After lockdown perhaps we all are getting fatter? So what is your relationship with food?
Our relationship with food
Last time I checked men were doing worse than women, in the UK they have put on 16lbs over the last 15 years. Why? Our relationship with food is out of control: we are eating too much. More than we need to function. More than we can burn off with the exercise that we don’t do. We are eating to satisfy our appetite not our hunger. We have forgotten what hunger is.
Our appetite with food
Our appetites are the abnormal cravings we have, ‘perverted’ tastes – for food or alcohol etc. Hunger is the normal demand for food. Hunger is about nourishment: food means nourishment. Appetite is felt in the belly – an emptiness, a gnawing, an ‘all-gone’ feeling. Hunger is felt as a sensation in the mouth, throat and salivary glands. The nerves here, at the thought of wholesome food, manifest a desire to get to work. We have forgotten what hunger feels like (but just think back to the ‘food mother used to cook’, the delight of hunger when we were little children).
I like to do a very slow, mindful form of yoga. People say ‘I can’t lose weight doing that!’. And they give up class. But with movements that are simple, slow and controlled, the emphasis is on awareness – awareness of the breath, awareness of the body, awareness of feelings in the body, awareness of space in the body. We focus on feelings in the body – knowing that many people (especially those with weight ‘issues’) deny the existence of their body.
We are often constantly caught up in our head, consumed with the embarrassment and discomfort of being overweight. But this is the very essence of yoga and mindfulness – bringing awareness into each and every action and reaction. Slowly students learn to become attuned to their body – to the feelings of tension, the feelings of heaviness and the tingling sensations. By moving mindfully into postures, they can feel the stretch of muscles, the pattern of breath and even feel their heart beating. It re-connects them to their body – re-defines the whole relationship they have with their body- so that they see themselves as more than a ‘fat, amorphous lump’.
Eating is defence
Eating is our first line of defence against pain – the pain of feeling vulnerable. We eat too much to numb the pain. But yoga (and other mindfulness practices) open us up to this in a wider awareness, so that we can absorb into it and move through it. And through this we reach joy, gratitude and wholeness.
Food as energy
And then to our surprise find that we don’t eat so much, our appetites have lessened. We eat more slowly and mindfully, perhaps unconsciously aware of the prana or energy that our tongue, mouth and teeth are absorbing from the food in our mouth. We are drawn to foods that have stronger energy – natural, wholesome foods (and feel more and more sick at the though of a McDonalds meal!!). And our system is more efficient at absorbing the energy from food, and we need less anyway.
Maybe you can start to think about some of these things? What is your relationship with food? What does it mean to you? What is the energy quality of the food you eat? How could you start to think about food differently?
This raisin meditation is a nice way to start to re-education yourself.