I have a fair amount of “Duh!” moments in my life, just like the rest of you. I had one while reading a book on helping clients process traumatic death. Reading a chapter on employing mindfulness to accept grief and other emotions that may follow when a loved one dies under traumatic circumstances, it suddenly occurred to me that dysregulated eaters have difficulty with mindful eating because they tend not to live mindfully in general.
Most of my clients either rush around all day long trying to check off a lengthy list of items on their “must do” list or float from activity to activity with scant attention paid to the moment. One client with three children, all under ten, confessed how often she has to slam on her car brakes because she’s barely aware of driving, between arbitrating disputes among her kids and fretting about picking them up and getting them to activities on time. Although she would never talk on her cell phone while driving, she’s so used to not being present when she’s behind the wheel, that it’s amazing she hasn’t gotten into an accident. Small wonder that she has trouble being present while she’s eating. She’s rarely present when she’s not eating.
Another client, retired, has very little she needs to do during the week, but has difficulty focusing on whatever is in front of her. She may be leisurely doing a crossword puzzle, but her mind is nagging her about making a remark that her daughter interpreted as rude in that morning’s phone call. Or, a great cook, she might be whipping up a tasty, nutritious dinner, while ruminating about all the “bad” foods she ate during the day, so that she actually feels she ought to skip dinner. She’s so full of guilt and remorse by the time she sits down to eat, that food has lost its appeal and she gobbles it down quickly. Later, while watching her favorite TV programs, she’s meticulously planning every morsel that she’ll eat the next day, completely missing the chance to relax.
If you’re guilty of not living consciously and being present to most of your life, how can you expect to eat mindfully? Begin to take charge by choosing activities that you can perform with full attention. Assuming, like most of us, that you brush your teeth at least twice a day, put your focus on brushing mindfully for a few weeks. Then add another activity—talking to your sister long-distance, washing the dishes, cleaning the bathroom, or folding the laundry. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. Remind yourself to be present. You don’t need to like the activity; the point is to engage thoroughly and experience it fully. With enough practice, you’ll get better at mindful living. Imagine how wonderful it will be to experience each moment with constant appreciation of doing so.