When is eating something pleasurable an act of self compassion versus an act of war toward yourself? What is that distinction?
This is a theme that comes up a LOT in our community. It’s such a powerful inquiry that we’ve decided to devote the next two months of workshops and practices to it.
FEBRUARY & MARCH COMMUNITY THEME: SELF-COMPASSION
So much of the conversation happening in the US right now centers on divisiveness and the need for coming together despite difference. It’s time to focus instead on unity and shared humanity, to celebrate our gifts and acknowledge that no form of suffering is unique to anyone.
For the next 8 weeks, we’ll be progressively going deeper into practices that foster self-compassion for greater well-being. We’ll be exploring self-kindness, common humanity, and of course integrating greater mindfulness into all of life so we can live it more deeply. This progression of techniques and reflections will deepen our understanding of self-compassion and how to embody it in the world.
And of course, this has everything to do with your eating.
In today’s video and podcast, I’ve given a taste of what we’ll be focusing on together for the next two months. If you resonate with this work, we hope you’ll join us!
The community is OPEN right now for new members through February 4th! We won’t be opening again until April, so now is your chance to join us.
Within the Conscious Eating Community we frequently emphasize the importance of turning towards difficult emotions, or what we like to call “feeling swirly.”
Perhaps the number one, most powerful practice for healing your relationship with food, eating, and body is shifting how you work with your “swirly” moments.
“Swirly” refers to those moments of emotional difficulty when you might not want to feel. Or if you do allow yourself to feel, you do it with aggression, or the hope of getting rid of or pushing away the emotion. Unfortunately, this often only fuels our confusion.
What I invite you to consider instead is turning toward your swirliness with a lens of authenticity. Notice how genuine it is to feel difficult emotions, not as something to avoid but as something that is part of the wholeness of being a human.
Physical and emotional discomfort are inevitable. The human body is fussy and messy, and no matter how hard we try, we can’t avoid the suffering that comes with it.
But we have a choice in how we respond to our suffering, which can open us up to insight or continue to feed confusion.
In the context of Conscious Eating, I’m talking about moments when we want to meet emotional difficulty with eating, whether it’s to numb an emotion we don’t want to feel, or induce an emotion that will make us feel better.
Everyone in our community shares a tendency of turning to food not because we enjoy it or because it brings well being to our body, but rather to meet an emotional need or avoid difficulty. That cycle often continues to feed our habit energy, and usually creates more confusion about what it is we really need.
For example, imagine that you’ve just overeaten and don’t want to think about it or look at it. You’ve got loud negative self-talk, physical discomfort, and are feeling emotions of guilt or shame. Instead of feeding your mental stories and beliefs about who you are around food, what you can and can’t eat… etc… what would happen if instead you simply sit with the swirly experience that’s there? Without feeding it with story?
In our community, we teach and practice infusing swirly moments with awareness and equanimity in a way thats meaningful, and that carries into the next similar situation. We focus on opening ourselves to what is, dropping our labels about how we feel, getting curious, and investigating what our swirly experience is actually made of.
What thoughts are there? What emotions show up in the body? Where do they show up? What adjectives would you use to describe the sensations in the body that your thoughts and emotions produce? How does bringing your attention there and softening around it change it? What is the shape of the emotional energy or physical discomfort in the body? Does it have a depth? Is it flat? Is it static? Is it moving?
Tuning into the cascade of sensory experience that happens around difficult emotions has a way of bringing insight into them and loosening their grip on us. It really allows us to embrace the wholeness of life, and has the power to change our behaviors around food, even when the external circumstances haven’t changed.
Next time you’re in a swirly moment, we invite you to turn toward it and get curious about it. See what happens.
For inspiration and free guided practices to support your Conscious Eating path, join my e-mail list below!
This week I wanted to share with you a beautiful guided visualization and journaling prompt that we did last Saturday in a community workshop.
This powerful visualization will give you a simple yet profound mindful eating practice for bringing more presence to meals and honoring your body with food.
