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How to Not Be in Survival Mode While Eating

Mindful and healthy eating

*TW: Disordered eating*

Many people don't even realize that they aren't being fully present while they are eating. I first fully understood this to be true once I explained to my ex-boyfriend how I struggle with not getting distracted or dissocating while eating, especially since I have a history of eating disorders. I asked him if this happens to him, and he said it never does. That shocked me.

For people who grew up with limited resources, especially limited access to food or healthy foods, this can be a tricky topic to discuss. Some people will never not live their lives in survival mode due to unfortunate or unchangeable circumstances. My heart goes out to each and every person in which this holds true.

I grew up in a home with my twin sister, mother, and father, until my parents divorced the summer before the start of high school. My mom often made cheap bulk meals for us all to eat throughout the week: eggs and hashbrowns (with ketchup, obviously), tater tot hotdish, tomato casserole (don't quite remember if this is what we called it or not), and enchiladas were standard St. Aubin dinners. While I didn't grow up nearly as financially insufficient as my mother, I still developed an unheathly relationship with food. I always feared we would run out and not be able to afford anymore food.

Even today in the United States of America, impoverished, low-class, and lower middle-class households still struggle with getting their basic needs met. There is good statistical evidence showing how food insecurity greatly increases the likelihood of people developing eating disorders and negative eating habits. This is a great resource for statistical evience on the topic.

Disordered eating is certainly not limited to people who faced food insecurity in childhood or who face it in adulthood. But, I can speak from personal experience how my access to food in childhood affected me as an adult, and I'm sure many of you out there can relate as well.

Since my recovery journey from different eating disorders some years ago, I have learned that one of the most essential tools in helping to prevent me from falling back into old patterns is to be aware of my eating. I used to black out and not understand what I was even doing while I was eating. While most people don't experience eating-related dissociations in an extreme way, my personal research points to the fact that many people struggle to be completely aware of their surroundings, and people tend to be distracted by other things instead of listening to their body (such as missing "I'm full!" or "I'm hungry!" cues while binge-watching your favorite show). (Here is one article as an example.)

For anyone who struggles in any way with remaining present while eating, I would like to share some tips with you that have helped me personally. These can be helpful even if you don't relate in any way to my experience!

  • Ground/center yourself.

  • Provide thanks/pray before digging in.

  • Place position intentions into your food.

  • Utilize the 5 senses: 1. Hear your food. Hear your food cooking, being warmed up, being taken out of the fridge or freezer, being scooped out, or being bitten into. 2. Look at your food. Notice the colorations, the potential steam, and the shapes. 3. Touch your food. Notice how it feels in your hands, how heavy it is on your fork or spoon, how hard or soft it is, and the textures. 4. Smell your food. Does it smell pleasant? Strong? A bunch of smells, or one main smell? 5. Taste your food. How does it taste? Notice the textures, the temperature, and where you taste the food on your tongue. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable to really taste the food.

  • Listen to your body. Check in on your hunger levels after you've eaten a good amount of food. Stop eating once you feel comfortable.

  • Don't force yourself to "clean your plate". This can be difficult if you grew up in a household where you were basically forced to eat everything that was on your plate.

  • Don't shame yourself or your body by not eating. Don't use food or starvation as a form of punishment.

  • Don't watch television or scroll on your phone. In the modern age, this is very difficult for most people!!!

  • Don't force yourself into diets that are unhealthy for you or are utilized for the wrong reasons, such as wanting to fit in with society's standards of beauty. This can really activate the "fight/flight/freeze" state.

  • Eat out in public or with others. This is more likely to prevent you from falling back into negative eating habits. It also allows you to be present in the conversations, meaning you are more aware of your surroundings. For some people, the opposite of this may be true. Do what you think is best for you.

  • Either change up your meals or be more consistent. If you are strict on the foods you allow yourself to eat, branch out more! If you don't have any structure in your cooking schedule or food intake, I recommend scheduling your meals more often.

  • Most importantly: don't shame yourself for "screwing up" or falling back into old eating habits. Also, don't shame yourself for having dessert or an extra serving of green bean casserole at Christmas ('Tis the season). Everything in life should be in moderation, and that includes what you eat! You are indeed not a robot. (Obviously, this does not apply to people with strict diets that must be followed as recommended by healthcare professionals; or if you have severe allergies to many foods.)

My woo-woo brain also suggests eating more orange foods, as orange is the color of the Sacral Chakra. Eating disorders and negative food habits lie here. I also recommend eating more red foods, as red is the color of the Root Chakra. People living in survival mode and struggling to remain present need to work on balancing or strengthening their Root Chakra energies.

*Brittney's favorite red foods: raspberries (more pink, but still), strawberries, cranberries, red bell peppers, tomatoes, pomegranates, grapefruits (UNDERRATED), cherries, red grapes, blood oranges, rhubarb.

*Brittney's favorite orange foods: oranges, sweet potatoes, clementines, carrots, pumpkin, apricots, yams, orange bell peppers, mandarin oranges, butternut squash, kumquats, salmon.

Before I go, I will list here another article discussing the importance of mindful eating.

Much love,

Brittney xx

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Your blog on mindful eating is excellent!!

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