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How to Use Mindful Eating to Gain More Balance In your Everyday Life

Becca Clegg

I was having lunch with a girlfriend the other day and in the middle of my sentence I couldn’t remember what I was saying.  I completely blanked, and then I started laughing because I had to fess up to her that I had a complete and total brain fart.

It led to a good laugh, and an even better conversation about what our brains do when we are on overload (we are both therapists, so you can imagine that conversation was juicy).

The truth is, I have a tendency to take on too much.  I always have, and I probably always will. I write about this often, because I know my energy patterns, and I teach knowing your energy patterns as a way of being mindful of your relationship with food.

I strive for balance, but as is the case with most humans, I don’t always hit the mark. This was one of those times.

If I’m not being mindful of balance, my messy tendency is to binge and purge on things.  With good-natured enthusiasm, I take on way more than I am capable and then inevitably get overwhelmed and want to shut down.  I have seen this pattern play out with everything from food, work, finances, favors, commitments, and passions.  Yes, even the good, fun stuff in life will show up in these energy patterns because how you do anything tends to be how you do everything.

When I work with women helping them find their own balance with food (and life), this issue of taking on too much, and having too much on our plate, often comes up.  It is the issue of taking on more than we are capable of managing.  We say yes when we want to say no.  We take on the persona of super woman, and inside we feel like we are just barely managing to get by.

It is in these times when our plate is way too full, that often times our literal plate becomes too full.  We can use food as a way to reward ourselves for putting up with so much, or we might use it as a way to numb the feelings that we experience as a result of our choice to push ourselves beyond our limits.

Food never fills the empty tank, however, because it isn’t what we are really hungry for.  What we really want is a break, or some respite.  We really want some downtime, or some relaxation.  Or maybe what we need is something as simple as some sleep. 

We are the only people who can acknowledge these needs and give these things to ourselves. 

We are hungry for our own acknowledgement that the tank is empty and we need to refuel.  We need the nourishment of our own empathy and support.  We need time to reconnect to ourselves, and find that inner balance that exists only inside of us.

So, how do you begin to reconnect with yourself? 

You can start by simply paying attention to yourself, the way you would pay attention to a new friend, someone who you genuinely like and are interested in.

Pay attention to your internal reactions. 

What draws your attention?

What makes you smile in this moment?

What makes your body respond when you see it or experience it? 

What do you want more of?  Less of? 

Another great way to reconnect to ourselves is through mindful eating.

As with most things, our relationship with food will often parallel our other relationships (with ourselves and others).  If you are out of balance and disconnected in life, chances are you are also disconnected with food.

Just ask yourself - what would taste good?

What would feel good in your body?

What would fuel you?

What would give you good energy?

What is it you want?

You will probably get a variety of responses that run the gamut from brownies to broccoli, and that’s ok. 

You are deep.  You have many layers.  The responses will be as complicated and as beautifully dichotomous as you are.  You are both brownies and broccoli. (And that’s what makes you so interesting!!) 

Don’t be afraid of what you find.  Answer with gentleness and mindfully feed yourself.  Take it one step at a time. You will be okay.

This practice of mindful eating can lead the way back to yourself and help open the doorway to getting to know other “likes” and “dislikes.”  It places the attention back on you, which over time, allows you to be aware of your own stress levels and your body’s own signals that things are out of balance.  It gives you the opportunity to simply check in with yourself and ask the question, “How are YOU doing?”

As you connect with the feelings of hunger and fullness, it will also teach you about what it means to be “hungry” or “too full” in life in general.  There are times when we need to take on more in life, and there are times we need to do less.  This is the challenge of knowing your inner feelings of hunger and fullness (and I mean that with regards to so much more than physical hunger/fullness).

The more you refer back to yourself and seek the answer within, the more connection with self is built.  My experience is that balance is not a stagnant point, and you can no more get there and stay there than you can do the laundry once and be done with it.  It is just a practice of awareness of how you are managing your time and your energy.

Mindful eating is a way to reconnect with you.  It isn’t about being perfect, and neither is trying to balance your life.  It’s simply a commitment to yourself that you will pay attention to your needs and do your best to honor them.  I think that’s a commitment worth making.  You are worth it.