When we are stressed we can’t pri­ori­tise our needs, such as nour­ish­ing the body. We just want to feel good NOW. ‘Give me the chips, the choco­late and the chardon­nay!’

Living Now - - Food - By Char­lotte Thaarup-owen

We were stand­ing next to each other in front of all the glo­ri­ous cakes both wait­ing to or­der. She said, “I am go­ing to be good”. I know what she meant; if she had a cake she would be bad.

This kind of think­ing takes us away from be­ing present, away from ‘liv­ing now’. Be­hind that one sen­tence is a pat­tern of be­ing that is char­ac­terised by good ver­sus bad and healthy ver­sus un­healthy.

This di­vi­sive way of think­ing also rep­re­sents a dis­con­nect from the body. If we are in­ti­mately con­nected with the body in kind­ness then we may choose not to have a cake sim­ply be­cause it is not what the body needs, or we might choose to have one and re­ally en­joy the gift of food. The de­ci­sion is not about rules, good or bad, but sim­ply about what the dear body needs or doesn’t need.

Dur­ing a re­cent re­treat, par­tic­i­pants were asked what they thought their bod­ies would say about them.‘lazy, pa­thetic, weak, undis­ci­plined’, were some of the re­sponses. There is such pain in those words and they only oc­cur when we see our bod­ies with ‘out­side eyes’, a per­spec­tive that is of­ten harsh and judg­men­tal. These rigid thoughts send a mes­sage to the whole sys­tem, which gen­er­ates the stress re­sponse – a rise of cor­ti­sol lev­els.

When we are stressed we can’t pri­ori­tise our needs, such as nour­ish­ing the body. We just want to feel good NOW. ‘Give me the Tim­tams, the chips, the choco­late and the chardon­nay!’ We use food for emo­tional reg­u­la­tion.

We can step out of that cy­cle by chang­ing our re­la­tion­ship with our body, shift­ing from ‘out­side eyes’ to ‘ in­sight eyes’. You can ac­cess your in­sight eyes by sim­ply pay­ing at­ten­tion to the body in kind­ness.

Through these in­sight eyes we re­alise that our body is an ex­pres­sion of life – like a flower, a don­key or an ant. There is noth­ing wrong with any of these ex­pres­sions of life.

In­sight eyes are ten­der and em­pathic. From a brain func­tion per­spec­tive, em­pa­thy and judg­ment can­not be present at the same time.

Of­ten the body pays the price for our poor emo­tional reg­u­la­tion, for up­sets and bad moods, and on top of this, we get frus­trated when it then puts on weight due to our hav­ing eaten too much.

We can only abuse what we don’t feel con­nected to, and we pro­tect what we fall in love with. n Char­lotte Thaarup-owen is an in­ter­na­tion­ally ex­pe­ri­enced clin­i­cal mind­ful­ness con­sul­tant and trans­for­ma­tive ed­u­ca­tor, hav­ing trained hun­dreds of psy­chol­o­gists in Mind­ful­ness, as well as in­di­vid­u­als from all walks of life. Her ‘Mind­ful Lead­er­ship pro­gram’ and her ‘Dear Body’ pro­grams are both univer­sity re­searched pro­grams. Char­lotte of­fers mind­ful­ness coach­ing, re­treats, work­shops and cor­po­rate train­ing.

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