Updated: Sep 1
Mindfulness and Food: Breaking Free From Your Habitual Behaviour with Food
This Weeks Video
It’s obvious that the apostle Paul wasn’t living in the 21st century when he was quoted as saying, “Not what enters into the mouth defiles a man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” (Matthew 15:11) Before anyone asks if I really get what he was saying, I do, and further on in this blog I will expand on what he was implying. In the context of this article food is defined as whatever it is that we ingest, both solid and liquid.
For the majority of us our relationship with food is habitual. What we eat, when we eat and how we eat are typically on auto pilot, which means that doing what you have always done around the consumption of food will result in a consistent impact on who you are physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually (in this context your desires and motivation). That said, there is a variable that has seen a plethora of reactions to food that in days bygone didn’t exist. It would seem that changes in the molecular structure of many of our food staples as a result of genetic engineering (GMO foods) has either by coincidence or direct impact paralleled an epidemic of food intolerance throughout first world countries.
Add to that the ‘epidemic’ of fast food and our western culture is being confronted with a diet related pandemic. How ironic that a dietary pandemic that is responsible for millions of deaths and ever increasing demands on the healthcare system, pale into insignificance when compared to the investment of resources in Covid 19. Most of the lifestyle diseases that cause the majority of our deaths have their roots in diet and nutrition. Imagine for a minute what would happen in our world if the same response to Covid was applied to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Imagine if there was mandatory food and beverage tracing on where people ate and the foods and beverages they bought when shopping.
So what can Western Mindfulness do to change this?
In each blog that I do in this series I will be reiterating my definition of mindfulness, because the remedy is in this definition. The western definition of mindfulness is ‘to remember in each moment that you have a choice to be kinder to yourself, to others and to the planet.’ Probably the two most important words in this definition are ‘choice’ and ‘kinder’.
Choice implies that there is an option. Habit has no need of an option. To be in the position of having an option means that you have sought more knowledge and understanding about food (in this instance) and how it impacts on you, meaning that you are now more aware. Armed with this enhanced awareness you are now in a position of having a choice. The choice is now between your habitual way of eating that causes a variety of problems, or given the new understanding you have gleaned, an alternative approach to food that enhances your health and wellbeing.
This is the point where Paul’s observation steps in. Your choice can either be motivated by, fear of disease, loss of lifestyle, having suffered too much etc. or purely by wanting to be kinder to yourself, because the love that you have for yourself inspires that. Whether it’s fear or love that sits at the foundation, they both inform thoughts and words, and this is what Paul meant when he said, “…what proceeds out of the mouth…defiles the man.” This implies that how we relate to food is as important, if not more so, than the choices we make. Millions of failed diets prove it, particularly in terms of sustainability. The more self-loving choice is easy, and easy to sustain. The one motivated by fear often holds strong attachments to old habits and is vulnerable to sabotage. It also harbours shame if failure occurs, which compounds the ‘disease’.
When your choice is about being kinder to yourself, it naturally embraces self-forgiveness. In both the fear based and loving centred choices there is always the chance to revert to old habits, it’s just that in the desire to be kinder to yourself, instead of fuelling shame for ‘falling off the wagon’, you step back and observe the impact of your choice, and note that its effect meant that choice you made wasn’t the most loving thing to do. And instead of feeling guilt or shame, you feel gratitude because what you experienced has helped you to become much clearer about what you don’t want, and thus clearer about what you do want.
This is expanded awareness. It’s a gift! This means that when you are presented with that same food choice again, instead of running away from it or totally giving into it, you will stop and recall what you are now more aware of (the pros and cons of this choice) and then follow the path of least resistance.
Because in this kinder approach there will never be fear, shame or guilt, it is permissible to make what ever choice comes naturally, which is the path of least resistance. That’s because in being more aware you will get even clearer about who you want to be if perchance you once again experience the choice that is less than self-loving. As along as you have stopped and considered the more self-loving choice before choosing, this approach will still serve you. Every time you consider the more loving alternative you are building a new neural pathway that when considered sufficiently, will naturally challenge the old habitual neural pathway. There is a tipping point where the more loving neural pathway becomes the choice of preference and a new habit is formed. This time, a more self-loving option.
Mindfulness will always be about expanded awareness, as that gives you a choice. To have a choice you have to have more knowledge and understanding, and that requires putting time and effort into learning. That you are prepared to spend your time and money in this way is evidence of what you value, and of course in this context it’s YOU!
Read More From This Series
The other topics that will be explored throughout this series over the upcoming months are (in no particular order):
Mindfulness and The Feminine – How to honour the feminine aspects of our lives.
Mindfulness and The Masculine – How to honour to the masculine aspects of our lives.
Mindfulness and Depression – How to relate to depression differently through being mindful.
Mindfulness and Ageing – How to mindfully engage getting old.
Mindfulness and Death – How mindfulness brings a new perception to death.
Mindfulness and Addictions – How to sustainably change your addictions through being mindful.
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