Meditation and craving for Food

Ankush G, modified 1 Month ago.

Meditation and craving for Food

Posts: 3 Join Date: 9/3/21 Recent Posts
I have been meditating for almost 6 months now and have started to realize my own 'craving towards taste' which leads me to overeat and is the biggest reason for my obesity. At times, while I am able to catch my 'intention of eating', I don't have enough patience to let that feeling pass away. So even when I'm aware that this craving to eat is just a ' craving' and not real hunger, I'm not able to stop myself from acting on it.

I'm happy about the progress I've made where I'm now atleast aware of my 'intention to experience taste' when I'm off-cushion ( though not always), I want to know if anyone has been through a similar exprience with any other craving and at what stage would I be able to have better control over my hunger cravings?

Is this something which can happen with the 'insight of impermanence' where I'd have a deep realization that this craving for food is going to pass away? Or am I expecting too much from my meditation practice and the solution to healthy eating doesn't lie in insight meditation?
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Meditation and craving for Food

Posts: 1014 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Ankush G

Is this something which can happen with the 'insight of impermanence' where I'd have a deep realization that this craving for food is going to pass away? Or am I expecting too much from my meditation practice and the solution to healthy eating doesn't lie in insight meditation?


I think it's a bit hard to judge from an internet post. Meditation might help.

But don't just examine your intention to eat. Or your desire for taste. Try to look deeper. How do you feel about being obese? How do you feel about not being able to control your desire? Look for layers under layers under layers of thoughts and emotions that you might not be fully conscious of. Keep asking why? At first try not so much for control but for understanding, deep deep deep understanding. Where do all these thoughts emotions impulses and sensations come from? Are they produced by unconscious processes?

Notice how hard it is to control your mind in meditation. It always wanders. If you can't control your mind in meditation, is it realistic to expect to control your eating? Try to observer everything that is happening in your mind. Then observe the observer.

You don't say what type of meditation you do. Most people on this forum do a lot of vipassana. It might help to do both vipassana and samatha meditation.
Ankush G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Meditation and craving for Food

Posts: 3 Join Date: 9/3/21 Recent Posts

You don't say what type of meditation you do. Most people on this forum do a lot of vipassana. It might help to do both vipassana and samatha meditation.

Thanks for your reply Jim.
Yes, I do Vipassana meditation - Started with Goenka's body-scanning but have recently started noting practice.
Are you suggesting to do Samatha for improved self-control? Sorry for this naive question, but any guidance on the kind of Samatha practice which leads to better off-cushion self-control will be very helpful.
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Meditation and craving for Food

Posts: 1014 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Ankush G

You don't say what type of meditation you do. Most people on this forum do a lot of vipassana. It might help to do both vipassana and samatha meditation.

Thanks for your reply Jim.
Yes, I do Vipassana meditation - Started with Goenka's body-scanning but have recently started noting practice.
Are you suggesting to do Samatha for improved self-control? Sorry for this naive question, but any guidance on the kind of Samatha practice which leads to better off-cushion self-control will be very helpful.
If you want to puruse your idea of using meditation to gain will power to lose weight, I would suggest you look up information on using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to lose weight, and information on using meditation within CBT. I'm not that knowledgable on those subjects so I don't want to say more. A psychologist who uses CBT might be able to help you with this too.

Based on an internet post I can't say what is causing your obesity. Also I am not a doctor or dietitian so I don't know what is the best way to help your obesity. So I don't know that self control is really a solution. I've read that methods of weight loss based on self control don't work. I've also read that for some people changing their diet can help.

People who meditate a lot tend to believe less in free will - they tend see everything as a result of cause and effect, they may feel like an observer to which life happens.

My point here is that you and I see the problem differently. You want to gain will power to eat less. I don't look at meditation as way to get will power or will power as a way to lose weight. I look at meditation as a way to ease suffering (reduce mental anguish).

I suggested ways to meditate that I think will reduce your mental anguish. When there is less mental anguish involved it often becomes possible to solve a problem using compassion and reason because out-of-control emotions are removed from your thinking. So meditation could help but it might help in unexpected ways. For example, if you are overeating due to psychological reasons, meditation might help, it might reduce your urge to eat.

Anyway I think samatha meditation would help you relax and calm mental turbulence which might help someone who overeats due to stress, and it can enhance your ability to do vipassana which might help someone untangle any psychological reasons they are overeating.

