These days, diets seem to be a huge part of what we talk about. This person looks so amazing, that celebrity tried this new diet and dropped 20 pounds, this new program will get you weight loss results lightning fast…and it goes on. Sound familiar? Whether it’s in magazines on supermarket shelves, conversations with friends, or our time spent on Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media outlets, we constantly see and hear about what people are doing to manage their weight. It can feel like information overload as we try to sort through all the advice and testimonials that are out there. And as we try this or that method to lose those pesky pounds, we can easily get swept away in the strict rules and eating constraints of various programs and plans that promise rapid results. We begin to feel overwhelmed and discouraged, like we’re not good enough. And that is so heart breaking because that is not at all what eating is supposed to be like.
Your relationship with food is so important because let’s face it: everyday of your life you are going to be eating and drinking things. Wouldn’t you rather have a relationship with food that is healthy and empowering rather than toxic and discouraging? Don’t you want to live a life where you can enjoy a healthy lifestyle and nourish your body, but not feel like you are the world’s greatest disappointment when you indulge in that cookie or piece of cake? It all starts with being mindful of what you are putting into your body. But unfortunately this can be taken to far. Note the difference here when we look at some definitions from Merriam-Webster:
adjective | mind·ful
– Aware of something that may be important
– Bearing in mind: aware
adjective | ob·ses·sive
– Thinking about something too much or in a way that is not normal: having an obsession: showing or relating to an obsession
– Excessive often to an unreasonable degree
See the difference? It’s a wonderful thing to be aware of what we are putting into our bodies, focusing on foods that are going to benefit our health and bring flavour and energy into our lives. It’s when we cross the line from mindful eating to obsessing over what we are eating that we begin to see problems. When we begin to obsess over our food, our thoughts are consumed by our perceptions about our eating choices. It’s not normal when all you can think about all day is how “clean” you are eating and how terrible you feel for sneaking that bit of “junk” food earlier on. It becomes unreasonable, and in the end, makes eating another chore or another standard that you have to live up to, rather than a wonderful time to share with friends or family and provide important nutrients for your amazing body.
So my challenge for you as the long weekend approaches: eat mindfully and not obsessively. Over the next few days try these two simple tasks:
- Track what you’re eating: I’m not talking about counting calories, or weighing your food, or following a diet plan. What I mean is, be present when you are making choices at meal times and note down what you are eating. Try this for a few days, writing down what you are eating; noting how certain foods made you feel after, what your mood was like before that meal, who you ate with. I do this every now and then in a little journal because it can be really eye opening to see how what you eat changes with your surroundings and your emotions. Use these observations to make some adjustments to your daily eating that will keep you on track with your nutrition goals.
- Try the 3 bite challenge: I learned this trick from a mentor of mine who is a firm supporter of mindful eating. During your next sweet treat, use your first three bites to focus on what you are eating. In the first bite, notice the flavour as you chew your food. In the second bite, focus on the texture and how it changes as you chew. Finally, in the third bite, focus on tracing the food from your mouth into your stomach as it moves along your digestive tract. In this way, you are laser focused on the flavour and texture of the food you are enjoying, and I promise it will make it taste that much more amazing!
Eating should come from a place of self-love, not one of guilt. We only have one opportunity to live our lives so don’t waste precious moments worrying about the amount of calories in your afternoon smoothie. Find the balance in your eating by practicing being mindful.
One book that I loved reading on the topic of mindful eating is called “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think” by Brian Wansink, Ph.D. If you have some spare time on your hands, I highly recommend you check it out and learn something new!