Mindful Eating: The Perfect Portion
If my stomach is no larger than my fist, I vowed to feed only what the cavernous container in the dark naturally held and not overburden it with my mind’s immediate desires. This seemed logical and a simple guide to portion control that would never leave my side! I embarked on the new challenge of keeping to the Perfect Portion: mini meals the size of my fist (without exception).
The Stomach: A Blind Animal in a Dark Cave
I began to think of my stomach as a blind animal in a dark cave. Prodding and sniffing its way in the dark, it would take 10-20 minutes to finally find the food I had deposited. To my mind, a much quicker and demanding animal, this was too long to wait. “There’s no way that’s enough!” my mind would scream (especially during the first 6-10 days), as I placed the mini meals in front of me on mindful plates.
This is the test; this 10-20 minute waiting period is the battleground. It’s during this time that we can be tempted to go over the Perfect Portion and shovel in more mass to reach that familiar “full” feeling.
This is the KEY: Water Became My New Best Friend
To soothe and distract my mind during the waiting period, I drink a glass or two of water (or a cup of hot tea). It gives my mind the sense of physically “full” without the extra, unneeded calories. Like clockwork, my stomach always finds the original deposit of food (to my mind’s utter relief) and faithfully responds: “Deposit Received: FULL”. My brain, in turn, registers the transaction and an incredible feeling of warm satisfaction washes over my body: “Transaction Complete: HAPPILY, CONTENT.”
The Mind Needs Proof
Meal after meal, I have proved to my mind that the Perfect Portion is, in fact, perfect; even if it doesn’t look or feel like it until after the 10-20-minute waiting period is over. I have become the master over my own stomach. If I listen closely, my body will inform me what needs. Like a good caregiver I can determine the best balance between what my body needs, what my taste buds want, and what I have available in the fridge and pantry.
“All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.” – Psalm 104:27-28 NIV
We can be full on less, we just need to give our stomachs time to register what it has been mindfully given.
Overeating: A Sign of Disrespect
I started viewing overeating as an act of disrespect, that of the worst kind: disrespect against myself. Even if I committed one of these acts in private, everyone else could see the results in my uncomfortable robes of unwanted pounds. If my body whispers to me: “I’m full” and I disregard it by shoveling in food regardless (for whatever reason: taste, comfort, boredom, etc.); I am disrespecting its wishes.
Imagine doing this to a friend. What would be their response? The sad thing is, the body can’t walk away from us, but it can rebel and it often does.
If the body whispers what it really wants and doesn’t ever yell unless it is in pain, then we need to listen carefully and allow it to have its say. There is a difference between what our body whispers and what our minds, appetites, and taste buds holler. It’s time for them to take the backseat and let the quieter, shyer sibling – the Body – have its say.
We can’t blame the body for gaining weight any longer. It’s only doing what it does best: It’s finding balance. The body’s main objective is survival, and to survive it maintains balance. We see this in how it works constantly to maintain a consistent internal body temperature, or how it creates insulin to naturally counterbalance spikes in blood sugar. It is simply doing its job when we consume too much and burn too little. It has nothing else to do with the extra energy we give it, but to hold onto it as unwanted cargo on a sleek ship.
When Less is Actually More
My body started finding a new balance with this Perfect Portion and increased water system. The extra weight started shedding off like unwanted layers of heavy clothing on a hot day. I now give my body mindful and consistent deposits throughout the day, to lovingly nourish and intentionally give it exactly what it needs: no more and no less.
No more overburdening my stomach with too much food it hurts after a meal. No more unwanted pounds. The idea is to never punish nor starve ourselves, but to love and nourish the precious and practical vessel we have been given to carry us around for the rest of our lives.
After a few years in this practice, my mind and taste buds still gradually edge-in to override my greater goals as they attempt to slowly up my food intake. Weight gain can be sneaky. It is a repeatable effort to come back to mindful eating and paying careful attention to what my body is whispering. Life can get busy and distracting, but it’s important I remain at the helm to steady my competing desires.
Mistakes will be and have been made; but there’s always a next meal around the corner to try again. I gently reminding myself that the painful feeling of a bloated stomach is a sign that I ate too much; I am neither losing nor maintaining my weight with that particular meal. Small, cumulative, good decisions add up into great goals realized over time.
It All Boils Down To:
I can choose to shovel in more food than my body really needs, meeting my desire in the moment, or I can begin satisfying the greater desires that are hidden deep within me.
‘’Everything is permissible,’ but not everything is beneficial…” – 1Corinthians 10:23A CSB