Conscious (Intuitive) Eating

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Therapeutic Diets

Therapeutic diets are a central and vital part of all traditions of medicine. Not everyone needs to do one, but many do, especially if they have a chronic health problem and at least a part of what is getting the way of their self-repair is a lack of one or more essential nutrients and/or the presence of something harmful in their diet.

Of the various therapeutic diet options, the process described on this page is my personal favourite. It can be ideal for the person who has lost their appetite for food and zest for life, likewise it can be a core part of the cure for someone who has become overly worried around what to eat and so is following a diet regimen by rote and rule but is not in touch with what they actually need and so getting no great benefit, or joy, from their food...

Conscious, intuitive eating can also be a wonderful stepping stone towards a wider practice of developing a more heart-based life, with all which that can open up but, despite all this, it is also the diet that I get to recommend to my patients the least.

Partly this is because there is often more essential ground work to cover. For example, if they are showing the signs that are typical of congestion, then it may be most beneficial for them to focus on a cleansing diet for a month or two, something written up in detail here

Or, if their health history, plus the kinds of symptoms they are getting, suggest a likelihood of food intolerance, then this important area may need to be explored first and foremost, more on this here

Or, if they are one of the many people in our society who have the metabolic syndrome, meaning they are not well-suited to a diet high in carbohydrates, then they would need to direct their attention here

Or lastly, but equally, through their past life or from a lack of interest, if they have not learned what healthy eating is, then we have to start at the beginning with the common sense guidelines written up here

The other main reason that I don't so often get to recommend this process of conscious, intuitive eating, is that the patient just isn't ready for it. Many people have well-established concepts and conditioning around the universal subject of food. You must pick your battles in this life, and to challenge a person to drop some of their thinking to get in touch with their feelings about food is something to be done with care, and when there is a reasonable chance of success with it.

Conscious eating is a natural, instinctive, and rather life-changing practice. It is also quite simple to do, but only if and when the person is ready for it.


The Practice

Before I go on, I should mention that there are other definitions and versions of 'conscious eating' than the one that follows. Words are great, they help us to cross vast distances of understanding, but they can have more than one meaning and, as much of the subject matter below is of an entirely subjective manner, just bear with me and, if you are up for it, give it a go. At the very least it won't do any harm...

In a nutshell, the particular practice of conscious eating that I recommend is to simply quiet your mind for a few moments, (2 or 3 deep breaths will achieve that for most people), then centre your awareness into your body; i.e. your heart or your gut, and then ask yourself an 'open' question relating to your food in one or another way; for example 'what do I need to eat today?' 'what does my body really want to eat?' 'what food will bring me health and happiness today?' and so forth.

That's it! You might get an answer, but it is best to not expect a reply right away, and it doesn't matter if it doesn't come until later. One of the best 'proofs' of this process comes to a person when their subconscious (which could also be called their 'body') gets the time and space to process the question and comes back to the consciousness, the 'driver', with an instinctive desire, even a craving, for something that the person knows they haven't just made up out of their habits or conditioning,. There is a clear and obvious difference when the answer comes from within, when it is something that their instincts are telling them that they need and want.

Our close relatives in the primate world typically eat 200 or more different kinds of foods as they go about listening to their own instincts about what to forage for next. Whereas most people probably eat a tiny fraction of that amount of variety. There are things our gut instinct, our hearts, may know we need, if we listen.

Many people believe that they are unable to quiet their minds and so don't even begin to try. This is unfortunate, and untrue. It is very simple to divert the attention of the mind to the breath and, in so doing, arrest its otherwise somewhat incessant tendency to think!

For anyone who wants some coaching on one, entirely effective, method to use breathing to relax the mind, use the commentary on 7-11 breathing found near the top of the page here, and/or read the section on this breathing technique in the article on anxiety found here. All it takes is just 3 breaths, counting to 7 on the inhale, and 11 on the exhale. Anyone can do this, and it always works when they do.

'Centering' is equally easy. By breathing deeply and exhaling all the air from our bodies, we naturally bring our attention into our core; our heart, gut, diaphragm, solar plexus etc. In many ways, this part of us is more representative of our true nature than the complex identity of our formed psychological self. It certainly is 100% where we must exist and feel so long as we are alive.

