Guilt or pleasure? Are you ready to rethink how you relate to food?

Posted on September 10, 2010

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 Do you find yourself beating yourself up for what you are eating rather than taking pleasure in the deliciousness of your food? I came across an inspiring blog post about being concious of what we are eating and appreciating our food, rather than making every meal a judgement-filled guilt-fest. The author decided to start saying grace before every meal as a way to focus on appreciation rather than self judgement. Here is an excerpt:

Mostly, I have tended to start meals with thoughts like, “I shouldn’t be eating this,” or “Naughty, Naughty!”  Every morsel is labeled  – crap, junk, bad carb, bad fat – and I am labeled, too.  Bad Fattie.  Unless it’s vegetables.  Then, I’m off the guilt hook.  But, since one cannot subsist on vegetables alone, I am left with years of meals, day in and day out, in which I am instantly stressed out and devalued before I even put fork to food.

Obviously, eating has not felt very sacred, or divine, or pleasant, or even just tolerable.  The reality that I have been oblivious to in all of my crazy diet mentality is that our food is absolutely sacred.

The author decided to honor the sacred aspect of her meals by starting a practice of saying grace before every meal to encourage herself to appreciate her food rather than beat herself up for the way she eats. Read the full post here!

Another great way to shift from guilt to pleasure is through mindfulness, a simple yet powerful Buddhist practice. In the March 2010 edition of O Magazine, Oprah interviewed Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk whom Martin Luther King Jr. called “an apostle of peace and nonviolence.” He has been a monk for over 60 years, and has been exiled from his native country of Vietnam for over 40 years for his vocal opposition to war.

This is how he explained the concept and how it related to eating during his interview with Oprah:

Nhat Hanh: If you breathe in and are aware that you are alive – that you can touch the miracle of being alive – then that is a kind of enlightenment. Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive… But with a practice, we can always remain alive in the present moment. With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment. It is possible to live happily in the here and the now. So many conditions of happiness are available – more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don’t have to run into the future in order to get more…

Suppose you are drinking a cup of tea. When you hold your cup, you may like to breathe in, to bring your mind back to your body, and you become fully present. And when you are truly there, something else is also there – life, represented by the cup of tea. In that moment, you are real, and the cup of tea is real. You are not lost in the past, in the future, in your projects, in your worries. You are free from all of these afflictions. And in that state of being free,  you enjoy your tea. That is the moment of happiness, and of peace. When you brush your teeth, you may have just two minutes, but according to this practice, it is possible to produce freedom and joy during that time, because you are established in the here and now. If you are capable of brushing your teeth in mindfulness, then you will be able to enjoy the time when you take a shower, cook your breakfast, sip your tea…

OPRAH: Do you do the same thing with all food?

Nhat Hanh: Yes, we have silent meals eaten in such a way that we get in touch with the cosmos, with every morsel of food.

With this in mind, I challenge you to eat mindfully for one week and see if it affects the way you relate to your food and the way you treat yourself during mealtimes. Practice appreciation for the delicious flavors, the nourishment, and the good company that surrounds you, and let the self-criticism drop. Let’s stop hating ourselves for being living organisms that need to eat to live!

Bon appetit!

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Posted in: Dieting, In the Media