A 3-week path to more mindful eating habits
Last summer, when I was fasting in Thailand, I read Savor, a book by Thich Nhat Hanh. The fast was a success and it was also a struggle to stay on it at times. I fasted for 11 days while there and in the end I learned a lot about myself. During that time I took ownership of my self-sabotage and I confronted and honored it with love and compassion. One thing which really stuck with me in the book Savor was the idea of the hungry ghost. Hanh talks about a thin ghost-like figure with a long narrow neck, a huge distended belly and a tiny mouth. The concept is that we can eat all day or night long and never be satisfied. “Though they are constantly ravenous, driven by the desire to eat, their tiny mouths and necks prevent them from swallowing the food they ingest. The act of eating does not help them overcome negative emotions and cravings. Eating more only causes them to have more pain and agony. Are you consuming like a hungry ghost?”
We continue to eat to fill a void that cannot be filled with food. Because we eat foods that do not satisfy that empty place and sometimes we eat when we are not hungry, and sometimes we eat foods that do not nourish or serve our bodies, we are left feeling like a hungry ghost, wandering the kitchen or grocery store isles looking for something that is not there. If any of this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Many people I’ve spoken to have experienced little set backs which feel like the hungry ghost has taken up residence.
Here are some tips I learned from Savor and from my experience in Thailand to help you going forward:
Listen to your body with compassion – You are more capable of helping yourself if you listen to your mind and body with compassion. Guilt and hopelessness will subside if you honor your path by acknowledging that you are now, in this moment seeking a healthy body and a balanced weight. Don’t judge yourself, love yourself and recommit to your goals daily.
Appreciate what you already have – Ask yourself: “What nourishes joy in me?, What nourishes joy in others? Do I appreciate the many reasons for joy that are already in my life?” What do you already have in your life that brings you joy? Friends, family, a nice house, nature, a body that works well. Take a moment to sit with a pen and paper and write a list of everything in your life that makes you happy.
It has to come from you – Acknowledge yourself for what you have already accomplished. If you are reading this, it means you are taking steps to improve your health and your body image. Why do you want to make this change (of eating better or losing weight)? Allow yourself to truly feel that life would be significantly better without your current “problem” as you would feel better and become healthier. This decision has to come from you – no one else. Once you realize that you really are in charge and that you can make a new choice in every moment, you will start making changes for the better.
Make it a practice, not an idea – Like going to yoga, cleaning your house or making your kids lunch every day, mindful eating is a practice. It is something you have the opportunity to practice 3 or more times every day. Let yourself have it! Give yourself the gift of practicing eating well every day (not getting it perfect, but practicing it). Before you know it, you will find your practice isn’t practice anymore, it has become a habit and you are doing it effortlessly!
To mindful eating,
Elaina Love is the Owner/Director of PureJoyPlanet.com and is also a professional Chef, Instructor, and Detox Counselor at Pure Joy Culinary Academy. She is a Lifestyle Counselor, co-owner of Pure Joy Academy.