In honour of this new “home” for the blog, I am doing a series based on The Eating Guidelines as developed by Geneen Roth (author of “Women, Food, and God” and many other books I highly recommend).
Guideline #3: Eat Without Distractions – Radio, TV, Newspaper, Books, or Loud Music
The third guideline on the list is eat without distractions. This includes listening to the radio, watching television, reading, and listening to loud music. Much like the “eat when sitting down” guideline, this guideline is often difficult to follow, especially if you live alone and are used to eating while watching your favourite TV show or enjoy reading while you eat breakfast. One thing I would add to this list of “distractions” is social media and email. I am really bad for this – but browsing the web or doing work while eating is a huge distraction and one that leaves you unable to fully engage in and enjoy your meal.
Why is it important to not have distractions?
Intuitive eating is all about mindfulness. Being “mindful” involves being fully aware and engaged in what you are doing in that moment. When you are eating intuitively you are meant to be focusing on the food – how it tastes, how it feels in your mouth, how your body responds to it etc. You are also meant to be paying attention so you can feel your fullness queue and know when to push the plate away.
I’m sure all of us have experienced this: curling up on the couch in front of our favourite show, a giant plate of Nachos on our lap, and by the second commercial break we look down and the plate is empty. We don’t even remember eating, and now we are left with the bloated aftermath of having more than “enough.” Having distractions while we eat takes the enjoyment out of eating and limits our ability to be intuitive about our body’s wants and needs.
What if you don’t want to give up the distractions?
I know it can be difficult, especially when you live alone. Eating dinner in front of the TV seems natural, it’s almost a given. It’s not my fault The Wheel of Fortune is on at dinnertime, right?
Geneen Roth recommends to start by eating one meal each day without distraction and seeing how that feels. If you begin to notice a difference in how you are engaging with food (which you likely will), then try eating two meals a day this way and so on until all meals are eaten without distraction.
In all honesty, I now eat with distractions. Breakfast I have a smoothie and usually I’m reading my “1000 Awesome Thing” of the day. For lunch I’m usually watching YouTube videos or catching up on a missed show, and for dinner I really do watch The Wheel of Fortune (what can I say, I’m an old soul..)
But here’s the thing – I didn’t always do this. When I first started off on my journey of Intuitive Eating I was incredibly careful about avoiding distractions while I was eating. I would sit down at the table for every meal and even snack and I would focus, enjoy, and listen. This, I believe, was a vital part of learning how to experience food in a new way and learning to listen to my body. However, this may not be practical nor enjoyable for the remainder of your life. I couldn’t imagine never eating in front of the TV again! And if reading the morning paper while having your cereal is something that makes you happy, I don’t think you should need to give that up forever. And I know that when you live alone, sometimes eating at a table alone is not always enjoyable.
So here’s what I recommend, if you are new to this whole Intuitive Eating thing, by all means, try to eat without distraction. If you need to start with one meal and work your way up to every meal, then do that. I promise you will notice a difference. Once Intuitive Eating becomes more natural to you, though (I would give it at least three months), start bringing back the distractions slowly if you feel the need. This doesn’t mean go back to eating on the run, gorging on nachos while watching a sad movie, or guzzling a smoothie on your drive to work, but it does mean allowing yourself the things you enjoy – like watching your favourite TV show each night while you eat dinner.
The most imporatnt thing is to continue to be mindful. And if you see yourself slipping back into old behaviours of not enjoying your food, overeating, or anything else, then go back to the basics, remove the distractions for awhile and get back in touch with your body. It’s all about being aware and honest with yourself.
No one else can tell you if it’s time to cut back on the distractions and return your focus to what’s on the plate in front of you – only you can do that; it’s all about being honest with yourself.
I hope you found this post helpful – I will be back next week with Guideline #4: Eat only what you want. Happy eating!
Read last week’s post “#2 Eat in a calm environment.”