How do we practice mindful eating amidst the ever-present movement of life?
This is a question that arises for me personally and for many participants learning about mindful eating. It is such a powerful question. Recently, I had two interesting situations that reinforced my understanding of how I mis-use food when emotionally upset.
When life becomes hectic and harried and I am stressed and overwhelmed, my cravings can be incredibly intense. My cravings can feel like I am being hit by a ten-foot wave– sucked under the ocean and tossed about. Noticing that this is a pattern, just like the ocean’s tide is a pattern, I decided to become curious with these cravings. Surfing the Crave is a practice that is used in the Mindful Eating-Conscious Living program. I have begun to think of it as surfing the crave wave, because for me, it is one of the most difficult practices and one of the most beneficial. Knowing it is important to start with a small step, I chose to try to notice my craving mind when the waves were gently lapping on the shore, not tsunami-size!
Here is one example. Last week I was late for an appointment with a client. I hate being late. I feel anxious and worried that those waiting will be displeased, and since I was running behind schedule I didn’t have time for my morning cup of tea. Sipping it mindfully has become a centering and nourishing way to start my day, a little ritual I look forward to each morning.
Since I wasn’t able to have my tea on this particular day, there was no mindful pause and I charged into the day. By the time I was in my car, craving was crashing me into attention. “I need caffeine” a Voice in my head demanded, “And make it a Coke Zero right now.” My way of Surfing the Crave is to use brisk movement, which settles my craving mind and the physical sensations of craving in my body. Since I was driving, I couldn’t jump up and down so I became curious and playful. What would it be like to imagine that I was literally surfing a huge wave? It felt liberating and I began to laugh. Within moments the craving thoughts and sensations were gone.
My second example is about Chelsea. Recently, we adopted a new puppy and for a month Chelsea was full of life and love and brought much joy and laughter into our home, but she became very sick and had to go to the veterinarian for testing.
The call came at dinnertime that Chelsea was born with a genetic defect that was inoperable and incurable. Grief and the thought of euthanizing our puppy knocked me over like a storm wave in the ocean. Suddenly I heard myself announce, “I need French fries and a quarter pounder with cheese.” I recognized an emotional and visceral need for salt and fat, my comfort foods. I had to have it. The old pattern of using foods to soothe painful feelings was loud and clear in this heart-breaking moment. My exclamation came as a huge shock to my family and me, since I am a vegan. It was such a surprise for me that there was a moment of space– just enough of a pause for me to recognize that Voice in my head. I made a conscious decision to trust and care for myself. I placed my order and my husband went off to purchase our dinner choices.
I ate the whole veggie burger and all the sweet potato fries with Chelsea by my side. I did my best to stay present while eating. The rest of the night Chelsea sat on my lap, her little warm body curled into a ball. Just being near her satisfied my heart hunger. I was relishing in her presence with all of our family around, recognizing life’s impermanence, and surfing the waves of emotion.
How do you surf the craving wave?
What helps you take care for yourself in times of great emotion – pleasant or unpleasant?