Facing up to unhealthy habits is an arduous task, and our emotional associations with food make changing dietary habits very difficult. It's no picnic. Often, the best place to begin is by not making any changes at all, but by simply paying close attention to what you eat and how it affects you.
Consider how frequently we're switched into automatic eating mode: a state of anxiety, bored, lonely, upset, an HBO marathon, craving physical stimulation. Sometimes the only way we know we've eaten is that the food on our plates -- or the entire bag of chips when we meant to have a handful -- is gone.
A foundation of Eastern philosophies is that any task worth doing, no matter how benign or repetitive, is worth your full attention. Our Western mindset of living constantly in the past -- be it 10 minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years ago -- or being emotionally attached to something that's yet to occur keeps us bound and limited by our own self-imposed stress. This is where emotional eating grows its tenacious roots.
Just as mindfulness can have a positive influence on our relationship with others, applying moment-to-moment awareness to eating can transform our relationship with food, bringing about positive change, including weight loss. Food feeds the spirit as well the body.
Try this exercise: Hold an unpeeled orange in your hand. Observe the color and the shape. Feel the texture. Close your eyes and inhale its sweet perfume. Contem-plate how it was grown and the effort of many it took to reach the market. Slowly peel it, marveling in the glory of nature, a work of art to be appreciated in its totality. With eyes closed, slowly chew on a section, letting the nectar coat your lips. Take your time with the entire fruit in this manner and quietly observe how you feel, refraining from any impulse to judge what or how.
This little exercise in slowing down and paying attention illustrates how powerful our food impulses are and how satisfied and in control we feel when we bring awareness to eating. You'll find yourself eating less, eating better and truly celebrating what you eat.
"The truth is, that at the end of a well-savored meal, both soul and body enjoy a special well-being ... the spirit grows more receptive." -- Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin