Food for Thought

Mindful eating & fulsome living

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Don’t Let Your Mind Get in Your Way

By Sam Harris
Mindfulness is often taught as though it were a glorified version of an executive stress ball. But that actually undervalues what mindfulness really is and its true potential. It’s more like the large Hadron collider in that it is a real tool for making some fundamental discoveries about the nature of the mind. One of these discoveries is that the sense of self we all carry around from day to day is an illusion. Most of us spend every moment of our waking lives thinking without knowing that we’re thinking: a kind of scrim thrown over the present moment through which we view everything. And it’s distorting of our lives. It’s distorting of our emotions. It engineers our unhappiness in every moment because most of what we think is quite unpleasant. We’re judging ourselves; we judging we’re judging others. We’re worrying about the future; we’re regretting the past. We’re at war with our experience in subtle or coarse ways. Meditation is a tool for cutting through that.
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There is no vitality, no growth, no fulfillment in safe. You need to keep in the front of your mind that any kind of enriching life will require risk.

Why it’s so hard to be a girl

Vancouver photographer Vince Hemingson gives a snapshot of a different kind.
And it will take your breath away.

 

Girls are being held to impossible standards of beauty, at younger and younger ages. Their sexualization is leading to low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders. How they feel about their bodies and what they are doing to them is heartbreaking. Hemingson offered this post in response to criticisms he has received on Facebook about the physical appearance of his female models.

 

By Vince Hemingson

In the past few days, I have had people leave comments on photographs of mine that I felt could not be ignored. And while the majority of viewers raved about the images, I was astonished that there was a vocal minority who felt that they could criticize women for being either too fit or too voluptuous. That they referenced the Holocaust and concentration camps, farm animals and beached marine mammals in their comments was beyond the pale.

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brene brown photo showing I am Enough written on a woman's chest

I am enough.

How can something that feels so wrong actually be oh so right?
Why you shouldn’t always believe what you’re thinking.

 

Oh my God…what have I done? What was I thinking to share my ideas like that? Who am I to think I can be on a mission to spread the word about mindful eating? I am still working through eating issues myself. Who am I to think I can be a specialist in this?

This is exactly what was blaring through my head when I woke up Monday morning after two days at the amazing workshopping weekend “The Good One Hundred Experiment” for businesses and projects out of Edmonton that focus on the social and local good. Even though I loved the weekend, got amazing feedback on what I was doing with mindful eating, and met some truly fantastic people, my overall take away at that point was that I was a fool for sharing myself like I did. I was sure that the people there were thinking what a quaint little project I had but was truly out of my league, or what I loser I was for talking so openly about something that is better seen as a private and shameful issue that only belongs to weak and undeserving people. (Underscore the word shameful–more to come.) When I was thirteen and started to gain weight, I learned pretty quickly that my ‘go to’ position on my weight gain was to give the world the impression that it did not matter to me…in spite of all the pain I was feeling inside. That way, people wouldn’t be able to use it against me. Now, here I was some thirty years later telling a room full of participants that it was my issue, and it meant the world to me. I felt naked.

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The Quest for Women’s Equality: How Much of What is Stopping Us is in Our Heads?

I was grateful to be the keynote speaker at the Soroptimist International Club of Edmonton. In case you cannot follow the audio in the video, I have provided the transcript below:


Hello. Happy International Women’s Day! I welcome all the women who are here, and all the men supporting all the women who are here. It’s great to have everyone. Can you hear me alright?

(No!)

Happy Women’s Day. Happy International Women’s Day! So thank you so much to everyone for being here. We are here today on International Women’s Day, in my opinion, because there is still work left to do; equality still hasn’t been achieved. We come together every year to commemorate this and to see what we can do to change the world.

(applause)

The theme this year is women in history, women making history and, for me, women not making history. I say this because I am a philosopher. Occupational hazard is I look at this in generalities and ask big questions: What can we do so that women can make more history? To my mind, making history means great achievements in the public realm: social, economic and political as opposed to our historical limitation to the private realm. The realm of childbearing, child rearing and while you’re there housekeeping.

To have more women making history we need to have more women taking a place in the public realm. This is precisely what the Soroptimists do. We’ve already heard today that they try to help women in a social economic way, especially through education. And this is fantastic and this necessary work. But my question is, and I think there is a deeper question going on, is why with so many more opportunities today, why is it that some women don’t take the opportunities that are there for them? And that is the question I want to talk about.

As I see it, part of the answer is that it is something that is, is that it is something in their heads. I know that doesn’t sound quite right yet. So bear with me. I think you’ll be with me by the end of it.

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New Year, New You?

