Is It Ever OK to Feed Your Feelings?
I guess that would depend on who you ask, but this mindful-eating-yogi-nutritionist says ab-so-FREAKING-lutely!
The most challenging aspect of mindful eating for people to understand is that it is not a diet, there is no give and take, no guilt, no bargaining, no excuses, and no forbidden foods when you embark on a mindful eating journey. There is however, an obligation to be honest and true to yourself, a butt-load of self reflection, and a certain amount of confidence involved. In the end you have freedom. It takes work.
There are many reasons why we choose a certain food and those reasons change all the time. We eat to fill a void- time, attention, nutrition. We eat to gain something (other than weight)- energy, flavor, memories. The physiology of it all is very complex, and there are entire textbooks written about it, but at the core of it all is the fact that food is more than simply a way to keep up with your daily workout. I could fill this entire blog with ways that food is more than simply an energy source, but I won't. You're welcome. It is enough to know that food is a source of energy, comfort, memories, and even an outlet from reality. And all of that is ok!
Awareness is the key. In yoga class the teacher says "bring your awareness to the shape, the effort it takes to hold or maintain the shape, the ease of the shape..." at the table the same applies. Become aware of the food choices that you make, the reasons you chose them, and how that food ultimately makes you feel. Now, in a perfect world you could drink all of the coffee that you like between 6am and 6pm and still sleep soundly, have no side effects, and be at peace with the world. But the world isn't perfect- duh. So it is important to understand the reaction within you for the action of drinking coffee for 12 straight hours. When you have that information you can put it in your food choice arsenal for next time. Each time you note the food action/ reaction relationship you are building your tools for dealing with the next situation. Much like how tiger cubs learn to play so that they can develop hunting instincts. Each time you binge eat chocolate chip cookies you learn that the outcomes of a belly ache, sluggish feeling, and maybe general yuck feeling don't really help in the long run. But then you discover that 2 chocolate chip cookies taste good, fill a temporary hunger, and possibly remind you of a happy childhood afternoon snack. You also learn that after just 2 cookies you are ready for dinner at an appropriate hour, you look forward to some asparagus, and don't feel deprived in the long run. It's all about informed decisions. Will you do it every day? Not if you are honest with yourself about what you need, what serves you, and staying aligned with goals.
So absolutely have that morning cup of coffee if it enhances your day, settle in for a cozy evening with a hot coco, or even soothe a bad day with mashed potatoes and gravy. Then let go. If you choose to comfort with food, allow the process to work without becoming mindless. Stay aware and mindful of the action-reaction relationship. It's your choice how you present yourself to the world. Things may happen around you, but only you can let them happen TO you.