The Calm Kitchen: Our Mind-Body Connection
The Calm Kitchen is a series on the pleasures of cooking and eating. Based on the themes of my cookery class, it explores mindfulness through cooking, how we connect to ourselves and others through food, and Intuitive Eating. That sounds pretty deep! It's for food lovers, basically.
Where was I? Oh yes, my last post was the first of a new series on Intuitive Eating. I'm finally getting around to the second some months later, but who's counting? I started a new job last year, the big and small distractions of life got in the way, and writing went by the wayside.
My last post introduced the concept of Intuitive Eating. There’s a lot to get your head around before you can dive into the topic. If you have dieted for a long time, the fact that there are no rules for eating is a big adjustment. It's an exercise in experimenting, observing how your body reacts to different foods, adjusting, and trying again. Intuitive Eating is based around the belief that your body holds more wisdom than your mind about what is right for you. This is what the term 'gut feeling' is based on. If we can listen to our gut - our core intuition, we can access our own internal navigation tool.
I was introduced to this concept when I first read 'Finding Your Own North Star' by Life Coach Martha Beck in 2012. This book blew my mind. I'd just moved to San Francisco and was suffering with chronic lower back pain that I had been trying to treat for years. I tried acupuncture, reflexology, spinal injections, flotation tanks and my last resort - an obscenely expensive bed.
A few months previously a Chinese Medicine man had told me that in order to cure my back pain I just needed to quit my job. Lol. His point was that my condition was stress-related and that stress was causing my body to constrict and tighten. There were others around me also dealing with stress-related conditions - skin/digestion/sleep issues. The lesson was that when we are not actively managing our stress, our body will find a way to alert us.
This idea - that our body expresses what’s truly going on in our lives - was expanded on in Beck's book. It's the central philosophy of her coaching work and was a lightbulb moment for me. I bought several copies of the book and have gifted it to many friends over the years. It was what led me to sign up for her Life Coach training programme the following year.
The first principle in Intuitive Eating is 'Reject the Diet Mentality'. Ok, but as a culture we’re seeped in diet culture. Whether it's explicit or subtle it's all around us, through the media, culture and entertainment. If we reject it what are we left with? We are left with our own thoughts, feelings and sensations. When we can start to look inward instead of to an external programme (diet) we can start to hear the signals that our body is sending us daily. The best introductory tool to this concept is the 'body scan meditation'. This link is to a video by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who has written excellent books on mindfulness-based stress reduction.
If you can tune into this practice, it will help you on the path to quietening your thoughts and hearing what your body is telling you. If I'm really speedy with my next post I might get it up in the next six months.
"As you tune into your physical and emotional compasses, I fully expect you to find our intuition sharpening, and startling coincidences marking your days with wonder and excitement. The more you listen to your intuition, the more it will change your life; and the more bravely you set forth into the territory of change, the more you'll come to rely on it. Eventually, you may learn to trust this ephemeral talent as the most sensitive and sensible of the navigational instruments you carry around inside you."
Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck