The culmination of these 3 phases is Mastered Eating. Mastered eating occurs from the simultaneous integration or amalgamation of having a base of structured eating, honing mindfulness as a tool and enlisting intuitive body processes into eating. The resultant is an eater who is so confident of when, what and how much to eat they no longer need to refer to their ‘meal’ plan. It is an eater who can stay present of the food experience while being in other experiences as well. And finally, an eater who can let the now-balanced body guide the process and trust that their body will act in accordance to health, wellbeing and wholeness.
I’ve sometimes joked with my patients saying that they were not in recovery to become a ‘normal’ eater. I would tell them that our work was to have them realize the expert eater in themselves. This is the same as saying Sarena Williams is not just a tennis player, she’s a pro tennis player. This is what we are striving for in the final phase of the Integrated Eatingtm Approach.
Let’s consider what this would look like. The Mastered Eater wakes up in the morning and knows instinctively that it’s breakfast time. She doesn’t wonder if she’ll get a chance to eat it but moves the understanding that it will happen. She has several ways of knowing: for one, she’s been eating breakfast every day for a very, very, very long time. Also, she knows it’s breakfast time and finally, she’s hungry! Her body has already integrated several different versions of balanced breakfast so much so that her body has communicated which of those versions aligns best with her physical needs. She chooses eggs and toast and juice. While she eats she’s present for her experience and enjoys her meal. The flavors and textures were exactly what she wanted and she is now ready to move on with her day. This example illustrates the integration of all three phases simultaneously to create a version of eating that is synergistically different than any phase on its own. However it would be a miscommunication to say that Mastered Eating was simply about practicing these three tools of eating at the same time.
Mastery takes time and there is no point in rushing the process because the process is what creates the mastery. However it can be so important to realize that you don’t need to be a ‘mastered eater’ to have mastery moments. On your way to Integrated Eating you can practice mastered moments, times of eating in a structured way with mindfulness but also allowing for body guidance. For instance, let’s say it’s dinner time and you are out at a restaurant. You look at the menu and realize all the entrees are balanced accordingly so you consider what you’re in the mood for. You’ve just used both structured and intuitive tools! Let’s say your meal comes and you sit and mindfully eat it with presence and stop when you’re full. You’ve just used mindful and intuitive tools! These are mastery moments. If you put many mastery moments together you move towards Integrated Eating.
As an individual in recovery moves through the stages or phases they evolve. Along with getting more proficient at the task of eating there is room that is creative for a deeper process. This process is spiritual in nature. The individual can move into an inner knowing and trust that is beyond learning how to eat but how to live in an integrated way. There life, like Sareena Wiliams tennis game becomes a gorgeous, choreographed, sensual, soul- drenched, dance. And when you see this style of eating, the tennis match or this way of living, you as an observer, invoke a feeling of awe from its delicate combination of strength and grace, confidence and vulnerability, edge and mastery. And just as we consider the aspects of Body, Mind and Soul intersecting to create a whole and complete person, when Structured Eating, Mindful Eating and Intuitive Eating thread together a whole and complete eater emerges. But more than that, a transcendence from the eating disorder all together.
Find some mastery moments in your day. Notice the moments when within structure you are being mindful or intuitive. What is it like to notice these events?
Consider what it would be like to eat like a pro, expert or master. What is your next step towards moving in that direction? Why?
Find moments in your eating where there was there was a sacred type of experience, where your eating disorder didn’t define you and you felt yourself stepping both deeper into yourself as well as trusting in something larger than yourself. Describe this experience.