You Don't Have to Live in a Van (To Eat Mindfully)
I can't be the only one who rolls her eyes whenever the newest book on Mindful Eating comes out, right?!
Or at least I used to be.
When I first heard the term, I thought it was all fairy dust and unicorns.
I thought I was going to be instructed to close my eyes and feel the sensation of my sweet potato fries as they go through the digestive process...blah, blah blah.
What I found, when I stopped being a naive, closed-minded know-it-all, was that mindful eating is none of that.
What it is is the key to discovering your habits when it comes to food.
And it is only by shining the light of awareness on a habit that we can then begin to change it.
No Fairy Dust Required
Contrary to my initial thoughts about mindful eating, there's nothing fluffy or woohoo about it.
While, yes, part of mindful eating is...wait for it...eating mindfully (paying attention as you eat rather than shoveling food in your mouth without a second thought), there's a lot more to it than that.
When we talk about mindful eating, we're talking about:
Identifying cravings so we can make healthier choices more aligned with our goal
Paying attention to our mood and emotions to discover what our triggers are
Discovering patterns throughout the day of when we experience certain cravings so we can better prepare
Singing Kumbaya with our cupcake prior to taking off the wrapper (just kidding)
What You Just Might Discover
Let's say it's 8pm and you're sitting on the couch watching an uber-depressing movie on Lifetime.
Suddenly, you're craving potato chips.
Here's where the mindful part comes in...
You pause for one to three minutes.
You think: "What am I actually craving? The crunch of the chips? The saltiness?"
You think: "What am I feeling? Am I actually hungry right now? Or am I just lonely after watching this terrible movie? Am I sad? Am I just thirsty? What am I actually feeling?"
Maybe after all that, you still want the damn chips. But maybe you don't. Maybe you want something salty, so you go grab some air-popped popcorn with sea salt. Maybe you want something crunchy, so you munch on some veggies and don't feel so blah afterward.
The whole process takes one to three minutes and helps you simply pause and choose.
The bonus to writing it down (we're getting to options), is that you start to see patterns.
At the end of the week, you might look back and see, "Wow. Most nights at 8pm I get a craving for something crunchy." Or "Huh. Whenever I feel sad, I crave salty food."
Then you can start to incorporate healthier swaps into your food shopping for the week, knowing these cravings exist.
Ways to Do This
The how of this is 100% up to you.
Some people like to keep a journal, which includes columns for:
Time of day
What I'm initially craving (unchecked)
What I'm actually craving (mindful)
What I'm feeling (mood)
What choice I'm making instead
How I'm feeling after the fact
...or some variation. As mentioned, the pro to writing it down is that patterns become more obvious.
Some people (cough cough me) don't need yet another thing to journal about in their life.
I'm a visual learner but I also hate making a bigger deal out of things than they need to be (again #biggerlifestatement).
For me, jotting down a few notes is all I need. If you feel that a full out food journal is overkill, don't do it. A simple notepad with a couple of notes jotted down will do the trick. If you've got the memory of an elephant and will remember your 8:00 pm peanut craving (see what I did there), don't write it down.
The point isn't the journal.
The point is to shine the light of awareness on your habits, on your tendencies, and make better choices more aligned with your goals.