Four Ways to Practice Mindful Eating During the Holidays

Print

Body:  “Just STOP IT!  STOP!! NO MORE SUGAR!! In the name of all that is holy, if you put one more cookie in our mouth we will punch you in the FACE!!”

Me: *shoving a cookie in my mouth, sliding into sugar coma*  “Mrghm, what did you say??  That doesn’t even make sense!” *back to eating enormous amounts of Christmas cookies* NOMNOMNOMNOMNOMNOMNOM”

Needless to say, the last few weeks have been challenging in regards to mindful eating. Let’s just say there have been lots of “I-don’t-care-what-it-is-I”ll-eat-it-oh-man-I-am-so-tired-and-busy-potato-chips-and-deep-fried-candy-bars-together?-sure-why-not-feed-me-feed-me-feed-me” kind of eating.  I took some time this morning to reevaluate what the heck was going on—-after making progress, why am I suddenly going backwards?  I know, I know—the Christmas season always means way too many cookies, candy, pies, etc. placed in front of you, I get it. And I also get that extreme exhaustion due to too many holiday parties, get-togethers with friends, etc. leads to poor decision-making (3 nights last week where I only got 4 hours of sleep?  I’m insane!)  And both of those factors shouldn’t be minimized—they definitely lead to my being disconnected from what my body is actually wanting.

However, upon further reflection, I realized what was really going on in those moments of “nomnomnomnom”—-anxiety, fear, grief and anger over family drama. In other words, welcome to the holidays, everyone!

So, instead of stuffing myself with yet another piece of fudge, Christmas cookie, etc., I decided to come up with four ways I will be  re-connecting with my body over the Christmas holidays. And now, in the spirit of the season, I willingly share these ideas with you, dear reader! :

  1. Do a mindful check-in.  Take a moment and sit still quietly. Relax and become aware of your breathing.  After a few breaths, ask yourself: what sensations are you feeling in your body right now? Become aware of how you are feeling physically—are you tired?  Do your feet hurt?  How is your neck feeling?  To end, take a few moments to be thankful for the gift of your wonderful body. I will be doing this myself before sitting down in front of a cozy fire to make fun of the Carrie Underwood version of The Sound of Music. Cue Christmas candy, cookies. etc.—-a potentially dangerous minefield that I will be skillfully avoiding by doing my mindful check-in.
  2. Explore the wonder of domestic tasks.  The sacredness of my body being part of creating order through cleaning up, picking up stuff, etc. can’t be emphasized enough.  Volunteering to help wash the dishes after Christmas dinner, or wiping down the bathroom before guests arrive, or even taking a few moments to rake some leaves while everyone else is taking a nap can be a surprisingly grounding and centering way for you to re-connect with your body.
  3. Journal. After all of my loved ones fall asleep, I will be taking a few minutes to journal about whatever I am emotionally feeling. Processing any grief, anger, loneliness, etc. coming up through journaling is a better idea than eating three extra helpings of roast beef and mashed potatoes or 37 Christmas cookies (especially when my body is wanting salad instead).
  4. Own what you want.  I will be planning my eating in accordance with what my body is actually wanting.   For example, if I check in with my body and discover I would be satisfied with only 1 cookie, I will eat only 1 cookie, instead of feeling obligated to eat 4.

I would love to hear your own thoughts on how you will be checking in your body and practicing mindful eating over the Christmas holidays.  Good luck and God Speed to each of you.

Merry Christmas!

Progress

th

Bronchitis sucks.

Within a few days of coming back from Seattle, I started to feel like I was getting a cold. Then I started coughing—the kind of cough that feels like your lungs have decided they hate you and no longer want to function normally. And they get your throat to go on strike, too, so you start to sound like a frog who smokes 2 packs a day and whispers when speaking.

I fought back.  I missed the first Sunday of Advent at my church to rest.  I canceled a much-anticipated lunch date with a good friend that I haven’t connected with in a while to rest.  And I tried to rest, and drink hot tea, and rest some more.  All for nothing.  I finally gave in and went to the doctor.

