Category Archives: Mindful Eating

Happiness Habits

Vegetables and fruitWhat would a happier life look like for you?

Would you be healthier? Have deeper friendships? Would you simply be content?

The decisions and actions that make up our lives rest on our habits.

We usually don’t think about our habits too much. Do yours bring you happiness? Do they create enjoyable relationships, activities, feelings, experiences? Or do they pull you down?

Thinking about our lives and decisions lets us figure out what we want. When we then base our actions on our goals, we can craft a life filled with a sense of well-being. We can create habits that move us towards joy.

Build the Foundation for Change

What do you want to take on? Start by listing some things that would make your life better. Engaging work? Financial stability? A comfortable home free from clutter?

Choose one area, and let’s think about  what small steps you can take towards your dream.

For example, say you’d like to get healthier. Perhaps you want to add more vegetables to your diet. What kinds of habits could get you there?

Eat More Vegetables

Most Americans eat far fewer than the recommended daily five to eight servings of vegetables and fruits. (Readers from other countries: do people in your culture eat more of them, and if so, what advice can you pass along to people in the United States?)

Does that sound unbearable? One serving, though, is just half a cup of cooked vegetables or one cup of something raw like salad. So if you start by adding one serving of vegetables a day and do that for a month, you’re already doing quite a bit better than you were.

Add another serving the next month. Before long you’re up to snuff.

It’s important to note that your goal isn’t to lose weight. You may or may not go after that goal later. Now you’re just trying to eat more vegetables. If you do, you’ll probably lose weight naturally, if that’s what you want. And for sure you’re adding a lot more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and all that good stuff to your life.

If you have an aversion to vegetables, they’ll need to taste especially good or else you probably won’t stick with this. For a few months, then, add a generous splash of olive oil, a sauce, some mayonnaise. We’re not talking about going overboard, but add enough so that you can really taste it.

If you want to move towards little or no fat with them, it’ll be easier to do this as you come to enjoy the taste of the vegetables themselves.

Enjoy Your New Habit

As you’re making changes, reflect often on how glad and proud you are. You’re doing well.

Notice how you feel physically and emotionally — it’s very reinforcing.

Creating a healthy habit can be easy. Do it very slowly, in small steps, and you’ll succeed.

Readers: What new habits have you created? What are you working on, and what’s one small step towards forming a habit?

Savoring Our Food

Green Grapes on the Vine“Wolf…Wolf……..Wolf!” Can you hear that sound at workplaces all over the United States? It’s the sound of us wolfing down our lunches while we sit at our desks, trying to work and eat at the same time. Some of us are under tremendous pressure to produce more and more at work as a condition of keeping our jobs, and personal needs like nourishing our bodies fall off our priority lists. Almost all of us have lives that are over-scheduled to the point where we eat in our cars, eat standing up, rush through meals without tasting our food.

We deserve better.

Savoring our food is a radical act. There isn’t much cultural support for eating slowly enough to thoroughly enjoy food or even to be aware of what we’re eating. You may feel that it’s unrealistic or even weird to close your eyes a few times during a meal to notice sweet, bland, and sour flavors and to feel a crispy food become soft. However, doing this actually changes us. If we start chewing slowly enough to taste our meals and snacks, we begin to carry mindfulness into the rest of our day without even thinking about it.

I love grapes and had some for breakfast this morning. They’re from the farmers’ market and are especially delicious. If there’s any food that is worth eating mindfully, it’s these grapes. I put one in my mouth and closed my eyes. I wanted to eat them quickly because they’re so good. But accepting my desire to rush, I chewed them slowly. After a bit, the delightful sweetness faded, and I noticed how much I disliked that. The textures held my interest: very juicy, a tough skin, slippery beneath the skin. Who knew?

Try this exercise and see what happens.

A New Way To Handle Overeating

Your intention was to not overeat. But now that you’re done eating, you don’t feel so great. You aren’t stuffed, exactly, but you’re uncomfortably full.

Guilt starts rising up. Normally this would be the moment where one of two things would happen, or perhaps both. You’d begin berating yourself: “I can’t believe you did this again! What’s the matter with you?” You might also say, “Well, I’ve blown it, so I might as well keep eating.”

But instead you pause and catch yourself. You’re committed not to perfection and fast weight loss, but rather to freeing yourself from a painful relationship with food.

You’re going to need a moment to regroup, so if you aren’t alone, excuse yourself and head to the bathroom or someplace private for just a second. Now give yourself a hug, or gently touch some place on your body. Remind yourself about some quality you like about yourself, or about some loving thing you did today, or something you do well. You might say something like this to yourself:

I’m a wonderful person. I had some trouble just now, but it’s over and I’m moving on from here. I haven’t committed any crimes. I don’t have to keep eating.

Now close your eyes and take a few breaths. No need to breathe deeply, just notice the air moving in and out of your body. If you’re sitting, feel your legs and bottom and back against your seat and your feet against the floor. Notice the feelings swirling around inside you, and just say to yourself “feelings.” Do this for a few moments, and chances are the swirling will begin to subside. Notice the thoughts running around inside your head. Don’t engage with them, don’t start arguing with them or building them up. Just say, “thinking.” Again, chances are that they’ll start quieting down.

You might be aware now of something else that’s bothering you. If so, reassure yourself that whatever it is, you can handle it. If you have time, take a moment to think about it and see what solutions might present themselves. If you don’t have time for this, promise yourself you’ll get back to this before the day is up.

Now go back to whatever you need to do next knowing that you just turned around a moment that could have spoiled your day.

The Journey From Overeating To Trust

How do you feel about your body? If overeating is a problem for you, especially if you’re heavier than you’d like to be, chances are you don’t feel very good at all about it.

People who overeat generally distrust themselves and dislike their bodies. You hear people express this: “I have no self-control when it comes to chocolate….I hate my thighs….my stomach is a bottomless pit….”

But reflect on the wisdom of your human body. We take it for granted that we can walk, see, drive, listen to our kids, but we couldn’t do any of these things were it not for the wise bodies that so many of us dislike.

Chances are you don’t spend much time thinking about how it is that you pick something up off a table. This simple activity relies on information your body gives you. You decide you want that glass on the table and you extend your arm.  You know you’ve touched the surface of the glass by the feeling you get in your fingers and hand.

Your appetite works in a similar way. Just like you know how it feels when your hand makes contact with the glass, you can tune in and feel from your body what kind of food it wants and how much of it.

Try something right now: close your eyes, tune in to your stomach and abdomen area, and find out what they have to tell you. Are you full? How full? Give yourself a number between one and ten. Are you hungry? Rate your hunger — not very much? Somewhat? Very? Whatever you find out is neither good nor bad; it’s just information.

This exercise may be hard for you if you’ve distrusted your body for many years and consequently come to override your hunger and fullness signals. But don’t worry — it will simply take you a little time and practice to remember how to do this.

Information is power. As you learn to consciously pay attention to the hunger and fullness signals that are always available to you, you build trust in your own wisdom. This trust is the foundation of a whole new relationship with yourself, which in turn will help you heal your relationship with food.