It’s the new year! That magical time when everything seems to lie ahead of you and you envision yourself anew. One of the ways that many of you will do this is with a slimmer body. Over the past year (or even the past few years), you may have put on a few pounds, and you believe everything would be better if you lost it. Or maybe you catch yourself as you walk past a mirror; you gaze uncomfortably at the reflection of a larger self than you realized and can’t help thinking that you’re not the way you know yourself to be. Either way, changing your body typically means going on a diet. But if you’ve gone on diets before, you know you usually gain the weight back…if not more. You think if you could only do it better or if you could just find the right diet for your body type, then it would be different. You end up feeling like a failure. But have you ever stopped to wonder if you are really the problem? Maybe diets are the problem. On that verdict, the jury is in. Statistics say and have said for years that only 2-5% of those who embark on a diet will lose the weight they want and keep it off.

 

Those who do “succeed” often do so because they are willing to see the rest of their lives as a form of diet. Even the “saner” exercise-based programs for weight loss do not fare much better. And yet one of every two US women is on a diet right now. Girls are going on their first diet younger and younger. More and more men are joining women’s “dieting” ranks. When you include diet pop, gym memberships and bariatric surgery, in 2013, Americans spent $66 billion dollars on the weight loss industry. Canada is not far behind with its numbers.

 

Why is permanent weight loss so hard? I mean really, it should be as simple as “less in and more out.” To add insult to injury, obesity rates in the affluent western world continue to rise. I believe that there are many interesting reasons for this, and will be writing a series of articles on this in the coming months on this blog.

 

The first thing I want to emphasize is that diets don’t work. Why not? Because they are based on deprivation, and deprivation sets up an equal and opposite reaction. Weight gain. There is a brilliant illustration of this in the aptly titled book Diets Don’t Work! by Bob Schwartz.

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Where women’s liberation has emerged, new impossible ideals of female beauty have also emerged, which are entrapping us. They are a backlash, a new form of social control. – Naomi Wolf

How mindful eating changed my body, mind and life

I had always been a slender and active kid, never giving a second thought to my weight until puberty, when I suddenly realized I became fat. At age 14, I tried various diets. One high fibre and low fat diet worked well for me—so long as I stayed on it.

 

At age 17, I found a life-changing book called Thin Within. It was my first exposure to what I term intuitive hunger eating principles: eat when you’re hungry, eat exactly what you want, do so with presence and intent, and stop as soon as the hunger goes away. The book also explained that if you eat outside of intuitive hunger signals, you are likely eating for emotional reasons. It was as though a light had been switched on for me. (It had already occurred to me that if diets were so great, why did people gain weight back? I wondered why some people manage a “good” weight their whole lives yet eat whatever they want? It occurred to me that if people eat a lot but get hungry again, haven’t they burned off all the calories?) The intuitive eating philosophy ultimately led me to ask myself why I was turning to food, which sparked a healing journey in me that continues to this day.

 

A few months later, I had some bad experiences with my mum’s boyfriend. I felt unsafe around him, and unheard and unsupported at home. Anxiety and confusion overwhelmed me. My body, unprotected by fat, felt too unsafe. I literally could not stop eating, and over the following weeks my weight climbed from 120 to 180 pounds. I remember not recognizing my reflection once, in a mall mirror . Thick red stretch marks stared back at me unapologetically from all over my body. My family judged me and made verbal swipes. Intuitive hunger eating seemed beyond my control. I felt humiliated and unworthy. I see now that I was trying to protect and care for myself through the weight.

 

When I left home things got easier. With the help of therapy, I gained significant insight into my personal and family history, and what the weight was voicing for me. I lost much of the weight. But my size would still fluctuate a bit based on the love and security I was feeling at any point in my life. Food was my “go-to” for warmth and stability.

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happy girl eating popsicle in sunset

7 steps to harmony with your food

Do you ever eat past the point of enjoyment simply to clean your plate and waste not? Do you eat for pleasure’s sake until the pleasure becomes a pain, causing you to unbutton your jeans and feel gassy for hours? Or perhaps you aren’t eating enough, always feeling hungry?

 

Eating should always be a pleasure, during and after. What would it feel like to eat what your body wants you to eat and feeling great about it, feeling satisfied and energized? Follow these seven steps and then come back to the comments to share the results!

 

1. Determine your hunger number on a scale from zero to 10, with zero being famished and 10 being so stuffed that you cannot eat another bite. Five is the light and delightful feeling of just enough. It is the moment the sensation of hunger goes away. Mindful eating is starting to eat below five and not going past five.

 

2. Eat what draws and excites your body to eat. This is not what your eyes want you to eat. It is physical hunger as opposed to psychological, habitual or “should” hunger (that is: what is “healthy” but doesn’t call to you). It must be delicious.

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Mindful eating is an ancient mindfulness practice with profound modern implications and applications for resolving this troubled love-hate relationship with food.

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