Sunday, October 2, 2011

Digging Deeper

Our incredible dining adventure Friday night got me thinking about my food funk and what a luxury it is to be able to even worry about whether or not I enjoy my food.  How many people, past and present, simply eat what they have, their happiness stemming from whether they have enough?  But to worry about how it tastes and if I'm happy with it?  It is a very privileged perspective, to be able to consider how fun my meals are.

That being said, it occurred to me that my relationship with food and I have fallen victim to society's eternal quest for happiness -- obviously, I'm not alone in this.  In our endless search for being happy, we put often unrealistic expectations on every aspect of our lives to make us happy.  But happiness and joy are two very different things: happiness coming from anything and everything external, and joy coming from within.  So, while I understand that I cannot experience joy if I am not at first peaceful and aware within myself, making mindful choices and taking responsibility for them, I realize that this understanding certainly hasn't kept me from seeking happiness from the food I eat.

In exploring this, I've developed a theory and it goes like this...

  • we are so overworked, so externally focused, so pulled by the expectations of ourselves and others, so ruled by rules, that we exert control over the one thing we have left...what we put into our bodies.
  • we reward ourselves with food and drink for living under the kind of pressure we do.  "I worked so hard, I deserve it!"  Whether that "it" is a mid-day candy bar, an afternoon latte, a glass of wine with dinner, what have you.
  • we have convinced ourselves that we deserve it (sounds like a certain fast-food slogan I know) and use that angle to manipulate ourselves into making it a daily habit.
  • which then clouds the intention of true reward...let's face it, indulging in a celebratory meal for a birthday or anniversary, an ice cream after the kids win the big game, is fun and worth rewarding -- and enjoying.
  • we look for the happiness quick fix, for instant gratification, without any thought to how our choices make us feel physically, rather than emotionally.
There was a time not too long ago when I used to have a glass of wine most nights for no other reason than I had myself convinced that it was a treat I deserved.  The act itself isn't the problem -- who doesn't love a glass of wine at the end of a hard day?  It's the foundation beneath it -- the belief that I would be happier if I rewarded myself with it.  It wasn't about whether I even wanted it some days, it became another should, but this time, with a twist...I should want it because it was a treat and I deserved it.

When we reward ourselves with something daily, without thinking, it's no longer a reward, it's a habit.

The awareness derived from regular meditation helped me feel what a daily glass of wine really felt like in my body -- it didn't feel good.  Over time, it didn't even feel that good emotionally. The same can be said for when I'm not eating well, when I'm not paying attention to what I'm putting in my body but am feeding the habitual need to reward myself instead.  

Meditation has simply been my tool for slowing down, for bringing awareness to my surroundings, my activities, and now, my beliefs.  It could be a walk, a hot bath, anything we do to bring quiet and stillness into our lives...even if it's just sitting on the edge of the tub with the door closed, chaos on the other side, and breathing intentionally for five minutes.  Or one.

What are your beliefs about food?  How do they affect what you put in your body, and why?//

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