At first, it might seem like an unusual thing to be doing, asking a question of your heart or belly, like speaking into a dark cave without knowing what's inside or what you are supposed to hear back. That's ok, this can be a matter to take on trust, at least to begin with.

Most people know that they are supposed to be in touch with their heart, their instincts etc. but then perhaps figure that this is just meant to apply to the big things, who we partner with, what we do, where we live and so on. That's well and good, but surely it is wise to practice on the everyday things. It is what we do each day that ultimately determines how we live; we are, after all, what we eat.


The Obstacle

Briefly quietening the mind and centering one's awareness into the body is really not difficult. As given by example above, anyone who sets out to do it using the 3 breaths with the 7 in, 11 out counting method, will get there every time, even if it is momentary. That's ok, only a moment is required.

So, a brief pause in the day's flow is not the obstacle, so long as one makes a moment to do it. The only real obstacle to this practice is asking a truly 'open' question. Asking an open question is much harder than most of us realise because we are so conditioned, from young, to always have an answer.

An open question is one where we don't have already have an answer. It is a question that is asked with a willingness to listen to the answer, because we haven't already decided we know what it is!

I suppose this must seem very obvious written down like this, but it's much harder than it looks. If you observe your own mind, you will almost certainly see it rush to fill the gap. The mind wants to answer such questions and doesn't take easily to being left aside. It would prefer to give a response, even if it is only from habit, from conditioning, or from one of many desires created by the incessant advertising of the outside world.

If you know to look out for this interference from the mind then, when it happens, it will just come and go. You let it pass and open up to the question once again, deeper down, with a sense of not knowing, not yet anyway. This tiny leap of trust that can cover vast distances, the gap between the mind and the heart.


The Outcome

I said earlier that conscious eating is my favourite, but least used therapeutic diet. That's true, but I've still had well over a hundred opportunities to try it out in practice with people in real life. If I give it as part of the 'work' for the treatment plan, we usually have a quick go at it, then and there, in my rooms.

As mentioned, there might be a compelling reason to advocate for a different kind of diet, or something else has been more important to focus on, or it's just not the right timing to introduce it, but when it's been up for discussion, it's been fascinating to witness how well the method of asking within for what is really wanted typically works, and what interesting and surprising answers turn up!

Occasionally, the person recounts that they got a flash of something that they could feel was mind-made, e.g. something they associate with being a treat, but not something that felt like a heartfelt desire. However, every time the person stays with the question, there has been this visibly eye-widening realisation that the body has its own desires, and that it is willing to communicate them if we are willing to listen.

They can hear their own body talking, and telling what it wants. It is such a kind thing, a healthy thing, this visceral 'knowing'. From such a small, and frankly easy step, there can be a ground shift, a tuning in with Nature.

Clearly, regardless of how much technology we are surrounded with, we are never so far removed from our roots to not be able to sense what we need for our essential nourishment.

With most therapeutic interventions, you need to set achievable goals and then have ways of measuring what they are doing. That's another reason this is the odd one out of the therapeutic diets because I figure that, by the time a person is ready for this kind of work, I don't need to be holding them to some kind of account with how much they've been doing it by the follow-up visit. There's a small leap of trust there too.

So, that said, how many times would a person need to practice conscious, intuitive eating to have done their time with it? I think there might be a different answer to that question for everyone. One time, a hundred times, a thousand.

I know that some people make 'conscious eating' about making yourself deeply aware of what you eating, when you are eating it. I can see the value in that, but I can't recommend it as a sustainable practice. In fact, I tend to recommend to those patients who volunteer that they 'inhale their food' or those who have the signs of indigestion that relate to rushing meals, to go the other direction and to read a good book to help slow them down, or to have a good conversation with whoever they are with...

I think it is the preparation that is the missing link. The taking the time to think about what to eat and so moving away from the fast, convenient foods that process and denature things, whilst filling them with addictive flavours that satisfy the brain but not the body.

Once a person has tuned in to what they really feel like eating, by the time they have made their desire manifested, their body and mind won't need any more encouragement to enjoy the meal. It will taste great, and feel great; before, during and after. Because food is life, and we want to live! When that is what is happening, most times we eat, then the work is done, now just live on and live long!

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd