There are lessons in everyday life about how to cultivate a more healthy, balanced approach to eating. Often they have nothing to do with eating, but I make the connection to improvements with food, because I am always looking for new ways to present healthy eating strategies to my clients. One of these moments occurred recently while I was driving between work locations, deep in thought about something that seemed very important at the time. All of a sudden the car in front of me stopped abruptly. I almost hit it. Had I been more present in the moment, more focused on my driving, I would have been able to react sooner, and I would not have had to slam on my breaks as I did.
What is my point here? Having strong intentions is a big part of success in all areas of life. I am talking about our ability to imagine a desired outcome and focus attention on the steps needed to accomplish that outcome. In the driving example, if I had gotten into my car with a more conscious intention of getting to my destination without having an accident, I would have applied the needed attention to my driving to accomplish that goal. Luckily that goal was accomplished on that particular day, but with continued lack of intention and conscious attention to my driving, I can not depend on luck alone to get me home safely each time.
So, attention is a natural result of a strong intention. When applied to eating, this simple concept can be very effective. Another way of looking at it is to think about being mindful, present, or aware of what you are doing at any moment. I do not need an intention about driving while I am eating. While I am eating, it would be beneficial to be aware of my actions as I remind myself of my intentions for that particular segment of time. Intentions can change in the moment. Even if that means a switch from an intention to eat only the food on your plate to an intention to follow that up with a bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce, it is a change made with awareness. Mindless eating leads to overeating much more frequently than planned eating. This may seem like a subtle difference, but it truly will make a big difference in your relationship with food.
Think about your intentions for eating. Write them down if it helps to clarify your thoughts. Now you can begin to practice focusing on those intentions as you sit down to eat and drawing your attention to your eating. This practice will open the door to self-discovery. You will learn about your physical hunger, emotional hunger, and taste preferences. Are your actions consistent with your intentions? If not, are your intentions realistic? If not, you are the boss in charge of changing them! If your intentions seem realistic, but your actions do not support your intentions, it would be a great time to see if you can figure out what the barrier is. Just keep practicing in a nonjudgmental way. Curiosity about yourself is a good thing! And remember that it gets easier with time.