I often think back several years ago to a time when I wanted to quit drinking coffee. Each day I would walk by a lovely café en route to work and that little voice in my head would say, I want a cup of coffee.
Before I knew it, I was carrying a steaming hot latte into my office. I felt totally powerless to keep my word. My thoughts called the shots. Has this ever happened to you?
And every year during the holiday season we sure get tested about our commitments to our health and diet, don’t we? Being discriminating around food can be very challenging with festive family gatherings, holiday parties, and gifts of chocolates, cookies and homemade goodies!
One of the primary gifts of my engaging in a meditation practice is the ability to notice that the mind is a thought-producing machine. It thinks and thinks and thinks. It can’t help it. If you sit quietly for a moment and try to be silent you will notice something. You can observe thinking. What this means is that you have thoughts.
You are not your thoughts. This is essential to get. When that little thought in your head announces “I want that piece of cake” normally we think that thought is us. We believe what it says and eat the cake in the same way I ended up with that cup of coffee in my hand.
Here is the secret to tricking your mind in three easy steps.
First, be clear what you don’t want to eat or drink over the holidays. For example, I have decided to eliminate dark chocolate because I know it affects my sleep.
Next, imagine the kinds of things your inner voice will say to try to convince you to eat it. I can imagine the voice in my head saying, “Oh, you could have just one piece,” or “A little piece isn’t going to affect you,” or “If you don’t try it, Aunt Mary will be insulted!” This is great information. Now you know exactly how your mind is going to test you!!
Lastly, come up with a statement to respond to the inner thoughts before you are confronted with this food or beverage. Decide what you are going to say back to that thought. My response would be, “I don’t eat dark chocolate anymore.” In this way, when the dark chocolate candy is offered to me by Aunt Mary I can pull out my remedy and say, “I don’t eat dark chocolate anymore.” And sometimes I say it twice.
What’s so interesting is that the thought inside me that wanted the chocolate is somehow satisfied with that answer and disappears. The situation is over. However, trying to come up with a replacement statement on the spot never works. You must have it in your back pocket ready to pull out when you are tested.
Did you ever notice when you are really hungry how good food tastes? The scientific reason is because when you are hungry your taste buds are excited. When the taste buds are all fired up the flavors pop in your mouth and that is a joyful experience.
Taste buds are fickle characters though, especially when you are not really hungry. For the first several bites they act like they are really interested in what you are eating and then soon after they could care less. We can capitalize this.
How do we get to what I call the joy factor in eating? Eat like a gourmet. Rather than going for quantity, let yourself experience the quality of the food. Engage your senses. Really look at what is being presented. Ask yourself, “Do I want this in my body?”
Allow yourself to smell the flavors. Close your eyes and drink in the scents. Become aware of the tastes and seasonings by chewing slowly. If you really pay attention you will notice how the flavors change as you continue to chew. Each bite is not the same.
Do you really enjoy this food when you slow the experience way down? Depending on what you are eating and how hungry you are the taste buds will eventually go to sleep and that same food will no longer give you sensory goose bumps. Don’t try to chase the flavors by continuing to eat at this point. The body is already content.
On my kitchen table I placed a card that contains the following reminder:
Stop. Close your eyes. Take several deep, relaxing breaths. Notice where I am holding tension in my body. Inhale peace. Exhale tension. Notice without judgment any thoughts or emotions present.
Open your eyes. Look at your meal. Smell your food. Notice how the food feels in your mouth and be aware of sensations and flavors.
Find the joy in this meal.
How do you get control of food indulgences over the holiday period? Do you have special techniques or rituals to help you enjoy your food and not over eat? Please join the conversation.