And do you know what happened?  A MIRACLE.

The normal routine at the doctor involves taking your temperature, checking your blood pressure, and of course, what I always dread—-the act of stepping on the scale and facing the ice-cold reality of how much you weigh. I rarely never weigh myself at home—there is already so much crap going on in the world, I don’t need to add more to my psyche, so I generally only check my weight when I’m at the doctor. I always prep myself by just taking a deep breath and clenching my hands until it’s over, and this time was no different—I already thought I knew what I should weigh, since I had seen my primary doctor in October for a check-up and got weighed then.

And then it happened.  The nurse looked at the reading.

 I weighed 5 pounds less than I did in October.

The earth split its hemispheres. Angels sang the Hallelujah chorus. Stars burst into tears.

I couldn’t believe it. Thanksgiving had just passed, and I had eaten not 1 but TWO Thanksgiving meals with all the trimmings.   How was this possible?  And then it hit me—I’m not sure it had anything to do with how much or how little I ate specifically around Thanksgiving.  But I realized that this year was different. For the first time ever—seriously, EVER—I was not stuffed after I ate those meals.  I went into them being mindful of how full I was getting, and of eating only what I really wanted to eat versus feeling obligated to eat some of everything, and I actually stopped once I was full.

And it’s continuing to make those kinds of choices that will lead me to the Promised Land—a land where I am fully connected with my body, and aware of what my body wants and needs, and where I respond as a mature caretaker would.

Hope has come.  It was a quick look over the horizon, just a glimpse into what the future can be. But I’m on my way.

I’m coming for you, wholeness.  Slow and steady.

Paying Attention

IMG_0298 1It’s easy to forget all about mindful eating, eating healthy food, etc. when you’ve got gourmet grilled-cheese sandwiches, amazing all-you-can-eat Brazilian BBQ, and fantastic cupcakes in front of you. All of those options were part of my recent vacation to Seattle this last week. A long weekend with one of my dearest friends, seeing one of my favorite bands, and walking around one of my favorite cities was sorely needed. And, to be honest, I ate whatever I wanted.

 

And, to be even more honest? I don’t feel bad about that.

 

My trip wasn’t about forgetting my body. It wasn’t about gorging myself on a bunch of junk food and sitting around all day (ok, yes, maybe I shouldn’t have had that 2nd cupcake on Saturday night). But you know what I did for most of my trip?

 

I paid attention.

 

Instead of sitting around in a coffee shop on Friday (like my mind wanted to do), I paid attention to what my body wanted, and I went with my friend to his yoga class on the 14th floor of a sky-rise building with huge windows overlooking downtown Seattle. It kicked my ass—I was sweating and struggling, but I got through it (don’t ever believe that yoga is easy—it’s a lot harder than it looks!) And my body and soul felt ABSOLUTELY AMAZING afterwards.

 

Right after our ginormous Brazilian BBQ meal, do you know what my body wanted? (yes, I asked her!) A very long walk–which is exactly what my friend and I did. We walked for over 4 miles around the neighborhoods that make up Seattle. We strolled through a community garden patch, and sat with him in his favorite coffee shop (my body wanted tea, not coffee, so I paid attention and got tea instead). We walked through downtown and looked at the holiday lights that have already been set up, and my body loved every moment of it.

 

And the next day (in part because it sounded really nice, and in part because of what my body wanted), we visited Washington Park Arboretum, and walked for an hour through gorgeous trees shedding their leaves. I could have stayed at my friend’s house and just chilled out for a while, but my body wanted to move, and walk, and see and smell and feel greens, yellows, purples, reds, browns.

And I paid attention. And my body drank in the moving, and walking, and experiencing fall incarnate.

IMG_0319

 

Now that I’m home, I have much on my my mind about nurturing my body, and nurturing my soul through nurturing my body, and figuring how to practice being in my body and practicing disciplines that encourage paying attention. And I am most struck by how I’ve never considered nurturing my body by eating what it actually wants to eat—I’ve never considered the possibility that my body is worth nurturing through movement and breathing and taking in food it not only wants, but really needs.

