It fills me up.Me, in conversation with my therapist.
I wasn’t describing binge eating, a habit that developed in my late teens. Going on 68, I continue to examine the drive which stands in shocking contrast to all my healthy behaviors like a lifetime membership in Weight Watchers and a daily exercise regime which helped me recover from a near-fatal illness in 2019.
Binge eating feels driven by emotional desperation. I need. I need. Feed me. Feed me. Although the subsequent gorging on carbohydrates follows as if the only possible response, I end up feeling stuffed without feeling satisfied.
Binge eating doesn’t fill me.
But meditation does.
Meditation calms the beast
Twice daily, I stop, step away from whatever I’m doing, go outdoors to a chair in our garden, and sit for 20-30 minutes.
When I do this, I re-calibrate my thermostat from “I’m too busy to sit down” to “I’m just here, breathing.” It has worked wonders in reducing stress-induced eating which otherwise can sabotage a day, a weekend, or an entire week.
So, how have I managed to make this change? There are a few key steps that have helped.
Put it on your calendar
When I worked in an office, I learned that scheduling time on my calendar for my midday workouts kept that hour free from meetings. I recall the conversation that made the point, when a colleague said that she needed to see me at a certain time but saw that I had a meeting on my calendar. I almost said, “Oh, that’s just my workout.” But I kept my mouth shut, and of course we found another time to meet. And I got my workout in.
Today, I schedule my meditation breaks at 11 and 4, and they are announced by an alarm on my iPhone/Apple Watch/iPad. I have the luxury of being home most of the time, and simply walk out to my meditation chair.
I’m off the clockMe, to my husband, and also to myself
Link to another good habit
All of us connect things in our daily schedule: creating the to-do list after breakfast; walking the dog before doing the dishes (and with any luck someone else has done them when you get home!); the step-down behaviors—chamomile tea, calm music, reading in bed— that lead our body to sleep. The experts call it habit stacking.
The best way to form a new habit is to tie it to an existing habit.Tara Parker-Pope, New York Times
I already have two events scheduled for late morning:
- My morning snack, mapped out on my Weight Watchers app as I finish my morning coffee; and,
- My second pelvic floor exercises of the day, a process I began as I recovered from my long hospitalization in 2019.
So, when my Easy Kegel notification goes off at 11, I take my iPhone and a piece of fruit and head out to my meditation spot. My 2 minute exercise on the app brings my focus inward, I eat my snack mindfully, and then it’s eyes closed, seeking peace.
Engage the mind
It took a while to relax into nothingness, and I am not always successful at staying in the zone once I find it. Structure helped.
When I began this practice, I needed to engage my mind, to distract me from being distracted. This 54321 sensory exercise pulled me into the present.
This exercise evolved. Some days, I counted how many shades of green I could see, or how many different types of bird calls I could hear. Eventually, I noticed myself settling in for brief periods of just being there. And one day I noticed I was no longer counting, only being.
Practice, practice, practice
Here’s the hard part. You actually have to do this. The more you do it, the more you realize how much you need to do this.
Some days, it’s easier. Some days, not so much. Some days, you forget. The next day, you get it back on the schedule.
Because for me, meditation fills me up, way more than a box of carbs.