In this session I guided participants through an inquiry process to discover what barriers are preventing them from showing up to eating with more joy and presence. We also shared a few easy (but profound) mindful eating practices and invited members to take on one or more of them for the whole month.
The session was received with such enthusiasm that I wanted to share it outside the community too.
Our community members represent a huge range of approaches to eating from highly structured food plans to completely flexible and intuitive. Anyone can benefit from integrating these practices into their eating, regardless of your overall approach to food. What unites Conscious Eaters isn’t what we eat or how we eat, but a commitment to being present to life, and eating is a part of that.
In the first part of this recording you’ll hear me giving an introduction to our approach to mindful eating, followed by a guided visualization and a prompt for journaling and reflection at the very end.
A lot of people have heard of body positivity, but maybe not the concept of body neutrality.
Not all of us can access body positivity because the shame-laden messages from our society can be so strongly ingrained, and our harsh inner critics can be hard to override. For some people, neutrality, rather than positivity, is a more realistic thing to work towards.
Recently within the community people have taken on a lot of aspirations around changing their bodies somehow (which is fine) but we’ve been inviting them to hold those aspirations lightly while keeping their focus on building a lifestyle driven by deeply held values, rather than a hyper-focus on body.
I like to think of body neutrality as working toward the idea that your body is the least interesting thing about you.
Body neutrality is not about disregarding the body and treating it poorly. It still supports healthy behaviors like eating your veggies, exercise, mindful eating, etc. It’s about shifting the focus away from a fixation on weight and body and toward building a lifestyle that you really like.
For me, that also means building a lifestyle that includes all foods, along with an awareness of how different foods impact how I feel. For example, I generally avoid eating a lot of sugar, but every once in a while I have no problem enjoying something sweet when itallows me to serve the moment. For example, participating in my nephew’s birthday the other day. That moment wasn’t about me or my body, it was about sharing a moment of connection and celebration with my nephew.
What would happen if you let go of your “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” and focused instead on building a lifestyle that you love? What is that life? What would your body look like after leading from that vision for a while? And is your body able to serve that life?
Instead of focusing on a particular size or weight, what if you focused on nurturing a body thatserves the life you want?
We all have bad body image days. In those moments, I invite you to try on a lens of body neutrality, if body positivity isn’t available to you. Notice the thought spiral that arises and consciously let it go. Focus on what eating choices will feel good right now, today, and drop the rest of the story that your mind wants to make. Resist the urge to go into future thinking or past reminiscing when you’re in that negative mindspace. Try to stay grounded in the present. That’s where body neutrality becomes available. It gives us a self-compassionate lens that allows us to quiet our inner critic and call our attention to what we aspire to in this life.
What is your life outside of your struggle with food and body? What do you want it to be? What is important to you besides how your body looks? Do you have a purpose driven life otherwise? I invite you to reflect on that today.
For weekly inspiration and free guided practices to support your conscious eating path, join my e-mail list.
The funniest thing happened yesterday when we led our community members through a goal setting exercise.
Having recently gotten all excited about some evidence-based frameworks for deep health, we opened the session with a survey that felt a bit clinical, asking people to look at various areas of health and rate themselves in each (physical, relational, emotional, etc).
Sure, there’s value in that sort of exercise, but it was very heady.
Many of us came out of that exercise with our mental “shoulds” on paper, things like “decreasing the size of my food portions” and “exercising more,” etc.
Next came the vision setting exercise (included above) and what was so striking is that nearly everyone abandoned their original ideas (to some degree) in favor of what came up in the guided meditation. Many of us scrapped whatever behavior we had originally set out to implement and instead set goals driven by what actually mattered to each of us.
What became very apparent to us was that the first exercise was led by the mind, and the second exercise was led by something else. Intuition maybe, or heart? It was beautiful to see everyone connecting with this part of themselves and thinking about goals and habits from that inspired and connected place. This month we’re focused on supporting our members in building habits and lasting behavior changes related to these heart-centered goals.
