When I used to hear the word “meditation”, hippies and sequestered monks came to mind. Never did I imagine that I would be open to the idea of meditation let alone practice it on a regular basis. I have found that not only am I now calmer and more relaxed,1 I have been able to use what I’ve learned to become a more intuitive eater.
To say I was having a rough 2017 was an understatement.2 I was in the middle of my most intense year as a school psychologist, my father suddenly became ill and died, and I sold my townhouse and moved into my father’s home. Over time, the mental exhaustion gave way to physical symptoms. I realized something wasn’t right when I could fall asleep pretty much anywhere or my heart would start pounding unexpectedly while I was watching TV with my husband. I was desperate to feel better and was willing to try anything.
Prior to becoming a school psychologist, I was an elementary teacher, and I still frequent proteacher.net and participate in their teacher forums. One day I created a post that described my symptoms and asked for advice about ways to deal with my stress. I was expecting suggestions like “take a bubble bath” or “drink tea”. A few members suggested meditation and the website/app Headspace. Meditation was never something I had considered. Because I knew my mental and physical wellness was at stake, I thought I’d give it a go and see what came of it. It couldn’t hurt, right?
I signed up for the free ten session trial of Headspace…and I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t feel any less stressed out. In fact, I began to freak out because the meditation sessions required me to focus inward, so I was more aware of my stress-related increased heart rate! I know that doing something once or twice might not make a difference, so I vowed to do the whole ten sessions, and I’m glad I did. When I got to the tenth session, I noticed a teeny, tiny difference in how I felt. Though it was small, I noticed a slight change in my general mood, my reactions to situations, and the quality of my sleep. Huh. Maybe there was something to this whole mediation thing after all! I went back and forth about the fee-based monthly subscription. I’m cheap and tried to find other free meditations, but there was something about Headspace’s format and guided practice that I was drawn to. After about a week of being Headspace-less, I noticed that my stress levels were inching back up. It’s like the universe heard me, and I got an email from Headspace offering me two free months with a year’s subscription. That did it! I have been Headspace-ing almost daily every since!3
I was over a year into my IE journey when I discovered Headspace, and it helped me be more attuned with my body, specifically when it came to my hunger and fullness cues. The meditation guide, Andy, starts off each meditation session with what I consider a meditation warm-up. With his soothing British accent, he has me sit, take some deep breaths, and get in touch with my senses like paying attention to sounds around me.4 Then he asks me to give that same attention to sensations within my body, to notice feelings of comfort or discomfort, of pain or tension, or of relaxation. This is called a mental body scan,5 and I used this time to draw my attention to the sensations in my stomach.
Though there are several non-stomach hunger and fullness cues, there are definitely some that are directly related to my stomach. I would ask myself how my stomach felt at that moment. A light gnawing or gurgling would have indicated that I was getting hungry whereas uncomfortable stomach pains meant I was ravenous. On the flip side, if I had just recently eaten, I would have examined my fullness. If my stomach felt satisfied and content or even neutral, then I was not hungry and didn’t biologically need any more food. However, if I felt Thanksgiving-dinner-stuffed or like I might be sick, then I probably overate. Of course, the deeper, calming meditation then takes place, but, in terms of IE, the quick yet simple focus on my stomach gave me timely insight into my body’s sensations.
As I write this, this seems like common sense, but because I taught myself to ignore my hunger and fullness cues when dieting, I found this exercise helped me be more attuned to what gentle hunger and fullness feel like. After going through this mental body scan repeatedly, I began to notice that I generalized this activity and regularly applied it to non-meditative times in my day. I was able to pause and ask myself where I was on a a hunger/fullness scale. Should I plan on eating soon or am I good for a while? Am I getting full or do I need to eat more to be satisfied? Am I perfect with this? Hell no. But, more often than not, I am able to use what I’ve learned through the mental body scans to help me recognize that my body is telling me something. I just have to listen.
Take a moment to focus your attention inward. How does your stomach feel at that moment? Please share in the comment section below.
1Even my road rage has subsided!
2I know everyone’s life is a tragedy, so I don’t expect pity. I know your life is hard too!
3Hey, Headspace! That’s some good promotion, right? Want to consider a discount on my subscription? Wink, wink…
4No, I am not delusional. I don’t think he’s speaking directly to me.
Thank you so much for reading my blog! I am honored that you chose to read about my experience.
You’ve made it this far. Now subscribe for regular updates. It’s easy! And you get a FREE Intuitive Eating quiz when you sign up!