Try a Side of Mindfulness

Pizza and self controlI took the third piece of pizza. It tasted good, the first bite or so. But then, I was just sick feeling and my stomach was tight and gurgling. Heck, two pieces would have been plenty, but I wasn’t thinking. Seriously, I WAS NOT THINKING. We were watching a movie, I was gobbling the food, not really experiencing it. Totally unaware. No way was I paying attention to how my body was feeling, which was to say, way full. So I grabbed that last piece.

Then, my body hurt and I felt mad at myself and even a bit guilty. Right? Because often the very thing we need to survive — food — becomes a source of punishment.

This is why a more mindful approach to eating and to life is working better for me. I’ve stopped worrying about what I eat, and I’m developing my awareness to enjoy ALL that I eat. I do want to be conscious so that I can make good choices. And, if I’m going to eat the junk I want to appreciate every salty mouthful. When I eat mindlessly I don’t because 1) I’m zoned out. 2) Because I’m zoned out I eat too much AND that makes me feel gross, which isn’t all that enjoyable.

Authors Jean Kristeller, Phd and Alisa Bowman write about this in their new book The Joy of Half a Cookie: Using Mindfulness to Lose Weight and End the Struggle with Food.

Try a Side of Mindfulness

I live with mindfulness pretty regularly. At least I’m working on it. I have a chime on my phone every hour to remind me to pause and be mindful. I meditate. I consciously pause throughout my day to become aware without judgment.

I practice this stuff and so that the habit becomes stronger BECAUSE mindfulness IS ALL THAT. It is the easiest most practical way I’ve found to ground myself so that I can freakin’ calm down, and notice my life. AND, WHEN I DO, I can savor it or give thanks for it or move into compassion or whatever moves me.

Yet the food thing has been harder for me. That’s why I think this is such a worthwhile topic. It stands to reason that if we slow down, become aware, and take note of our body and our foods we don’t have to fight against either of them. Like we can become allies with food — the very thing that actually sustains us, instead of fighting against it.

This is the basis behind mindful eating and there is plenty of science to back it up.

CookieThe authors say, Mindful Eating Is:

Deliberately paying attention to your experience of food WITHOUT JUDGING.

Becoming aware in each moment of your thoughts, emotions, hunger, flavor, the  nutritional value of food and other factors.

Appreciating the difference between real physical hunger and other triggers.

Choosing to eat foods that you enjoy AND those that nourish your body.

Experiencing the flavor of food and it evolves from one bite to the next.

Noticing how fullness develops and how it feels to be full. Ding, Ding, Ding, this one set off the alarm. Yes. Right?

Using nutritional information to make informed eating choices.

And, the capper, Mindful eating FREES ENERGY FROM WORRIES ABOUT FOOD.

So, with this list in my hot little hand, I decided to just work with these things. For lunch I just ate a piece of chicken in spicy mole sauce and it, not kidding when I say this, was one of the best meals I’ve eaten. Ever. So full of flavor and spice AND yet, I left part of that goodness on the plate.

Huh. That doesn’t happen much. Read: Never. I was taught NOT to leave anything behind. But, I felt so full and satisfied and just happy about it all, that I didn’t need ANYTHING ELSE.

Mindfulness allows you to tune into your life and that means your meals too, in an open, comforting way that allows for clarity, insight, wisdom. And peace, people, there is peace here, even if your are leaning over a big ol’ pan of brownies.

No need for judgment, guilt, self-criticism and just knowing THAT takes the pressure off and probably some of the weight too.

Lose Weight, Enjoy Your Food with Mindfulness

If you give a stressed mom a cookie… she’ll stand at the counter and eat the entire box.

Been there. Done that.

Course it doesn’t have to be cookies, or even junk food. Often when I’m pounding on the keyboard trying to get a post out or an article done, I skip eating altogether. By then, I’m starving and I must eat everything I see Like Right Now. I’ll walk to the kitchen and grab anything sitting there, and by “there” I mean in the fridge and in the cupboard and on the counter. Anything that is ready to eat quick-like – no chopping, cooking involved – I’m going to eat.

If that’s an unpeeled orange leftover from breakfast, fine, it’s as good as gone. But if it’s a few broCookieken crackers at the end of the bag, a leftover cookie from my husband’s lunch party,or pasta set aside for tonight’s dinner, I’ll scarf it down too. Usually without noticing or tasting or enjoying.

I’ve written about that kind of mindless eating before in these pages, and I’ve talked about the antidote – mindfulness.

Now I’m reading this book The Joy of Half a Cookie: Using Mindfulness to Lose Weight and End the Struggle with Food, by Jean Kristeller, PhD and Alisa Bowman and it’s giving me the science behind the practice of mindful eating and plenty of things to help me slow down and become aware of what my body needs so that I can make conscious choices, enjoy my food more, AND END the STRUGGLE around food.

Did you get that? END THE STRUGGLE. This is big news because I’m so over the struggle in my life. On my best-person days, I DO NOT do it anymore, the struggle thing. I let things come and go. I feel sad if I feel sad and I keep looking for the joy, and then I take it in and savor the goodness that is always around. All the time I am learning to let go and not fight against the world. I’m looking looking for ways to meet hard with softness. I’m building in the practice of mindfulness, the habit, so when I’m prone to anger or freak out or worry, I can stop struggling even then.

I don’t think even our hardest days require struggle. We don’t have to do it that way. We can live with self-compassion and grace and mindfulness and intelligence and humor. We can assume a growth mindset and be gritty, and test drive a zillion other things that I write about and try to live by so that we can all NOT STRUGGLE.

And yet I struggle with food. I don’t hate it. I don’t obsess about. But rarely, do I give it my attention. I eat too fast. Don’t savor. I don’t eat enough, or I eat way, way too much. I’m not good with portion size. If it’s on my plate it’s going down – a habit that is not working for me.

Mostly, I want to notice the food I’m eating. To enjoy it, to make food choices that leave me feeling energized, and not too full at the end of a meal.

This is the stuff Kristeller and Bowman write about: “the middle way between mindless eating and restricting eating.”

“It’s not about shifting back and forth between one and the other,” they write. “It’s about finding the balance between these two extremes where flexibility, conscious choice, and enjoyment meet.”

Yes. This. When you identify what your body craves, and learn to savor those foods – you can actually enjoy your food more, say the writers. Yes. Please.

And get this, science shows that you can eat the foods you want like chips or a donut, without gobbling down the entire box, or feeling guilty, or out of control. We can eat, and even enjoy our fave foods and not feel guilty.

And this positive stuff keeps food freak-out at bay and can help you create greater awareness which, Kristeller and Bowman say, helps you “uncover the hidden sources of weight gain.”

So yeah, you might drop a few pounds (research says you will) by eating mindfully, AND you’ll also be living more deliberately, giving your body what it needs to feel awesome, AND eating the food you enjoy.

Serve me up a side of that. Are you ready to try a more mindful approach to eating?