How Mindful Eating Becomes Mindful Living

By Michelle May, M.D.

birthday candlesThere’s a saying: How you do anything is how you do everything. It is not always obvious, but it is often true. I’ve been thinking about that a lot because today is my big 5-0.

Milestones like graduations, anniversaries, New Year’s, and birthdays that end in a zero give us an opportunity to reflect on our journey so far and anticipate the journey ahead. It may sound strange, but I am truly grateful for my struggle with food and yoyo dieting. Although it was a significant challenge for many years of my life, in return, I received the precious gifts of insight, authenticity, and compassion that I’m now able to use to inspire and help others.

I also realize that my journey to freedom with food has really been a journey to freedom in my life – and I’ve heard that from many of you too. Since “how I do anything might be how I do everything,” learning to eat mindfully has taught me (and continues to teach me) how to live mindfully.

Below is an example of how to apply mindful eating lessons to your life from each chapter/workshop:

  1. It’s not about being in control, it’s about being in charge. What else, besides food, are you trying to control instead of giving yourself the flexibility to make decisions that are right in that circumstance?
  2. Whenever you feel like eating, pause to ask “Am I hungry?” Rather than reacting on autopilot, pausing between the stimulus and the response gives you response-ability. What other triggers in your life need a pause button to give you time to think about your next action?
  3. Guilt fuels the eat-repent-repeat cycle. Regret leaves the door open for learning. Are you allowing guilt or shame about the past paralyze you and prevent you from moving forward in some area of your life?
  4. Remember TFAR: Your Thoughts lead to your Feelings which lead to your Actions which lead to your Results. Diets don’t work because they are focused on actions, not the root causes (your thoughts and feelings); in fact they even create new thoughts and feelings that drive more overeating! Where else in your life do you try to fix the outside without addressing the inside first? How is that backfiring?
  5. Allow Balance, Variety, and Moderation to guide your food choices. These principles work well for nutrition so how can you apply them to your work, exercise, and other aspects of your life?
  6. Mindful Eating is eating with intention and attention. What else in your life, in addition to eating, would benefit from more intention and attention?
  7. Eating the right amount of food isn’t about being good; it’s about feeling good. How can increased awareness of the effects of your choices (without judgment) help you choose more wisely?
  8. Practicing excellent self-care builds a buffer zone that helps you cope with the inevitable challenges that life brings. Are you investing in yourself consistently?

It’s never too late!

I hope these lessons have helped you as much as they have helped me. But if you haven’t started this journey yet, it’s never too late!

Six years ago, I had the opportunity to facilitate an Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Workshop in a retirement community. On the first day, one of the participants, 70 year old Velma, said, “Honey, I’ve been on every diet invented. I don’t see how this one’s going to be any different, but why quit now?” On the last day of our workshop, with tears in her eyes, Velma said, “Why didn’t anyone teach me this stuff forty years ago? It makes me sad to think of all of the time, energy, and money I’ve wasted-but I’m not going to waste one more minute of my life dieting!”

And that is why I always sign my books, articles, and emails with…

Eat Mindfully, Live Vibrantly!
Michelle May, M.D

 

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