MINDFUL EATING AND CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME

Hunger Scale 1 to 10 (1 = least hungry, 10 = most hungry)

 Eye  Nose  Mouth  Stomach  Cellular  Mind Heart 
0 0 0 0 0 10 10

As you will observe, my Hunger Scale looks markedly different from previous posts. Why? Because of a (sometimes for me) debilitating condition known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
It takes great effort to practice Mindfulness in eating, more so, when my coping mechanisms are depleted due to the over two-decade affliction of this malady.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) presents physiological symptoms involving neurological, endocrine and immune system dysfunction affecting the nervous system. I go to bed exhausted and wake up exhausted.

When my energy level is manageable, I have to pace the intensity of my day to day exertion. But sometimes (on a down cycle) I simply wake up with like what I envisage a massive hangover would feel like.

This past week I could hardly think straight, let alone have the cognitive energy involved in mindful eating. My brain felt like molasses. My head leaden, hungover and feeling pressurized. I didn’t even have the strength to cry to relieve the pressure as would a faucet letting out water. I’ve plummeted to chronic exhaustion. My neck and shoulder muscles aching, and hip sciatica aggravating the situation.

Since I’ve discovered Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction strategies for pain relief, I’ve been able to weather this ME/CFS down cycle during the past week. Using the Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief practice has helped to ride out this cycle. Thankfully, I can dance again in my kitchen to tunes of Creedence Clearwater Revival!

Jon Kabat-Zinn is the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine Health Care at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

How I implement the Practice of Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief as prescribed by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

I drop into the present moment as it is and turn my awareness to whatever it is that’s calling out for attention.
I acknowledge the chronic tiredness.
I acknowledge my leaden and fuzzy brain.
I acknowledge the neck and shoulder muscle pain.
I acknowledge the nagging hip pain.

I hold in awareness these intense sensations and the story line I’m telling myself about them – like, “I can’t take this anymore! How long is this going to go on for? How will it be tomorrow? What brought on this cycle?”

Rather than struggling against these sensations or wishing them to go away, I allow them to be here. I tune into the sensation of breathing and notice its ebb and flow like the waves of the ocean washing to shore. The sensation of breathing is the very essence of life itself. As a mother cradles a baby I cradle these sensations and emotions I feel, breathing into each. The more I practice, the more I am able to stay in awareness of what is happening in my body.

Kabat-Zinn says discomfort does not have to be an impediment to Mindfulness practice. However unpleasant, don’t STRUGGLE against the discomfort, but keep breathing into it till something shifts. I REST in awareness, letting the discomfort come and go, breathing in this breath in this moment and exhaling, moment by moment. Sometimes I sit quietly tuning into the awareness of breathing and other times, I meditate on the breath while going for a gentle walk.

Have these activities or practices been easy? By no means! I’ve capitalized the words “Struggle” and “Rest” which are key to the understanding of the Mindfulness practice. The more you struggle against the discomfort, the more suffering you create for yourself. Resting in the discomfort is a much better way of coping, in my experience.

Since this blog is about following the progress of my Mindful eating journey, how did I fare on my Hunger Scale?

For Eye, Nose, Mouth, Stomach and Cellular Hunger I scored zero because as I said earlier, my physical and cognitive coping mechanisms were down. However, for Mind and Heart Hunger I scored ten because the need to be comforted was so strong. I wasn’t hungry in the morning and relied on coffee for an energy boost and for comfort I reached out for crunchy food – and I’m not talking about carrot sticks! canstockphoto3641458 (1)

One of the tenets of the Mindfulness practice is non-judgement. Whereas before, my perfectionist tendencies would have been engaged in grave self-judgement, now I simply observe my condition and behaviour of the past week with empathy and self-love.

My blog is not about achieving results for weight loss or dieting, but rather about the eating component of Mindful practice in all spheres of my being. I hope anyone reading this who also suffers with ME/CFS may find this post helpful in relieving their own suffering.

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