The Mindful Kitchen
I f you are reading this, it is likely that you love food. You love eating it, cooking it, reading about it. Food is a wonderful thing.
Yet food can be complicated: it can represent so many things, feelings and triggers. Some people may have negative associations with certain foods. Perhaps they may have had bad physical reactions to them (food poisoning or food allergies), or have a traumatic experience linked to foods.
Food can be whatever we label it. Food is inanimate and the relationship we have with it is entirely one-directional. Yet for most of us, food is so much more than fuel. We often assign food certain roles and responsibilities. As we connect our emotions with food, it not only feeds our body, but also our soul.
When making conscious decisions around food and eating, we can sometimes choose to be content with our relationship with food and allow it to fuel our body, mind and spirit in positive ways. It then becomes a satisfying experience, and does not create negative results in our lives.
When we are unconsciously eating, however, we can create challenges around food and end up with negative consequences. From unwanted weight gain to emotional rollercoaster-like feelings of guilt and shame, unconscious eating can be very frustrating.
Unconscious eating is a mindless action. It happens when we are in a hypnotic trance-like state—when we eat without realizing what or how much we are consuming. During these moments, we are often eating out of emotions. Mindless eating leads to overeating, which is when we eat more than what the body requires to function.
So if you love food, but also feel that you have a complicated relationship with it, worry not. There is nothing wrong with you. In fact, you are proving that you are 100% human.
Our brain has evolved to protect us by avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. What is happening during emotional eating is nothing more than a built-in coping mechanism to keep us alive because we are distracting ourselves from feeling emotional pain. The challenge is this: overeating can result in another form of pain, namely unhappy mind, unhealthy body and excess weight. Essentially, when we overeat, we are avoiding one kind of pain (perhaps anxiety or sadness) to create another kind of pain (indigestion or weight gain).
The good news is that the brain also evolved to be able to solve problems. If mindless, overeating is causing you “pain,” oftentimes the brain can find solutions to the problem. And a wonderful way to use the brain’s potential is to activate it toward nourishing the mind-body connection.
Each season in this column, we will be cooking up thoughts and “recipes” in the mindful kitchen. Our goal: to strengthen our mind-body connection and our relationship with food. This practice will encourage us to enjoy food, allow it to nourish our body and live in a naturally healthy body weight.
Spring is the perfect time to feed the brain new information and reframe habits and behaviors. The energy of spring is one of cleansing and growth. This is the perfect time to practice mind-body connection and allow mindful seeds to germinate and grow, to start anew, to become the best version of you.
The first “recipe” for this mindful kitchen is a brain-belly connection exercise. This exercise will help you pause and be more present with your food choices so you can enjoy food and realize its positive benefits.
Learn more about Kit Yoon at bexleyacupuncture.com.
The Brain-Belly Recipe for Mindful Eating
- Before you eat, pause and take a breath, and put your attention to your belly.
- Feel your literal stomach, which in its healthy size is the size of your fist.
- Pause and ask yourself: “Am I physically hungry?”
- On the scale of 0–10, 0 being an empty belly and 10 being an overfilled belly, where are you on the scale?
- If you are at 5 and above, you will practice the art of pausing and decide to not eat. Eating beyond level 5 is overeating and it will cause negative results (indigestion, physical discomfort, weight gain).
- If you are under level 5, assess and see how much food you need to fuel your body.
- If you require fuel, enjoy your food, up to the satisfied level, and then you will stop.
- Repeat every time there is a question about eating/food.