Finally, it has dawned upon me: When we sit down to eat, the end goal is a big factor in the degree of mindfulness (or, mindLESSness) we will bring to it. By end goal I mean: Eating to satiate hunger OR Eating to “clean your plate!” One, when undertaken mindfully, will have us eating just enough, not wasting, & being aware of our place in the whole chain of events that brought our food to us. The other precludes entirely any notion of mindful eating. Indeed, eating til the food is gone necessarily means shutting off our ability to be aware of a moment, & closing down our ability to pay attention to our physical & psychological needs.
Following that childhood injunction to “clean your plate” is a goal-oriented approach, where the end is what matters, not the intervening moments. Eating mindfully, on the other hand, is process oriented, where the ‘journey’ matters most, the attending to the totality of the experience. Very often, as in many other areas of our lives, we have no idea this choice is being made. I certainly did not, & was virtually unconscious when it came to food & eating choices.
For someone like me, whose eating has often had nothing to do with actual physical need, the goal-oriented, eat-everything-you-see approach is very damaging. It creates excess weight, psychological blockages & the opportunities for self-loathing, which would color everything that came after, for days at a time. Here’s the curious thing: I am usually more process-oriented in other aspects of my life, feeling that the way of things is more important than the point of things. For example, I always felt that I had to choose between attending to the greater, immediate needs of my kid or achieving educational & professional goals. Caring trumped ambition, by a very long shot. I believe that being kind is more important than always getting what you want.
But when it comes to food, eating, meals, this hasn’t been true. Though I have mostly eaten healthy food, eating in & of itself was more often about quelling deep, unmet psychological hungers, or numbing myself in the face of anxiety, boredom, fear, rage. There was just no room for attending to the journey — I had to get there! get there!! …. that is, eat everything in front of me. And find more, & then eat that too.
At least I see it now, this underlying, unconscious choosing. So the question then becomes: How will I choose from now on???????