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Compulsive Eating Alternative: Learning to Eat With Pleasure
Do you allow pleasure from food? Are your senses throughly engaged as you eat? Do you fuel your aliveness with each meal or eat to deaden and numb out? Do you eat foods that taste good in your mouth and feel good in your physical body - both now and later?
Imagine eating in a manner that is passionate and filled with the pleasure of being alive. What exactly would pleasurable eating look like? It would vary by individual, and perhaps even by meal. But I imagine we can uncover some common themes and prototypes of pleasurable eating. I can think of lots of times pleasure eating would be done standing up: Enjoying an ice cream cone while exploring a new city while on vacation, mingling at a party while eating finger foods, and the pleasure of eating stadium food at sporting events. But let's narrow down our discussion to your everyday indoor eating experiences. What would "normal" pleasurable eating look like? I'll write down my vision and then invite yourself to write down yours.
Indoor pleasurable dining would involve sitting down at a table. A table that is attractive, clean of clutter, and arranged for multi-sensory dining experience. Look through any formal dining magazine and you'll see many examples of elaborate table setting ideas. The tables are set with folded napkins, fancy china, decorative stem ware, and colorful table runners. Imagine treating yourself as an honored guest, deserving of special china, candles, and even some flowers. You sit down for a few minutes to enjoy your food, taking a moment to say grace because you realize how blessed you are to have this abundance in your life. Your eyes widen to accept the visual pleasure of the food. You inhale, bringing the aroma of the food deep into your body. As you eat your food, you chew slowly, swallowing each mouthful before taking the next. The food begins to pleasantly fill you up inside. You stop eating when the sensations become something other than pleasurable.
This is just one idea of how a pleasurable eating experience might look. Take a few minutes and write down your idea of a satisfying eating experience:
CONSCIOUS RECEPTION OF FOOD
1. Set aside about 10-20 minutes during which you won't be interrupted. Make sure to start the experience at a point in your day when you are hungry, but not famished. Utilize this exercise at different meals.
2. Choose a food (or foods) that appeals to you on all levels. A food that is visually appealing. It smells good as you inhale it. It feels good in your mouth. And it feels good in your body. This food may just be something from your forbidden food list. Perhaps it's bread or ice cream or cake. Then again maybe you'll choose a wonderfully appetizing casserole or even spinach. What matters is that this is a food you like. Prepare this food and sit down with it in front of you.
3. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Let your body relax. Become aware of your thoughts and feelings. See whether you can tune in to the place in your lower belly where your food will land. Notice how empty that place feels.
4. Become aware of you body and notice where you might be holding tension. Notice if you have shallow breathing, a tight belly, a tense back, tight jaws, or elevated shoulders. Breathe into these areas, tune into what you might be feeling there, and gradually allow yourself to relax, knowing you are safe and supported. Place both of your feet on the ground as you prepare to eat.
5. Allow a moment of gratitude for the energy (life) you are about to receive. We deserve all of the good things life has to offer, without having to perform for any of them. We are deserving individuals by our very existence. Remember your place in the cycle of life. Remember that by eating you are giving yourself life. You have this right to have life, to have what you want, to be supported in your life, to receive pleasure, and to be connected to life. Connect with the life of the food you are eating and allow yourself to have a feeling of being grounded, of being connected to the earth, of being strong, vibrant, and stable.
6. Utilize your senses. Before eating, use your sense of vision and smell to "connect" with the food. Take another moment to feel the life in the food.
7. Allow yourself to accept the food. Take this life force into your own body so that it might grow strong and live and help you to fulfill your destiny. Swallow and notice if you can feel your stomach receiving the food? Notice if you want to rush and eat the next bite before you have even finished with this one. Inhibit this habitual response. Knowing that there is enough food, you may come to realize that you don't need to hold onto to energy or stored body fat. There is enough. You are worthy of having enough. You can let go and relax. Eat your food in freedom. For those of you eating in secret, allow yourself to be seen eating.
8. Eating is a way to extract life sustaining energy from food. When you eat, you process and absorb the forces of nature stored in your food. For example, plants store light through photosynthesis. Eating food releases the energies and nutrients stored in food for your body to absorb. In assimilating your food, you transfer life into your body.
An important part of exploring conscious eating is seeking balance. When you start connecting with food, without making any special effort to change your eating, a process naturally starts to take place. You'll start to desire foods that are abundant and alive, foods that give you what you really need on the deepest level. You begin to notice that food is more than just mouth pleasure . . . there is also physical body pleasure. You may recognize foods that drain you and better understand what nourishes, satisfies, and supports you. You learn to honor yourself and support your growth by choosing food, food experiences, thoughts, and behaviors that nourish and heal your body.
Copyright 2005, Dr. Annette Colby, all rights reserved.
Dr. Annette Colby, RD
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