Tag Archives: healthy eating

Eating the Moment, Ex. 1

Once again I am following along with the exercises in Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time by Pavel Somov, Ph.D..  I tried to do these previously, but chickened out after doing a few of the practices.  I saw some of the things that were further in the book and anticipated discomfort and fear.  Michelle, who sometimes plays my Jiminy Cricket, would of course point out that it means i should do them, but i put the book on the shelf instead.

No, really, i'm eating beets for breakfast these days.

No, really, i’m eating beets for breakfast these days.

Since i’m trying to develop a healthy relationship with food, i felt like this was a good time to come back to it.

The first section is in relation to triggers, the things that tell your mind or body to eat or what to eat.  For example, you might drive by a billboard for Dunkin Donuts and suddenly desire coffee (a particular challenge of mine!).  Triggers can be timing, sights, smells, places, emotions, experiences or just about anything else.

The first practice in the book is to ask, after you eat, “Why did I just eat?”.   He doesn’t suggest modifying anything, just simply notice why you ate.  Since I’m currently trying to be healthier and modifying some habits, the results of this exercise show some bias.  Had i done this a few weeks ago there would be a lot more reasons like boredom, sadness, loneliness, craving, habit and unknown.  I allowed myself to have multiple reasons for each time i ate, although he suggest finding the primary reason.

Out of 31 “eating incidents” (meals and snacks), almost 75% of the time hunger was a factor.  That’s a great sign for me, indicating i’m not overeating as much as i have in the past.  An additional 6% included feeling thirsty, which makes sense, as they were at breakfast when i’ve been having fruit & veggie smoothies.

5 out of 7 breakfasts also included the word “fuel”, which was a feeling of needing energy, but not really feeling hunger.  I suspect this is because i have been working out in the mornings before breakfast, which often reduces my appetite for an hour or so.

Almost half of the times i ate were at least in part triggered by time.  I’ve always known routine and habit drive me, but didn’t consider how it effected my eating habits.  Since many of those times i was also at least beginning to feel hungry, I’m guessing my portions are about right for my schedule.  Lunches and snacks at work also sometimes were at least partially due to wanting a distraction or entertainment.  My week day lunches are an excuse to stop report writing or calculations and read or write for pleasure.  I should be careful not to just assume noon means break for lunch, but to make sure i listen to my body.

There were cravings, mostly for sweet, which isn’t shocking for me.  Some of those corresponded with emotional needs, and others with aiming to meet my calorie quota for the day.  I’ve said before, I don’t think cravings are all bad, so long as they are managed and accounted for.

Other reasons I ate?  Knowing food wouldn’t be available later when i would be very hungry, wanting to try something new when it was offered, being tempted by the scent of fresh bread, feeling cold and tired, and being at an event where eating was expected (although i timed my other meals so i would be hungry at the appropriate time).  There were also two incidents were  was disappointed with earlier meals (both flavor and portion size) where i didn’t make great choices later on.  That’s definitely something I’ll need to work on managing in the future.

I’m currently working on Practice 2, which is similar, but asking before you eat “Why am I about to eat?”, then choosing to eat or not.  As i’m currently having a little trouble remembering to write things down before I eat, I may go a little longer than a week on this, but we’ll see what i discover!

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What is a healthy relationship with food anyway?

So i’m working on developing a “healthy relationship with food”.  But i want to explain what that means, both for my own clarification and to see what it means for other folks.

1) Food is fuel.  I can’t not eat and expect to be healthy, energetic or happy, just like i can’t expect my car to run without gas or my computer to run without electricity.  Not eating, or under eating is not a healthy habit.  Yes, in order to lose weight one needs to create some calorie deficit, however it needs to still be in the functional range.  I want to be at my best, and that means ensuring i have enough fuel to do so.

2) Variety is important.  Eating only one food group, color, flavor, shape, texture, temperature or any other characteristic means i’ll be limiting my nutrition.  Eating a variety of things will help provide me with lots of different vitamins and nutrients my body needs.  It will also prevent me from getting bored.  It is easy to fall into patterns, but those patterns need to include a variety of foods.  

3) Foods are not good or bad.  Some options might be better choices – a handful of nuts will keep me satiated longer than a handful of jelly beans for example, but the jelly beans are not evil.  I might feel more virtuous having chosen the grilled chicken salad, but i am not a bad person if i want the cheeseburger, or even if i choose it.  More accurate questions are will this food/meal get me closer to my goals?  Does this fit in with the intentions i’ve set?  How will i feel after eating this?  Do i really want this thing, or is there another reason it seems attractive?  Can i get the same enjoyment with something else that will fit closer with my intentions?

4) Eating should be a conscious decision.  Eating out of habit, emotion or boredom is not a healthy relationship with food.  Recognizing when i am hungry, and eating enough to calm that hunger is good.  Making a conscious decision of what to eat and when is the most important thing I can do towards being healthier.  For me, logging is critical here, as it creates a moment to pause and ask myself if this is really what i want to eat.

5) The numbers are not in control of me.  The scale, my calorie count, my calorie budget, my pedometer, my heart rate monitor and my clothing size do not define me.  I am much more than any of these things.  Numbers are metrics, but do not measure my happiness or relationships.  

6) Portion size matters.  I’m a short woman.  I can’t eat as much as my husband, who is almost a foot taller than me, and a hundred pounds heavier.  I need to be content with what is on my plate and not compare to his (which often has some ‘extras’ as well).  It can feel tedious to measure stuff out, but it really makes a difference!  If i am still hungry (after pausing to drink some water and let my food settle), i can always get something else.  

7) Water is awesome.  Water is necessary for your body to run properly, fills you up, cleans you out and tastes good.  I know folks get accustomed to sodas and flavored beverages, but really, water is probably one of the best things for you.  For me, a healthy relationship with food includes drinking lots of water.

8) Be adventurous.  Try new flavors, recipes and cooking techniques.  Try new restaurants.  Look at different meal plans.  I get stuck in habits, and then the habits degrade to what is fastest, most comforting and easiest.  Keeping things interesting really helps break that cycle.  It also helps the mindful, choice driven aspect of eating for me.  

9) Enjoy whats on the plate.  Whether its a salad of leftovers, a carefully made dish at home or a burger and fries out.  Food is delicious and worth enjoying.  Don’t feel guilty over a meal, even it its not towards your goals.  Guilt just makes you feel bad, and can serve as an excuse to give up on good habits.  Savor what you eat as you eat it.  Enjoy it.  And then, if necessary, make adjustments.  That pie was too good to pass up?  Maybe eat a little less later on, but if not, it’s ok.  A friend of mine likes to quote her WW leader “if you trip on one step, you don’t throw yourself down the rest of the stairs”, yet so often we do with food.  

10) One bite at a time.  This is big, hard stuff, even if it sounds simple.  For me a healthy relationship with food is going to be a long, hard process, but it’s totally possible.  The way to do it?  One bite at a time.  Let meals in the past be in the past, future meals be handled in the future, and focus on what is in front of me now.  It’s not about one big decision, but hundreds, maybe even thousands of small ones.

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