 

Pardon the pun, but it’s a lot of food for thought. And I’m grateful to start paying attention.

Familiar Paths

McDonalds-Chicken-McNuggets

Last night I needed to go get dinner.  I didn’t want to cook, so I decided to go grab something cheap to eat someplace.  In the spirit of what I’m learning in Diet Free Forever, I decided to actually ask my body what it wanted to eat and then respond accordingly.

Me: Body, what would you like to eat for dinner?

Body: A salad, please. 

Me:  But why would you want a salad?  That’s not really substantive.  How about some chicken nuggets and French fries? Plus, most salads at fast-food restaurants really aren’t that great.  

Body: ARE YOU CRAY-CRAY?!!  We totally had a HUGE Chinese take-out lunch, which I might add had only a bit of vegetables in it, and it was uber-greasy, and we are having a hell of a time trying to process all of this down here—can’t we have a break?!  Seriously, it’s like a 3000-pound bowling ball is just hanging out in Mr. Stomach’s house, and now you’re wanting to add hyper-processed chicken-ish goo and potato-like oil sticks of death to the mix??!!  SERIOUSLY??!! Listen, that’s not bad all the time (really, once a month is doable), but we need SALAD RIGHT NOW, dammit!!  

Me: *humming along to the radio, ignoring Body*

Body: *gasping for breath*  We can’t take this!  We need vegetables right now!! May day, May Day, ABORT, ABORT!!

And cue me going through drive-thru, stuffing my face with chicken nuggets and fries, and then wondering afterwards why I don’t feel satisfied.

Why in the world did I choose to completely ignore what my body was actually wanting?  I knew that my body really did physically want a salad.  However, I chose the path of least resistance—I chose what was familiar.

I try (well—-more like I sort-of think about, maybe) to avoid eating at fast-food establishments, mainly because I know that for most places, whatever I’m eating has been processed to the point where it’s not even necessarily food anymore.  It’s unhealthy for my body, it generally doesn’t even make me feel good or satisfied, and it doesn’t even necessarily always taste good.  But this is how I have always eaten.  It feels familiar and comfortable to eat unhealthy fast food, especially when I’m looking for a quick cheap meal.  It’s my go-to, it’s my beaten path, and to venture off onto a different path feels uncomfortable and even scary, even when I want what’s on the new path.

I guess the question is this: deep down, do I think I am worth taking a new path?  One where I pay attention to and care for my body enough to give it what it actually needs?  Do I think I’m worth it? 

To be honest, I’m kind of grappling with that right now, and trying to get real about what I actually believe about that.  On some level, I know that I need to take care of my body.  But to make different choices is harder.  A LOT harder.  And to choose an unfamiliar way of living is scary and fraught with risk:  what if I don’t like this?  what if I am doomed to viewing healthier food choices as always less tasty than the bad ones?  what if my brain chemistry is irrevocably  altered forever to only choose and want chicken nuggets, French fries and cheeseburgers?

I don’t know.  But I do know that I’ll continue to not know until I actually attempt walking down that unbeaten path.

Me: Ok, body.  I’m sorry about yesterday.  Can we try again?  Will you please forgive me for ignoring you?

Body: Get your ass off the couch and start doing some yoga stretches or walk or something. Don’t even think that I’ve forgotten about yesterday, fool.  

Onward we tread.

path

My Milkshake Friends

Milkshakes

I love milkshakes.

I love them when they’re nice, I love them when they’re iced.  I love them thin or thick (I will not cherry-pick).  I love when they’re a dime, I love them all the time!

(to blatantly steal this rhyme scheme from Dr. Seuss in order to justify my emotional escape from all things that suck is truly a new low.)

I ESPECIALLY love milkshakes when I’m having a bad day.  When my entire world is falling apart and I’m tired, lonely, sad, etc. a yummy milkshake is my go-to to solve my problems. Case in point—I’ve been having a pretty major conflict with a close friend of mine this week.   I was thinking about how helpless, frustrated and angry I felt about our conflict while I was driving to an appointment, and then all of a sudden, I heard it:

Imaginary Milkshake: Hey friend.  What’s wrong?

