Mindful eating step #1 – Eating what you want

 So. This might seem counterintuitive. Are you like, whoa, seriously, crazy lady? I’m supposed to eat what I want when I’m trying to become a mindful eater? Wouldn’t that mean that I’d be eating ice cream & chocolate brownies all day long in bed? Maybe. But you’d soon find out that you don’t like how you feel after eating those things and it would dirty your bedsheets. Maybe that’s a process you need to go through in order to find out that your body rarely wants those things. Your mind does, but that’s a different story.

I’m talking about eating what you want within the realm of what your body tolerates. I’m not talking about sabotage. This is specific and individual, of course, and takes time to figure out. Stomach space is high level real estate, people, and we want what we eat to be worth it. But if you are white-knuckling yourself into eating a specific & super restricted way that completely SUCKS (ie plain chicken breast with steamed vegetables and zero fat aka DIET FOOD) and then berating yourself for not being able to “stick to a plan”, you WILL compensate for it later. 
There are laws of the universe, and dieting laws fall into those. Not eating what you want will come back to haunt you twofold and with a vengeance: by potentially eating mountains of things outside of your safe realm, including the thing that you wanted initially. This is why I can’t do meal plans. Why I can’t have someone telling me what to eat in the moment. I’m fine with templates that I can tailor flavors to and adhere to make my own, because I can make them MY OWN. Meal plans and nutritionists aren’t in my head, in my body, in my emotions, or my mood. Adhering to them makes me end up feeling crappy for many reasons. I begin to feel like a “bad” and undisciplined person because I can’t follow simple, clear prompts. Because I have a history of disordered eating and feeling craycray around food, these plans are not for me.
But I do have templates of food that I love and follow strictly. I know that nutrition has a deliberate impact on how I feel and think (moreso than most people because I am highly sensitive), so I have a zone of foods that eat 95% of the time.  But even within that zone, if I eat something I don’t want or am not in the mood for, I will end up eating the thing I had initially wanted later and thinking about it for some time. I also will feel unsatisfied and munchy and exhibit a whole bunch of mindless eating behaviors later.
So how do we deal with this? The dissatisfaction and DEPRIVATION that we can feel after eating something we think we “must” or “need” to. (Chances are, if you’re depriving yourself in your food, you’re depriving yourself in other areas of your life, too. But that’s a different blog post.) First, just pause for a second. Ask yourself what you really want in this moment. Not what anyone says you want or is telling you to eat. Is it hot, is it cold? Is it crunchy, soft? Think of texture. Think of your mood. Is it spicy? Is it bland, sweet? Do you ONLY want vegetables? ONLY want fruits? Sometimes I only want those things, but I know that will only leave me hungry in an hour. I want to not think of food and accomplish stuff during the day like a productive human. Be cognizant of the effect of food has on you and try your best to eat accordingly. 
For me, this looks like adding some sort of crazy delicious decadence to my meals. Like bacon, steak, burgers with all the toppings, chicken thighs, spice blends, avocado, or a homemade dressing. These will keep me satisfied and sometimes, I won’t end up eating as much of it. Often, when we don’t want to eat something but think we SHOULD or MUST because some stupid person we’ve never even met says so, we end up eating it all in a frenzied state because we KNOW we are denying ourselves and we don’t even like it so we don’t pay attention to it. Mindful eating fail.
Eating what you want might require more thought, planning, time, and honestly, some annoyance. But I think it’s always worth my effort and time. It’s pre-emptive in not sabotaging myself.
This might seem like a really first-world problem. But the point is, I think a large part of self-care when trying to heal your relationship with food is being honest with yourself and eating things up-front that you know you desire. Deprivation (and denying the fact that you are a human that gets pleasure from food) ALWAYS ends up in some sort of overeating later. I want to feel satisfied, sane, and not spend much time thinking about what I’m going to eat. A lot of people don’t have this problem, but a lot of us do, so this is just some solace in a world that doesn’t offer many tools on how to navigate this.
To wrap up:
1. Pause, breathe, think of what you want. Spend a few moments here if you need to.
2. Get honest with yourself. Allow yourself to have what you want. 
3. Make that thing or acquire it somehow (like have someone make it for you or go to a restaurant or deli, not like off the street corner or something). 
4. Take your time with it. Don’t rush. Take the time to make your meal nice and include the things that you want WITHIN your food realm.
5. If someone offers something or wants to go somewhere you aren’t in the mood for, just offer something else. You can also say you aren’t hungry. No is a complete sentence.
6. Eat slowly and enjoy every bite. 
7. Surprise yourself at how civilized you’ve become now that you’re eating what you want.
The above picture is an example of one of my meals. Cedar planked fatty salmon, avocado, and a salad with hearts of palm and balsamic vinaigrette.

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