Mindful Eating – Eating with People

Hectic week, so just taking this directly from my daily journal:
Monday 10/2/20
The transformation continues, it seems.
As somebody who used to have a restrictive and bingeing relationship with food, I am in awe of what’s happening.
I now hardly ever have cravings for junk food. I think it’s because my regular meals are so delicious and nutritious that I do not ever feel deprived of taste sensations.
This is tonight’s meal:
Salad with avocado, tomato, alfalfa sprouts, pumpkin seeds, roasted chickpeas, olive oil and apple cider vinegar.
Fresh Atlantic salmon marinated in soy sauce and apple cider vinegar
An orange for dessert.
salmon
When I do have cravings, often if I go too long without eating or am thirsty rather than hungry, they are quickly soothed by a) drinking and b) the knowledge that I have delicious food waiting for me at home.
Also, c) I do not deny myself what I crave, all I do now is imagine eating it mindfully.
Not while watching something, listening to something, reading something or talking to someone. Just sitting down and eating whatever it is. And this visualisation is insanely helpful. If after that visualization, and eating a normal meal, I am still craving the food, I eat it.
It’s remarkable how addictive that combination was – ‘mindless eating plus entertainment’ – and it’s even more remarkable how simply separating the two completely rather than denying them individually, cures such viciously strong cravings. Mindblowing.
I have now had all this ‘movie’ food (popcorn, peanuts) in my house for a month and haven’t touched it because it just isn’t appealing without a movie accompanying it.
When I do go ahead and get what I crave (latest one is Everything Butter by Fix & Fogg with peanuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds), it’s a heavenly experience and it’s much easier to stop because the heavenly sensations begin to fade when I’ve had enough.
Funnily enough, if I let myself get quite hungry and then have the peanut butter before eating my regular meal, it feels like I could never have enough. That I will not be able to stop eating this peanut butter. If however, I have the meal first and Peanut butter for dessert, it is surprising how quickly I feel satisfied.
Our parents were right not letting us have dessert before we had the meal.
peanut
I no longer worry about my figure either. Before I always fretted that I carry unnecessary fat. And I did too, because I ate mindlessly past the point of fullness, and thus ate more than my body needed – hence unnecessary fat. I have never been ‘overweight’ by common standards because of my activity levels, but I did carry extra fat, not the healthy necessary fat, but the useless fat that sits there as a symptom of bodily mistreatment.
Now, I don’t worry. I think I lost some weight, though I don’t weigh myself. Pull-Ups are much easier, and that’s how I know I must be lighter. I’m not super skinny because that’s not my healthy body shape. But I no longer worry if I’m eating too much because every time I eat, I feel when I’m full and my appetite goes away.
The next challenge
It is interesting that in Russia we have a saying ‘When I eat I am deaf and blind’. Meaning that you do not talk while eating. And that was the custom at home. We did not engage in a lively discussion while eating.
So the whole American or Italian family dinner thing goes completely against the Russian eating tradition. I am thinking of reviving that Russian tradition in my life now, even though I live in New Zealand.
Because…
The one mindless eating activity that still happens is when I eat socially. I really enjoy a good conversation, but I also experience a fair bit of social anxiety, which I soothe by eating.
I am sure many of you have experienced this too. As you get lost in the discussion, you forget to listen to your body. You order a meal and eat it during the discussion. And after the meal, you order the dessert.
But what I realized after this mindful eating month, is that I do not enjoy my food as much as I would if I ate it with full attention on the meal, because I am talking with friends at the same time. Isn’t this the same thing as eating + entertainment?
This made me have an epiphany:
I do not need to eat the meal while engaging in a discussion with people, it is just a habit! I can eat before I come or after I go, and have a cup of tea while we converse if I have to have something. From past experience, I am much more engaged in the conversation when I am not simultaneously eating. And I am much more engaged in enjoying the meal when I am not simultaneously talking.
In the past, eating at parties has been where my most notorious bingeing episodes occurred. I was famous for eating like a vacuum cleaner while socializing because I actually feel quite anxious at large gatherings of people I do not know (or even people I do know!) and the comfort of chewing and swallowing soothed that anxiety. The only thing is, soothing/numbing the problem doesn’t resolve it.
It might be time to separate this happy but destructive duo, at least for awhile. Maybe it’s like learning how to drive: at first you have to focus on driving and can’t do anything else (talking, listening to audiobooks etc) and once that becomes automatic, you can add extra activities.

So for now, I will isolate eating and conversation and have them separately. This will allow me to recognise any stressful thoughts that arise in interactions which would normally lead me to overeat for comfort.

If I have to eat while I am conversing, I will excuse myself and eat, and resume the conversation after finishing the meal.

For now, that’s what I’m going to do.

Let’s see how it goes!
Do you notice your mindfulness slip when you are eating socially? What do you do to enjoy both the conversation and the food?

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