Mindful Eating Over Pesach

26 March 2018 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

“Gam zu l’tova. This too is for the good.” – Nachum Ish Gamzu, Talmud, Taanit, 21a

“When things get “hard” it reminds me that this too is for the best and I need to reorient my thinking to this realization.” – Rabbi Yitz Greenman

Thank you to all my Jewish friends and clients for sharing your Pesach food challenges. I have selected the most prominent difficulties with food and suggested a different way of approaching them with a mindfulness point of view. This one specifically relates to Pesach. I have also written a few pieces on how to handle food and the holidays.

Pre-Pesach Cleaning and Shopping

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Viktor Frankl

Yes, cleaning out the kitchen and house and shopping for kosher foods is a hassle! It takes time, work and effort. If it’s something you dread perhaps this year it’s time do things differently and put the drama aside?  How you handle this, is in your attitude. If you have chosen to do it – how can you bring a joyful attitude to cleaning? Could you see this as an opportunity for cleansing on all levels – not just the home? As an opportunity to clean out old beliefs and thoughts that are not serving you? Habits that are destructive? You could approach the cleaning on a spiritual and soul level. Ask yourself what in my life needs to be cleansed?

What attitude will you choose to bring to the cleaning, shopping, preparing of food this Pesach?

Food Restriction, Dissatisfaction and Deprivation

“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” – Viktor Frankl

Having food rules and eliminating food groups is especially triggering for those of us recovering from years of dieting. It’s also triggering for those who have never dieted. It is hard not to be able to eat what you want when you want it. Not eating bread can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and deprivation.

How can we create meaning from this restriction? Remember it’s a choice.

Let’s put this into perspective – remind yourself it’s 8 days out of 365 days of the year, it’s not forever, this will pass. It’s also an opportunity to release dependency on certain foods. You have a chance to pause, make space and embrace the change. Instead of resisting and dreading the restriction – how can you change your attitude towards this restriction?

A Buddhist teacher Shinzen Young said:

SUFFERING = PAIN + RESISTANCE

Pain is part of life – no point denying it. However, suffering is optional.
Pain without resistance is simply pain.
Yes, having forbidden foods imposed on you is painful. However, resistance and dread create more suffering.
If you allowed it to be as it is – it would simply be painful without the additional suffering.
Can you allow the discomfort of not being able to eat what you want and not resist it?
Can you allow yourself to experience what deprivation feels like? How it feels to long for certain foods?
Can you bring an attitude of gentleness and curiosity to these feelings rather than judgement for experiencing them?

Long Seders

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
– Viktor Frankl

Yes, the Seder is long – some things take time.
Can you let it be as long as it needs to be?
Create an intention for Pesach. Stay in the present as much as you can. This is a time of reflection and a time for connection. Think about the meaning of this time and create an intention that feels good and meaningful.
Is it to connect with family and friends in a meaningful way?
Is it to connect spiritually?
Is it to get through this time with grace and ease?

Whatever it is, decide ahead of time and try not to create drama in your mind about how long it is. When you notice yourself going into drama about how difficult it is, can you gently go into grace and acceptance?

Perhaps use the time around the table to create meaning, ask meaningful questions, create connection and memories. Reflect on what really matters – the sharing, passing on of stories and traditions.

Mindfulness is paying attention to this moment, this experience with openess and curiosity and a willingness to be with whatever arises. How can you bring this attitude into the long Seders?

Be with the joy but in the same way can you be with hunger or boredom or perhaps longing of people who are not with you? Can you allow and be with the unpleasant and the pleasant knowing that both will pass?

Rich Foods

Allow yourself to have these foods. Do not try to eliminate them or say you will resist them because chances are you will land up overeating them. Don’t judge the foods or judge yourself for eating them, this only leads to feelings of guilt.

Eat them!
Enjoy them!
Savour them!
Stop when your body has had enough.

Fear of Hunger and Overeating

You can never have enough of what you don’t want. Matza pizza will never be the same as dough pizza – kosher sweets don’t always taste as nice as non-kosher sweets. Instead of chasing the taste rather look at eating other foods.

You will get hungry and you will most likely overeat. Remind yourself that it will pass. Can you be with the discomfort? It’s just a matter of time. Get your inner nurturer on your side. Your thinking determines if it will be easier or harder.

You may also feel full and uncomfortable because of the foods and amounts that you need to eat. Again remember it’s only for a few days. You will digest your food. The physical discomfort is only for a short space of time – try not to add another layer of emotional or mental pain to the physical pain.

Be mindful of your thoughts during Pesach

– I’ve blown it so let me just carry on
– This is so hard
– That’s enough
– I shouldn’t
– I mustn’t
– Who cares
– I will start again next week … after Pesach

Replace these thoughts with:

– This is hard but I am learning how to deal with discomfort
– I would love some bread but I can manage for a few more days, it’s not the end of the world
– It’s only 8 days
– It’s painful but I don’t need to suffer
– I am learning to be okay with deprivation and restriction
– I am learning to be patient with long Seders

Every meal is an opportunity to practice, learn and start again. Learn from the previous meal and apply it to the next. We are aiming for progress NOT perfection. Imperfect action!
Take it meal by meal; moment by moment and bite by bite.

Post Pesach backlash on forbidden foods

After a period of having restricted foods, it’s normal to want to overeat the foods that have been forbidden. Can you bring your awareness to these foods when you eat them? Give yourself permission to eat them and eat slowly with your full attention.
Practice the BASICS of mindful eating (a free PDF download for you).
Mostly enjoy them! Most importantly, if you have overeaten them, don’t beat yourself up!

This is a joyful time. Bring an Attitude of Gratitude … for family and friends, for togetherness around the table, for community, tradition and religion and all the ties that bond us.

This Passover and always

May you be free from suffering around food
May you be happy and joyful
May you be peaceful
May there be joy in your home

Love
Xen

Tired of overeating and feeling out of control around food? Dieting and restriction hasn’t worked for you? Do you want to find peace and freedom around food? Book a free Online Intro Session with me or join my “Food Freedom” 8 Week Programme (available in Jo’burg & Pretoria).

You can also sign up for my free Mindful Eating “Slightly Different” Advent Calendar to enjoy over the festive season.

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