Me: *insert tears and flailing arms* My friend sucks and I suck and we can’t figure out and I don’t know how we’re gonna fix it and everything is horrible!!

Imaginary Milkshake: *insert sad face* Oh no!  Well, I can make you feel better. Why don’t you sit down with me for a bit and we can take a break from all this drama? 

I then did something that I’ve never done before….something so dramatic, so significant, that it takes my breath away when I think about now:

I paused.

You see, up until that moment, I had never really stopped and thought about why I wanted a certain food.  There’s been no real sense of being connected with what my body actually physically craves–I just eat what I want, when I want it, with more often than not little regard for whether or not I am actually physically hungry for that particular food.  And sadly, I often eat without even checking in with myself to see if I’m physically hungry. And even more importantly, I haven’t been connected with what I am emotionally hungry for.

I realized, in that pause, that what I was craving wasn’t actually the presence of my “friend” Miss Milkshake—-I wanted my real friend’s presence.  I wanted her and I to figure out our conflict and forgive each other—I wanted to know that it was gonna be ok.  I wanted to be comforted and receive solace in the midst of a very difficult relationship breakdown. And to be even more honest, I wanted someone to tell me I was right. I wanted to receive that comfort and solace without actually doing the hard work of talking out my crap and acknowledging what I contributed to our conflict.  I wanted someone to be there, without any work—any real vulnerability–on my part.

I was sharing with my mother a couple of weeks ago about my doing Diet Free Forever and starting out on this journey, and decided to take the risk of asking her what her own relationship with food is (we have a family history of struggles with weight).  She acknowledged the sad reality of why we both look to food to meet our needs: “food never leaves.  Food is always there. ” 

I still felt sad and scared about my conflict with my friend—but I didn’t get the milkshake that day.  I fully acknowledge that I did eat other unhealthy junk food—-but the fact that I chose to not get a milkshake (“it’s OVER, milkshake!!  OVAH”). was a very real, even if small, victory.

Actually, let’s take the “victory” and “defeat” language out of this (I’m super achievement-oriented, so it’s not really helpful).  Let’s just say it was a moment of awareness—a real moment of recognizing why I crave certain foods sometimes.   And I chose to change course as a result of seeing what’s actually going on.  And that feels pretty damn good.

Welcome To My Blog!

Beginnings always require an explanation.

My name is Ana.  I’m writing this blog not because I have the latest diet tip for you, or have tons of amazing recipes, or want to review the best restaurants.  I’m writing (mainly) because I need to come home.

For a variety of reasons, I have been overweight for most of my life.  My childhood and adulthood have been marked by cyclical patterns of eating lots of uber-processed and unhealthy food in efforts to avoid dealing with my own emotional pain.   I’ve tried different kinds of diets, lost weight, and then re-gained whatever I lost within a relatively short amount of time.   This has contributed to a profound disconnect.  I have not viewed my body as an integral part of who I am–and frankly, it’s time to come home to my body.

Coming home isn’t easy.  It means being willing to sift through all the reasons you left in the first place.  It means having real conversations about what it looks like to be part of the home again.  And it means facing your fears, doubts, and—perhaps most painful of all—your hopes (since there’s a real risk they may not come to pass).  That’s what this process will be about.

There are several tools I’m going to be using as I start this process of addressing my weight issues.  One of them is Diet Free Forever—it’s a program a friend of mine helped develop that really helps you begin the practice the art of mindful eating. It’s not about being on a diet—it’s actually about learning to get back in touch with real hunger, with what your body is actually wanting and needing, and how to undo the false ideas our culture has ingrained us with about dieting.

 I’ll also be offering some reflections on food and how we think about it from my reading of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  Occasionally I may comment on my adventures with exercising or what’s going on with food and dieting in the news. Finally, I’ll be posting recipes of food I make along the way.

 I’m looking forward to journeying with you!  I invite you to post your own comments and reflections on what it looks like for you to come home to yourself.