridden your body’s intuitive sense of what it needs most at any particular time, as well as denied your body a sense of satisfaction from food.
In short, you’ve disconnected from your body’s innate wisdom.
I’m not saying this to add to the guilt and shame you most likely already feel with regard to your eating and your body. I’m saying this to help you understand the likely cause of your troubles with food.
Talking about guilt and shame – if you call yourself an emotional eater, then you probably ‘eat your feelings’. When you either don’t recognise your feelings, and/or don’t honour them (any, not just guilt and shame) then essentially you’re disconnected from them. Since feelings are felt in your body, this is also a form of disconnection from your body.
Our minds are busy! They are constantly chattering away at us; most of it is repetitive and not very useful. When you’re disconnected from your mind, you won’t be very aware (if at all) of the internal monologue that is directing your actions. Your mind is constantly judging, making demands and reminding you of its expectations. It could be insisting you eat (whether or not you’re hungry), or that you ‘avoid temptation.’ It could be telling you which foods are ‘good’ and which are ‘bad.’ It could be hurling abuse at you about the size of your thighs, or congratulating you because your belt is looser. Your mind will chatter away about other people, groups of people, cultures, religions. They’re good or bad. It’s their fault. It’s your fault. Yada yada yada.
Here’s the really important piece:
Thoughts create feelings, and you act on your feelings.
Can you see how the mind and the body work together? If your mind has the thought ‘I’ll never stop eating like this,’ you’ll likely feel hopeless, sad and/or scared (which you experience in your body). In an attempt to change or distract from that uncomfortable feeling, you eat.
When you’re disconnected from your mind you won’t even be aware that you’re having these thoughts. Yet they are impacting on your relationship with food and your body (and in fact, your interpersonal relationships, your money management – and actually, everything. It’s all connected, remember?).
If you’re disconnected from your body and your mind, you won’t recognise what your needs are (other than the most urgent ones, and even then, perhaps not). If you can’t recognise them, you’re unlikely to be able to meet them appropriately – and instead, eat in an unquestioned, unclear fog which is vaguely attempting to meet the need.
This is an interesting one that isn’t often spoken about – and I treat it with caution because I am still learning.
What do I mean by ‘spirit’?
Spirit, to me, is the force of Life. We can recognise it quite easily in nature – with the wind, the sunrise, sunset, moonrise, the changing of the seasons, the blossoming of flowers, the unfurling of new leaves. We can see it in sand dunes, the moors and the crashing waves. We see it in animals too.
And it’s in us as well. It’s that part of us that is beyond the mind and the body (though experienced through them) – the part of us that recognises the one who is doing the thinking or experiencing. It’s non-judging. That’s why it’s so easy to spot in nature.
It’s the mystery of Life. The unexplainable. When you’re connected to Spirit, you feel truly ‘home.’ Does that make sense?
When disconnected from the force of Life, my experience is that there’s something missing. It’s like a longing, a yearning that no kind of consumption can fill. It’s a longing for connection with all that is; the recognition that we are all connected – that we are all a part of everything. This isn’t woo-woo by the way, it’s quantum physics! Cutting edge science. And yes, I know, it’s a theory 😉😵.
I worked for years and years on the level of the mind and body and while there was improvement, I still struggled. When I made the decision to commit myself to my spiritual practice, everything changed. Within days.
So, how can we reconnect?
I won’t disappoint. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are a few ways you can begin to reconnect with yourself…
Reconnect with your Body
- Set a reminder on your phone so you dedicate a few minutes (2 will do – you can do 2 minutes!) every day for a week, to practise connecting with your body. If you can stop doing, then do. If you can’t, then so be it – you can still tune in to your body. Notice how you’re moving, how you’re breathing; notice any aches or pains; notice where your body touches surfaces or other parts of your body; notice the temperature of various parts of your body. That’s it. You’re not trying to change anything. You’re not trying to do anything differently. All you’re doing is paying attention to your body. If you can do this several times a day, even better.
- When you’re ready, start to pay attention to your hunger levels before you are about to eat. Again, you’re not trying to change anything. All you’re doing is paying attention to how hungry you are before you eat – even if you’re not hungry – if that’s the case, that’s what you notice, with curiosity and without judgement! Articulate to yourself what you’re feeling in your body, that has you decide your level of hunger. What are the sensations you feel?
- When you’re ready, do the same for fullness.
Reconnect with your Mind
- Set a reminder on your phone to dedicate a few minutes (TWO!) every day for a week, to practise connecting with your mind. If you can stop doing whatever you’re doing that is best, but if you can’t, tune in to your mind anyway. Notice what you’re thinking! Does it sound like a radio that switches automatically from station to station at lightning speed? See if you can slow it down a little, with your slower breath. It’s probably describing, judging, bossing, making lists, expecting things of you, demanding things of you… listen…
- It’s helpful to write it down – this helps to slow it down a little, which is also a really helpful facility. You might be surprised at what you see!
- Notice the quality of your thoughts: how much of what you’re thinking is verifiably true? How much of it is skilful?
Reconnect with your Spirit
- Find yourself a teacher, and learn to meditate. I can’t possibly give you a one-two-three in developing a spiritual practice in a blog post. That would be doing you and the energy of Life a great disservice. There are some great books that could help start the process. I would recommend literature that is not about belief systems. Belief systems are what we’re trying to step away from here. Go more for things that are about experience. Anything by Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, Jonathan Faust, Pema Chodron or Stephen Levine’s A Gradual Awakening are wonderful places to start.
- There are many types of meditation. I teach mindfulness meditation because it’s such a brilliant support for eating issues. What’s important is that you learn to develop that sense of you being connected with all that is; that you learn to open your heart to yourself, to others and to life, exactly as we all are.
- Being in nature is a very practical way to do this if it’s done in a mindful way. This means bringing your full attention to the present moment; noticing the array around you without judging it, simply being in it. It’s not beautiful. It’s not ugly. It just is what it is: green, or grey, wet or dry, warm or cold; sunny or overcast; hard ground or soft ground. Notice the life force in what is around you; how the grass WILL grow up through the paving stones; how the bees move from flower to flower…
Is this making sense to you? Where do you think your biggest disconnect lies?