January was mindful eating month as hosted by The Centre for Mindful Eating (https://thecenterformindfuleating.org/ if you are interested). The theme for that month was compassionate self care. I had full intent of writing many posts on this topic over the course of the month culminating in a post on January 25th which was mindful eating day. Well as you can see that didn't happen. It is now March! (ummm...so really time really does go faster as you get older!) So now I am revisiting compassion- not just in how we eat but in everyday life. I have to be compassionate with myself that life got very busy and I had to prioritize. Compassionate self care is essential when we are looking at our lives- to decrease judgement and shame regarding our decisions-whether it is what we ate or whether we decided that a blog post could go unwritten at present. When I sit back and look at January and February I can see how work got exponentially busier at a time when it generally doesn't. I can see how unexpected life situations came up and smacked me in the face. I can see how things got hectic but I made more time for self-care to get through it all. Not going to lie- I didn't really realize this until I reflected on the last 2 months.
I have decided to become more mindful this year by incorporating a mindfulness practice into my life (and my kids have joined- 6yr old now asks for his "breathing app" daily... so fun). Whether it is actually getting back on my yoga mat, a 2 minute mindful breathing exercise or sitting quietly for 5mins in the morning before my day starts I have been doing this most days. So I was practicing compassionate self care- I just wasn't telling anyone about it...and in today's society if I didn't selfie it did it truly happen?? (A thought for another day)
I have even been incorporating mindfulness into one of the classes I teach. We have done a couple meditations with heads down and breathing. But last week I did a mindful eating exercise. You might have done this in the past with a raisin. I, however, provided my students with 3 pieces of chocolate (or they could bring food of their own choice to class for this) and walked them through a guided mindful eating exercise. To be honest I went a bit faster than I find I do in smaller groups (not sure if it was the restless energy they started with or my feeling of being overwhelmed at the moment I started this not knowing the outcome). This class has 34 students which even though not a large class is the largest group I have ever done guided mindful eating with. After they went through the exercise I had them sit silently and write a reflection of the experience. These reflections were an amazing experience for me to read. Students commented on how they had never really smelled their food before eating. Many students commented on how the chocolate tasted different than any chocolate they had every eaten- one even asked if I had it shipped from Europe. But the most interesting comment I heard, that was written more than a dozen times, was that they did not feel self conscious to eat the chocolate because everyone else was doing it because they had to do it for class. Many of these comments were followed by something like- "I didn't realize I thought like that".
This really hammered home for me that mindful eating can help us slow down, enjoy the tastes and pleasures that come with food but it can also make us more aware of all the negative self talk that comes of up when we eat certain foods. The judgement that we put on ourselves by not "following the plan" or eating a "bad" food. If we eat anywhere from 3 to 9 times a day that means we have 3 to 9 times a day at least where we could be engaging in negative self talk about our food choices. That's 3 to 9 times a day that we may be unconsciously doing damage to our mental health and physical health.
I have been dabbling, for lack of a better word, with a mindful practice for about 12 years now. I have known how to explain it and even help guide but I have never embodied it. I am now working on that. And by working on my mindful practice I can see how much it could benefit everyone. I have been devouring everything that The Mindful Dietitian, Fiona Sutherland, has to offer. I am learning from my colleagues at work. I am taking the Motivational Interviewing and Mindfulness course by Nourished Body (Woohoo Kori Kostka!) I have been reading and listening and learning and experimenting. (I have been doing an exercise with my coffee in the morning before I take my first sip and HOLY SHIT the amazing coffee tastes even better and will always make this grumpy not a morning person smile). I am trying to be a pebble in a lake with regards to this topic. I am only one person. Yet, if I can ripple out the message of mindfulness to my students and my own children, then they ripple out to their families and clients, then they ripple out to whomever they chose- it may take a generation but I believe that this is a key to healing our societies relationship with food and bodies.
Today I stood in a space that has just been renovated in the office where I do my private practice sessions and I was struck with an almost fully formed idea of a body image/mindfulness based group for kids aged 10-14. This is my tiny fight back to WW (#wakeupweightwatchers) and it might just be another ripple in the lake that could be part of a movement of change.
So you be unapologetically you, while I mindfully be Unapologetically me....