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Real Happiness Challenge - Week 2: Eating Hard or Hardly Eating?

As a society, it's fair to say that we have a fraught relationship with food.

We eat our feelings. We starve our feelings. We binge. We purge. We use food as a tribal signifier. We throw away the leftovers and leave the cake out in the rain. We are picky eaters. We count calories and eat so quickly we neglect to breathe.

If you're not familiar with "mindful eating," or even if you are, here's a three-part exercise you can try this week.

1. Wait until you are hungry. Maybe you worked through lunch or postponed dinner. Maybe your stomach is growling or maybe your are irritable and don't know why except that, oh, you ate a Clif bar twelve hours ago and nothing sense. Anyway. Before you eat, sit with that hunger for five minutes and feel it fully. If you feel angry, or frightened, or tired, notice how it is that you feel this way. For five minutes, cover these feelings with your awareness.

2. Sit down to a meal you love. Practice Sharon Salzberg's eating meditation. If you've never done an eating meditation before, it works best if you're alone and eating a meal you consider particularly delicious. With some experience, these techniques also work when you're dining with a group, or even hitting the Del Taco drive-thru.

3. When you are done, sit with your digestive process for five more minutes. How do you feel after this meal? Whether you feel nourished or nauseated, practice gratitude for the sacrifices and the process that brought this food your way.

Try this with one meal a day for a week. You may find yourself relating to food in more thoughtful ways. You may become more curious about where your food comes from and your relationship with your ecosystem. You may just take a nap. That's okay, too.

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