Just to be clear, I don't recommend meditation as a way to gain the will power to eat less although it might help in other ways. If you want a treatment for obesity I think you should consult a doctor or a dietician. Have you tried that? If so, how has it worked?
Eudoxos ., modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Meditation and craving for Food

Posts: 87 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
Other already wrote nice responses, so just a few things which might be helpful.

> Yes, I do Vipassana meditation - Started with Goenka's body-scanning but have recently started noting practice.

As far as I know, Goenka does not include (at least in the beginnings) mindfulness of feelings and thoughts, just the body sensations. So noting feelings and thoughts is certainly necessary to see the processes happening better.

I'd suggest you look at Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), it is derived from MBSR but targetting relapse in addictive behaviors (including over-eating). They have an exercise called urge-surfing when you see the urge come and go (and how the urge comes by itself, and how unpleasant it is! all the 3c right there) and many others.

None of this is about power of will, though; pretending that to yourself or thinking it should be that way makes relapse more likely (read the Alcoholics Anonymous Blue Book for inspiration on that). It is all result of habits, of training little by little, and it is these (new) habits which will eventually help you to get rid of the old ones. With patience, of course, something you will build on the way as well.

You can make resolution not to act on the urge just for one day "no matter what" (alcoholics do this, going day by day). And then note all the feelings coming with that (shame, anger, fear, ... whatever , as it comes), and you might even decide consciously to distract yourself (such as taking a walk, and noting lightly). It can happen you won't be able to keep the resolution of not eating, but that is okay, that is not your "fault" (it happens because of conditions) and you try again.comes

Oh yes, meditation (developing mindfulness, that is) will help you, a lot, though knowing better what is happening in every moment. It is not that one has some magic insight into impermanence out of nothing and then you see the urge as impermanent. It is *by watching the urge* in that moment that you get one more drop of understanding (the universal) impermanence.
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Jim Smith, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Meditation and craving for Food

Posts: 1014 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Jim Smith

...

But don't just examine your intention to eat.


I probably should have said more about what I meant by examining your intention to eat: When you feel the urge to eat, try to notice what that is like. Are there physical sensations in your body that you recognize as an urge? Is it just a thought or are there emotions too? Do you feel your muscles getting ready to move your body to go get food? Why do you want to eat, are you hungry, bored, anxious etc? Notice the urge to eat is not something you plan to have, it arises from unconscious processes (maybe biological, maybe cognitive) - should you obey something that you did not choose? If you think about it, do you really want to eat or are you just blindly obeying an urge that comes up from who-knows-where?

I don't know if this will help you have more will power, but it might help in other ways, for example it might help someone realize it's not their fault that they are obese.
Ankush G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Meditation and craving for Food

Posts: 3 Join Date: 9/3/21 Recent Posts
Jim Smith
Jim Smith ... But don't just examine your intention to eat.
I probably should have said more about what I meant by examining your intention to eat: When you feel the urge to eat, try to notice what that is like. Are there physical sensations in your body that you recognize as an urge? Is it just a thought or are there emotions too? Do you feel your muscles getting ready to move your body to go get food? Why do you want to eat, are you hungry, bored, anxious etc? Notice the urge to eat is not something you plan to have, it arises from unconscious processes (maybe biological, maybe cognitive) - should you obey something that you did not choose? If you think about it, do you really want to eat or are you just blindly obeying an urge that comes up from who-knows-where? I don't know if this will help you have more will power, but it might help in other ways, for example it might help someone realize it's not their fault that they are obese.
Thanks Jim!

I understand we are looking at the problem with a different lens, but,  In my mind, here's what I was hoping to build as a set of capabilities with regular meditation practice:

1) Capability to be aware of this urge whenever it arises (off-cushion) . This is working well so far, I am now able to catch myself craving for food -though not 100% of the time.
2) Capability to be able to take a pause and reevaluate my default action of 'grab something to eat' - I was refering to this as will power/ self-control but I think your insight that I should examine the urge deeper is good. Maybe the solution is not in summoning the will-power to control my default action, but is in 'seeing-through' the craving and maybe it'll dissolve on its own.

