By Josh Garcia

Over the past 18 months, I have actively pursued a healthier weight through more mindful eating. The journey has not been without its setbacks, but I nevertheless derive great satisfaction from reflecting on how far I have come. I regularly receive compliments on my forty pound weight loss, but for me the truest satisfaction lies in the changes I have observed in my relationship to food.

The works of Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Gabrielle Bernstein and many others have guided me toward an approach to eating that centers on food’s value as a fuel and nutrient source. This description may seem bland, but it is in reality quite the opposite. When prepared and consumed mindfully, a meal can become a beautiful and exciting act of self care. As I have moved along the path of mindfulness, gradually transforming eating into a studied act of love, all other dietary factors have naturally fallen into place. The internet is replete with healthy recipes and weight loss meal plans, but I have learned that none of this knowledge could have an effect on me until I accepted a simple truth: my issues with food were emotional issues, and thus had to be resolved on an emotional level.

The process of unpacking and releasing my emotional attachments to food has been long, but rewarding. It has involved a great deal of self study and patience as new habits began to form. If you are seeking to develop a healthier relationship with food, take comfort in the knowledge that many of the specifics will sort themselves out after you get your emotional house in order. There is no need to rush out and immediately buy a new diet book or health shake: the tools and teachers you need will appear when you are ready for them.

Begin simply by planting the seeds of mindful eating within your psyche.  With time, they will grow. Know that no specific action is required on the physical plane; your practice of conscious eating will yield deep, sustainable, and tangible changes in its own time. Slowly, the seeds of mindfulness will grow and transform your life. You cannot resist this gradual, seismic shift toward your best self, not even if you wanted to.

Each time you prepare to eat, ask yourself one or all of the following three questions. Then take three normal breaths and allow mindful eating to run its course.

“Am I hungry right now?” Isn’t it amazing that such a simple question can cut to the core of compulsive eating? 

“What am I hungry for?” Hungry for love? Success? Peace of mind? Food can only eliminate physical hunger. Sit with this knowledge for a moment. 

“Why have I chosen this food?” It isn’t a sin to choose food because of taste, convenience, or even emotional reasons like nostalgia. Remember that the goal is not to berate yourself for making “bad” choices. Your aim is simply to understand your thoughts and the decisions you make. 

I would conclude by reminding anyone interested in this journey that mindful eating is a practice, not a destination. There will be times when your focus on healthy portions and nutrition is impeccable and borderline monastic. There will be times when you find yourself eating robotically and blank eyed while driving down the highway. As with a dedicated yoga practice, the only goal is to continue showing up, day after day. Surrender your attachment to outcomes, so that the vibrant, perfect, present moment may (at long last) arrive.