Eat to Love - Love to Eat
I believe that living a balanced and harmonious life starts with mindful self-compassion. According to Dr. Kristin Neff “Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”
Being kind and gentle with oneself is a self-love practice, which creates an upward emotional spiral (with focus on softness and self-nurturing), versus the negative spiral of judgement, harshness and self-punishing thoughts.
Many of my clients have been using food to cope with anxiety and stress for many years or even decades. During the first moments of snacking or munching, they have been experiencing a sense of calmness and a reduction of stressful symptoms. Therefore the eating ritual has become a powerful and reliable coping strategy, often resulting in unwanted weight gain and a sense of failure.
One diet leads to another and another and another, which may cause feelings of hopeless, frustration and giving up. When a new client calls for an initial consultation, I often hear: “I don’t have another diet in me. I can’t do this anymore!” I assure them that there is another way. By working with me a client explores the underlying needs when reaching for food and learns to develop new coping strategies.
If you feel the need to snack when you are not physically hungry, gently ask yourself: “Am I celebrating or self-medicating?” It is crucial to have compassion for the part of you that needs to take the edge off and self-soothe. Rather than beating yourself up for it, gently acknowledge that you are going through a difficult time and that you are experiencing a moment of emotional pain. We all do. Instead of eating to “make that yucky feeling” go away, allow yourself a moment to explore what is going on as if you were asking a child or loved one in need of soothing and comforting.
Step 1: Slow down, pause and be present to your sensations in the body. Where are you feeling the anxiety? Are your shoulders tense, is your posture contracted, is your heart racing?
Step 2: Show yourself some love and kindness. Say to yourself: “This is a very difficult moment. I am not alone. Others have felt like this before. I’ll be okay.”
Step 3: Breathe into your heart space and wish yourself well. Imagine a beautiful healing light surrounding your heart protecting you from harm.
Enjoy this beautiful 15-minute guided Meditation for Opening the Heart by Sharon Salzberg
How can mindful self-compassion lead to mindful living and mindful eating? Instead of overthinking what and when to eat, I propose you set a daily intention in the morning, such as:
“Today is a good day. I am choosing to be kind and gentle with myself.”
“I trust that I can handle whatever comes my way.”
“I look forward to nourishing myself well and cooking myself a beautiful meal.”
“I am going to allow for mindful mini-breaks and time out.”
“Today, I let go of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. I will pay attention to all the small miracles that come my way.”
When we focus on our overall self-care (emotional, spiritual, physical) and keep our inner self-love reservoir full the need for emotional eating is going to diminish.
Diets will fail when emotional eating is not addressed. Food is to be enjoyed, not feared. Remember: Self-care is not just chocolate cake and soft baths. It’s creating a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.
Let's celebrate life, love and happiness!