Identifying and Acting on Intent
If mindless eating is a problem, you might also be mindless in other areas of your life. Being mindful and acting with deliberate intent make each moment fuller and brighter—eating cheesecake, showering, or cleaning out the garage. Practice living with intent and I can practically guarantee that your life and your eating will change for the better.
The difference between acting without or with deliberate intent is not simply three letters of the alphabet. It’s as large as the ocean, as vast as the sky. When you act mindlessly, you don’t know where you’re going and are, therefore, taking a risk on where you’ll end up. When you behave purposefully, you set your sights on a specific direction and destination, then assess how you’re doing getting where you want to go.
For example, let’s say you’re angry at your spouse or partner for not having done the laundry when he or she promised it would be done. Before you open your mouth, do you recognize exactly what you’re feeling and why? Do you know what point you want to get across? If not, you may end up saying, “Geez, I can’t believe you didn’t do the laundry again. I guess I can’t depend on you for anything.” What you did in this instance is mindlessly unload and release the tension you were holding about being disappointed or frustrated. But, had you considered what point you wanted to get across here—how a failed promise hurt you and that doing laundry is an important task for you to share as a couple—you might have done better by saying, “I’m really disappointed that you didn’t do the laundry. We agreed we’d alternate weeks. I’m not being accusatory, but I am curious: What prevented you from doing it?”
Here’s another example from the world of eating. If you’re out to dinner celebrating a friend’s birthday, what is your intent with the meal? To know that, you would need to be mindful and pay attention. Without identifying your intent, you might get caught up in celebrating and eat and drink too much. With it, you might identify your intent as: to make your friend feel special and let her or him know how important this friendship is to you, to enjoy your food and eat with awareness, to stop eating when you’re no longer hungry, and to bring home leftovers for the following night when you’ll be working late.
During the day, stop frequently and ask yourself what your deliberate intent is for whatever you’re doing. Before each interaction with food, pose the question: What is my purpose in eating this food? Don’t rush your answer, but give yourself time to know what you wish to do. Then, as you’re eating, monitor if you’re following your intent.