I've been trying to observe the craving to understand where the urge is coming from. Most of the times it is either boredom or anxiety. But' I'll continue down this path and will update the thread with what I find emoticon

Thanks again for all the help!
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Meditation and craving for Food

Posts: 2064 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Hi Ankush, to explore these urges and the emotions underlying them in more depth, you might find Gendlin's Focussing helpful. The technique is summarized here but the book is good because it has lots of examples. It's basically a way of working with the felt sense of the emotion in the body using prompts from the subconscious. It's kind of like a mediator's way of doing depth therapy on yourself. I often find that the urge is largely independent of its expression, and in any case the body basically knows how to solve its own problems if you can get the rational mind out of the way! Focussing is actually quite good fun once you get the hang of it - I'm always curious to see what my body knows that my rational mind is usually completely wrong about!

I think that unless you really get down to releasing the underlying emotions from the body, then self-control doesn't actually address the root suffering. Often when people get some external control over an addiction they end up getting addicted to a different substance/behavior, or else they get addicted to abstinence! It might be less of an external problem, but the mental suffering and emotional discomfort are still there. 

I hope it's helpful for you. Good luck!
George
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terry, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Meditation and craving for Food

Posts: 1770 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
aloha ag,

   Diogenes masturbated in public, at least once. He liked to illustrate his points graphically. When the crowd asked him about it, he told them, "would that I could rub my belly and appease hunger in the same way."

   Food is an addiction that you cannot overcome, you really do need it. And sexual desire is the wellspring of all love and passion.

   So, we have to deal with this. Obesity, you recognize, is evidence of a less than optimal strategy for dealing with addictions. Taking up meditation, especially vipassanna, is the best idea you have ever had. If you persist you will become healthy and content.

   You already have figured it out, you have the insight you need. Your appetite is affected by more than a simple need for nutrition. You take pleasure in taste and seek to maintain and increase that pleasure by eating. You also eat because you need nutrition, and your appetite serves that as well. You need to work with your appetite, take pleasure in healthy, real food.

   The trick is not to diet, but to eat healthy and let that control your diet. Don't change everything all at once, but phase out foods that are made in laboratories to fool your body into thinking it is eating something good. Avoid artificial flavors, added sugar, added salt, preservatives, anything like that. Eat fresh, wholesome food. Phase out meat and dairy, they are bad for you, bad for the biosphere, bad for the planet. Fresh fruit, brown rice and vegetables are what I eat.And homemade bread and nut butters. I've only recently given up milk and half and half, and I'm working on cheese and butter. I get healthier all the time.

   Good luck, bra, you are on the right track. Not only eat mindfully, but overeat mindfully. When you indulge yourself in candy or ice cream, try notice how crappy that stuff makes you feel, vs fruit, tofu, rice and broccoli. Avoid potatos, they're nothing but starch aking to be loaded with sodium and grease.

   Healthy eating reduces suffering more than anything.

   If you can get control of your body when you are "a black haired young man" you will greatly appreciate it when you are old. Many people live decades with really crappy burnt out bodies, suffering all the while.  If you control your food addiction, you will have success with all your addictions.

terry
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terry, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Meditation and craving for Food

Posts: 1770 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
from idries shah, "los sufis":
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Many of the Nasrudin tales highlight the fact that people seeking mystical attainment expect it on their own terms, and hence generally exclude themselves from it before they start. Nobody can hope to arrive at illumination if he thinks that he knows what it is, and believes that he can achieve it through a well-defined path which he can conceive at the moment of starting. Hence the story of the woman and the sugar:

When Nasrudin was a magistrate, a woman came to him with her son. ‘This youth,’ she said, ‘eats too much sugar. I cannot afford to keep him in it. Therefore I ask you formally to forbid him to eat it, as he will not obey me.’
Nasrudin told her to come back in seven days.

When she returned, he postponed his decision for yet another week.
‘Now,’ he said to the youth, ‘I forbid you to eat more than such and such a quantity of sugar every day.’

The woman subsequently asked him why so much time had been necessary before a simple order could be given.

‘Because, madam, I had to see whether I myself could cut down on the use of sugar, before ordering anyone else to do it.’

The woman’s request had been made, in accordance with most automatic human thinking, simply on the basis of certain assumptions. The first was that justice can be done merely by giving injunctions; secondly, that a person could in fact eat as little sugar as she wanted her son to eat; thirdly, that a thing can be communicated to another person by someone who is not himself involved in it.

This tale is not simply a way of paraphrasing the statement: ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ Far from being an ethical teaching, it is one of grim necessity.
Sufi teaching can only be done by a Sufi, not by a theoretician or intellectual exponent.

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