I was a total fish. You could not get me out of the pool - like ever. I went straight from pajamas to a bathing suit and only came out at night to get back in my pajamas and go to bed. I rarely even came out to eat. My hair was green and my nose was permanently sunburned. And I was in total bliss.
I remember those summers like they just happened. Floating in the water, swimming around like I was a mermaid, practicing my dives, and seeing how far I could swim without coming up for air. I would hang on the edge of the pool, totally surrendering to the element - feeling like my feet weren’t feet, just moving the way the water moved, and taking my sweet-ass time eating that delicious bowl of ice cream my mom brought me. I cherished every spoonful like it was the most amazing moment of my life.
Now, it’s pretty common that my breakfast happens in the car, my lunch happens in front of the computer, and at least once a week, dinner happens in front of the TV. That is a LOOOOONG road from the mindful and blissful eating of ice cream in the pool.
What we eat, how we eat it, when we eat it, why we eat it, who made it so we could eat it, how far that food traveled so we could eat it...it’s so easy to noteven pay attention to these things. For those of us who are food secure, food is just there. It’s always there, so why do we need to think about it? Who is encouraging us to think about it, connect to it, recognize it for it’s value?
Thich Nhat Hanh, in Peace is Every Step, writes about the cookie of his childhood. He takes us back to his youth, sitting outside his home in Vietnam, listening to the birds singing and the leaves on the trees, watching in such detail all the life just happening around him while he ate his cookie. Sometimes it would take him 45 minutes or more just to eat one single cookie, if he even finished it. When I listened to this story I was instantly rushed back to my poolside, delighting in my ice cream on a hot summer day. I could completely and totally relate.
There are so many directions I could take this post: diet-culture, mindless eating, eating cheap, carbon footprinting, making peace with food, body acceptance, finding joy in what you prep, cook, and eat, releasing guilt….the connections go on for days! As with all of these Hacks, my intention is to bring a greater awareness to those areas in our lives where we could use some more mindfulness so we can connect to the greater joy in life. I do not, in anyway, want to oversimplify the importance and details of this or any other hack. If you think eating is just a mindless activity, something that just has to happen everyday, then I strongly suggest you try the ideas in the next section and check out the gamechangers listed below. And ask yourself, what is the cookie of your childhood?
For the next week, track your eating habits - without judgement by the way! This is not a program designed to make you feel like shit about all the things you are doing wrong. Again, it’s about awareness. So, like I said, for the next week, just really pay attention to your eating habits:
Do all of the above, and track your level of:
Now, is there one small thing about your habits you could swap out for a new habit? For example, if family dinner usually happens in front of the TV, is there one night a week where you could declare a no TV dinner night and focus on conversation instead? (You could use something like the VIBE Deck to start those conversations!!) Or is there one morning a week where you could wake up just 10 minutes earlier and eat your breakfast in your kitchen instead of the car?
Prep and eat one meal in total silence. No audio or screen time of any kind. Look at your food while you prep it. Pay attention to the colors, smells, textures, tastes. And just track the thoughts that come to you through this whole process. Any interesting revelations?
So many food issues start when we are young - like really young - which translates to body acceptance issues when we are in our adolescence, which can impact the limitations we put on ourselves when we grow up. What I really ask for here is that you pay attention to how you talk with the youth in your lives about food, the example you set for them about mindful eating. Do you criticize the things they are eating or yuk their food? Are you aware of their cultural habits around food and eating? Do you always have red vines and hot cheetos on hand because it’s good bribery or because you want to make sure those food insecure students have something to eat? Even our best intentions are sometimes harmful on a much deeper level. Often, people with food insecurity only have access to the most processed and cheap food. Do you want to help perpetuate that cycle?
If you are a podcast listener, then you gotta check Food Psych Podcast with Christy Harrison - she takes some seriously deep dives into diet culture and how it connects to race, class, gender, and many other issues that will totally blow your mind!
Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole
Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh