I read about Surrender today and immediately wondered, “Do I need to surrender when it comes to food and nutrition?” The answer to my question was “Yes.” Food and fitness are two things I am really working on balancing in my life right now. This comes back to mindfulness and mindfulness can be so challenging. Sigh.
I am a healthy person. I eat relatively “clean.” I like to cook and try to use organic and fresh, whole food. I workout regularly and absolutely love my workouts, even if I only go 2-3 times per week now. But I worked hard the past 5 years to follow a strict clean-eating diet that allowed me to reach a fitness level I had never reached in my entire life. I eliminated dairy, high fat foods, caffeine, gluten, salt. I was happy doing this because the old me loved being in control. I believed whole-heartedly in rules and guidelines. They were the roadmap to perfection. Being the perfectionist, I dove head first into this lifestyle. Now, after my stroke, I am working my way towards finding a path towards health and nutrition that is my own. I am setting my own goals for fitness, body shape, food choices. This is NOT an easy thing to do. Behaviors and beliefs ingrained over a lifetime do not change overnight. Learning how to stop and listen to your body – listen to what your body, not your emotions or your noisy negative talk is saying. Learning that there is no such thing as perfection. Embracing freedom. Being in the present moment when it comes to eating. Mindful eating is listening to your body’s subtle cues, like when you are truly hungry, what foods agree with you, knowing when you are full or thirsty. Wow! And that’s just the physiological part of mindfulness, so much also lies behind our emotions when it comes to eating. Most, if not all of it, comes from others – judgements, comparisons, rules, diets, regimens. Stripping that away is a process and a practice grounded on mindfulness.
Anything you hold on to too tightly is something you need to look at more closely. I held on to this idea of being über healthy and fit. What emotions are behind that? It comes from fear. For me, this “food fear” found its core really with my desire to be perfect which, of course, all ties back to other people’s judgements. I wanted to be seen as perfect by others and to live up to their and society’s idea of perfection. So in this I find fear of judgement and the fear of losing something – youth, recognition, love, admiration. I could go on and on. What it really comes down to is the fear of not being enough. It also is a way of avoiding where you are in the moment because you are always striving for that some day, that goal of being 100% fit and lean because you aren’t that yet. If you are constantly looking ahead to a moment which never comes because, let’s face it, that perfection never comes for any of us what are you really doing? You’re avoiding and not acknowledging or honoring who you are right now. So, ask yourself, what’s behind this moment that is driving me to live for a something which will never come. Unhappiness in the present you, the present life, the present health or the present body. Gaining the washboard abs, or for that matter, the luxury car, the designer handbag, the promotion at work, the 4-bedroom, 3000 ft² house will not satisfy you either.
So, I need to let go of my hold on food and fitness and all these future “must haves” and just be present in each moment with who I am and with my emotions leaving judgements and comparisons behind. I am finding that living mindfully can be oh so uncomfortable but it also allows you to be truly in touch with the real you. We avoid and shy away so often from the uncomfortableness of being vulnerable or imperfect or just plain human. So, step by step this year I will be pealing away the layers and one big layer is this new freedom with food and body image. In doing so, I will release some of these attachments I have formed to food and fitness and release some of that suffering Buddha talks of when we are too attached to anything. So I am bringing myself back to simplicity of just being me. I am surrendering to the Universe other people’s expectations, future worries, self-judgements.