I get it. When you’ve spent so long obsessing about food and your body, you’re so tired of all that attention on what you are or aren’t eating; exhausted from the litany your mind creates around every morsel that passes your lips, YOU JUST WANT PEACE from all that attention on food!
You don’t want to put more attention on it! You want to forget about it like the vanishingly rare person you know who just eats whatever they want when hungry. And sometimes eats just because it’s there, or it’s delicious – or for whatever reason and moves on, without guilt.
You might be wondering if it’ll ever be automatic.
Mindfulness requires your attention. Paying attention to both your internal and your external environments without judgement by definition, cannot be automatic. If it’s automatic, then it becomes unconscious – and lack of consciousness isn’t mindful. It’s the opposite.
That’s the bad news.
Here’s the good news
This a difference between mindfulness and vigilance! What you’re used to, coming from chronic dieting, is vigilance – probably hypervigilance. So while you might be hyper-aware of what you’re eating, it’s coming with heaps of anxiety and judgement. This isn’t the spirit of mindfulness. So that’s a bit of good news!
Here’s another bit.
Think about learning to drive a car.
When you start this learning process, everything requires your attention! You need to be aware of the internal environment: the gears, accelerator, the brakes, how your mirrors are positioned; that your seat is in the correct position for you etc. You also need to be aware of the external environment: the traffic; pedestrians, pheasants on the road, cyclists and random squirrels darting in front of you.
You need to learn how to respond to changing circumstances safely.
It all takes a lot of effort, attention and concentration, doesn’t it?
And then.., suddenly it all falls into place.
With practice, it all becomes more natural. Then you can add things in, like having the radio on, adjusting the heat/air controls, holding a conversation… and no, not texting!
This doesn’t mean you drive unconsciously. It doesn’t mean you fall asleep at the wheel. You still need to pay attention, but you’ve developed so much skill with certain aspects, that you don’t need to give it the same amount of attention you did when you started.
Same with mindful eating.
The fastest way for it all to feel more natural and not take up so much of your attention, is to practise it! Each day, you have several opportunities to practise eating mindfully, by noticing, without judgement:
- your hunger level
- how the food tastes, smells, how it feels in your mouth, what it looks like, and even the sound as you bite and chew;
- when you’re satisfied
- how you’re feeling before, during and after you’ve eaten
- the thoughts you’re having (about the food, eating, or anything else)
These days, I’m naturally aware of my hunger, fullness and satisfaction levels. It’s really not a big deal. I don’t put a lot of attention on it anymore – my eating experiences are natural and have ease about them.
But that’s only because I showed up. I put in the effort. I practised.
A bit like Serena Williams 🤣🤣🤣.
You can too. You up for it?