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i eat therefore i am, or is it the other way ’round?

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After meditation last night, B. described how she’s begun paying attention to food and eating in her busy life. My husband gives me strange looks, she told us, and my kids ask, What are you doing, mom? when she goes quiet at the start of a meal.

Eating, like so many things we do in the course of a day, happens automatically. It requires no special effort, no thinking. Maybe that’s why eating has become problematic for some. For me it’s anxiety, however trivial or complex, that makes me eat. Can’t find my car keys on the way out the door — and a piece of chocolate appears in my mouth and is gone before I know it was even there. Anticipating a difficult conversation — and a tub of hedgehog ice cream appears out of nowhere to cause brainfreeze. Gradually, over time and with effort, I’m becoming aware of how worry, fear, sadness, and joy trigger eating. Once I notice, I can make choices.

In her book Mindful Eating, Zen teacher Chozen Bays suggests ways to explore our relationship to eating and drinking by creating pauses of awareness. For instance:

1. Pause before beginning a meal. Look at each item of food, taking it in with the eyes. Notice colors, textures, shapes, arrangements on the plate or bowl. 2. Take a moment to say grace. Thank the animals, plants, and people who brought this food to you.Be aware of their gifts as you eat. 3. Begin the meal by pausing to inhale the fragrance of the food. Imagine that you are being nourished by just the smell. 4. If you notice that you are eating without tasting, stop and pause to look at the food again.

source: Bays, J.C. (2009). Mindful eating: a guide to redicovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food. Boston: Shambhala, p. 100. image: www.precisionnutrition.com

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