The surgery was running long. Really long.
Finally a call from the doctor,Â more complicated than they thought,Â it’sÂ going to be okay…
It was okay, but it was the beginning of a difficultÂ period of life. A little surgery turned into a big one, a week of recovery turned to months of recovery. Life as we knew it turned upside down.
I remember the late-night hospital cafe I found after makingÂ the tough choiceÂ to leave my love, just out of anesthesia, at the hospital so I could goÂ care forÂ our young one at home. I remember looking at the brightly lit food with desperate feelings starting to hit. Swirling worry. Suppressed fear welling up in my chest. Deep hunger.Â I remember wishing the chips and old french fries looked good.
I wanted comfort and relief. Quick.
Your body needs nourishment, friend,Â came a gentle voice in my head.Â My own kind voice.Â I got some wilty spinach, piled on bright orangeÂ carrots and a few pieces of hard boiled egg, stuffed it all in a styrofoam box, grabbed a cookie, and headed for home. I ate everythingÂ with my hands as I drove in the dark.
Amid the torrent of thoughts flooding toÂ mind as I drove,Â notice this biteÂ was a thought that occasionally caught my attention. I listened to it, noticed the carrots for a moment, thought of carrots nestled in the ground, tasted their sweetness, foundÂ a little comfort.Â Breathe, friend.Â And I did, andÂ a little more comfort arrived.Â Â
Learn more about mindful eating with The Peaceful Plate Program. Classes starting soon in Carrboro and Chapel Hill.
My inner voiceÂ around food hasn’t always been so kind, nor is it always now. For as long as I can remember, my inner guidance around food can be best described in one of two ways. One isÂ an ashamed comfort-seeking voice, often engaged in guilty bargainingÂ or subtleÂ justifications about food. The other is aÂ judgmental voice reminding me incessantly of all the rules of eating IÂ shouldÂ be following. EatingÂ wasÂ seldom peaceful for meÂ until that moment when an eating event wentÂ on autopilot and my attention could float to the phone, the computer, the people around me. The judgingÂ voice almost always circled aroundÂ at the end, doling out a new helping of stress, shame and discouragement.Â If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.Â I hear versions of this from people all the time. We’re hard on ourselves about food.
A daily practice of mindful eating over the last couple of years has really changed things for me.Â I felt the sweet effects of this so deeply in ourÂ time of difficulty. I’m so glad.
Of course, in the months that followed the surgery I was under much more stress than usual and lost time to do things that typically support me.Â Â I worked and cared forÂ others all the time, and my personal fuel tank was oftenÂ nearly empty.
Lucky for me, everyone has to eat, including me, soÂ I hitched my personal fuel tank toÂ three amazing resources: mindfulness at mealtime, nourishing food on my plate, and short walks in the garden. Also lucky for me, I was already wellÂ acquainted with all of these, which remindsÂ me of the beauty of having foundational healthy living practices as a part of everyday lifeÂ (truly we never know when theseÂ practices are going to save our butts, right?).
Mealtimes became sweet islandsÂ of refuge. When I sat down to eat, I let my typical pause lengthen into many minutes of sitting quietly with my breath, releasing strain and worry, and remembering my place in the giant web of life. I practiced opening all of my senses to my food, expressing deep gratitude as often as I could remember, giving myself the kindness of nourishing food and peacefulÂ moments.
It was imperfect practice, as most life practices are.Â Many times I scarfed my food over the kitchen sink or in the car. But even in these times, myÂ kind voice, well practiced at this point, oftenÂ naturallyÂ arose.Â May this food nourish meÂ deeply. This food is the gift of the universe. May I be healthy and whole.Â Being ashamedÂ or judgmentalÂ about food felt nearly irrelevant in such a beautifully real and supportive relationship with eating.
Thanks to my practice in these tough few months, I can now even more easily come home to myself with food, settle in and take care. My mind is oftenÂ aÂ solid and kind ally with food.
I loveÂ it every time I rediscover theÂ refuge that mealtimes can be, and the sweetness of nourishing my body and mind.
And I love working on this vital relationship with others, finding new ways of experiencing eating and living as we make changes that last, changes that matter.
You might also likeÂ our online program, Free Yourself Around Food, or some of our blog articles on mindful eating.