As we move into “goal-setting season,” we invite you to get out of your head, let go of the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” and connect with your deeper inner knowing. What’s really important to you?
We encourage you to be selective about what goals you’re taking on, and to take them on with compassion, inspiration, and even excitement. Nobody can sustain a behavior change that they aren’t excited about. At least not without a lot of self-punishing, and we are committed to helping you be kind to yourself AND get the results you want in your life.
We’ve included our guided vision setting practice in the video and podcast above, starting at the 2:15 minute mark.
If you connected with this practice and want more support in your conscious eating path, check out our community! We open the doors for new members during the first week of every month.
For the longest time, I resisted supporting people in weight loss, despite having enjoyed benefits of substantial weight loss myself.
That’s because I feel that so often, the desire to lose weight comes out of frustration, judgement, and shame.
As a mindfulness community we are focused on letting go of old stories, coming to love and accept what is, and gently orienting towards honoring our bodies and treating ourselves with kindness. At first, we weren’t sure how weight loss fit in with that.
But we’ve also had a number of our members come to us lately somewhat desperate for weight loss. The reasons vary, ranging from serious health issues and difficulty breathing to wanting to experience more ease and less pain in activities like hiking and yoga.
We’re very aware that this desire for weight loss is out there,and we are also aware that a weight loss journey can be self-compassionate. We know that the desire for weight loss doesn’t have to be motivated by self-criticism or shame, and that it IS possible to approach weight loss from a place of self-love. I know this because I’ve done it.
I also know HOW to support people in going about weight loss in a healthy way – without the white-knuckling and feeling of joyless restriction. I can’t wait to share those tools and practices with you.
So, next month in our community we will be offering new resources specifically around self-compassionate weight loss.
But before we get to the HOW, we need to get clear on the WHY.
We’re starting (as usual) with clarity work. We’re kicking off the month with group clarity and coaching sessions to help you identify your own deeply held values and figure out your number one priority right now.
What do you REALLY want? Why do you want it?
Once you know what you want, we’ll give you effective, evidence-based strategies and tools to help you get there, boosted by the love, support, and connection of our incredible community.
Our members have been experiencing some profound shifts and transformations lately with their eating behaviors and relationships to food and their bodies. It’s been astounding to watch.
So if you want to lose weight but are tired of fighting with yourself, if you’re ready to do away with punishing self-talk, shame, guilt, and self-loathing, if you’re ready to get clear about what you want and go after it in a loving, supported way, join us!!
The enrollment window for new members opens TOMORROW on December 1st and closes on December 7th, and our first clarity session will be on Saturday December 5th. So if you want in on this amazing and transformational work, now’s the time to join!
This week I wanted to bring you a taste of something we’ve been working on all month in Conscious Eating Community. We’ve been exploring The Work of Byron Katie, relating it to moments of tension and conflict in our lives. That includes moments where we struggle with our eating.
The Work asks you to actually put yourself back into a tense scenario and to bring to mind a thought or a belief that was present in that moment. Sitting with this discomfort is the beginning of gaining freedom from it.
We don’t get to choose what think in a given moment. Our mind produces thoughts as automatically as the eyes see and the ears hear. However, doing this inquiry practice AFTER noticing a troubling thought can free you from it’s grip. You can start to get a taste of what it is to be the exact same moment, but without the troubling thought.
It’s one thing to rationally know a thought doesn’t serve you. Experiencing it directly though is key to letting it go.
This week’s video and podcast include a 10-minute guided practice (beginning at the 5-minute mark) that will help you dive into this profound practice right now.
I hope you’ll find it helpful!
Annette is a certified mindfulness coach with Unified Mindfulness. She brings a warm, non-judgemental, open presence to support you in the self exploration that is your mindfulness practice, especially as it relates to the inner dramas of eating and food. She will help you develop self-compassion and clarity about your values, as well as helping you act in alignment with them.
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