Be Mindful – Be Present

written by Holli McCormick

Okay – who hasn’t done the mindless eating? The clock clicks 12, you are sitting at your desk and you think you are hungry so you start moving towards the food. Or you are rushing to get the kids to their next event, stopping by In & Out to fill the tummies and shoving down the food within 10 minutes before arriving. Or you are watching TV late at night, feel the rumble some where down south and head for the cabinets where you grab a box of goodies and resume your zoning out while stuffing your face.

Just so you know you are not alone – we have all done these and more. Even Personal Trainers and Fitness Experts can do our fair share of mindless, unnecessary eating that takes its toll on our bottom line. So if even the experts do it, how can the non-experts avoid it? How can you become more mindful?

The great news is, you can have control over your eating patterns and behaviors and not let them control you.

In fact, I want you to take a moment to stop, go back and re-read that last sentence. Now say it again out loud. (I ask you to do this because your subconscious where most of our behaviors are stored cannot hear your conscious mind read. It can only hear your voice – so saying this sentence out loud allows, many times a day if needed, allows you to start reprogramming your behaviors in positive measures.)

Now that you have the first step down as you move towards mindful eating…let’s define what mindfulness is and why it is important.

Definitions:

1) “Mindfulness is awareness without judgement or criticism.”*

2) Mindfulness is taking the time – after you have determined the need for eating – to slow down to enjoy and chew your food properly while being thankful for the meal.  The science shows that digestion starts in the mouth with tons of digestive enzymes being excreted through the saliva.  Slow, meaningful chewing warms up the tummy, gets the digestive juices flowing and ready to receive the food.  Properly chewed food allows the rest of the digestive system to work more efficiently and effectively.  A pleasant mind allows the stomach and gut room to do their work.  Being “tied up in knots” from anxiety, worry, depression literally can kill the ability of your gut to do it’s job.

Why is this important? The mind is where everything starts…even our automatic behavior patterns we do not have to think of (again stored in the subconscious).  Bringing awareness by engaging our mind, by becoming present in our own bodies in this moment and time – we tackle the largest part of learning how to eventually modify our behaviors.  We do not have to be on automatic pilot; we can slow down, analyze why we do the things we do and change the things we want to change.  By tuning into your mind, you will be able to tune into your body and feel/sense/understand what your body really needs vs. what your mind wants.

How do I do this? As I mentioned in day 1 of this series, simply by stopping and asking yourself questions will help you tune into your body and figure out if now is the time to eat or not.  By asking yourself questions you will be able to decipher whether or not you are truly hungry and need food or if you are simply eating out of routine, or out of a desire to treat yourself or find pleasure, or if it is a way to soothe your stirred up emotional state.

Here is a list of questions you can start using in order to be mindful, to be present and in tune with your body:

  • Am I really hungry right now?  What will happen to me if I ignore the gurgling and those hunger pains for another 5 minutes?  
    Our bodies are suburb at storing food as fat for times of starvation…thus I bet most of us in modern America can skip or hold off eating without harmful effects.  If you don’t immediately feed the “tiger”, your body will find the energy it needs where it is stored.  Waiting another 5-10 minutes simply will allow you to decide if you are truly hungry or if your body is simply used to eating at that point in time and thus is waiting for you to feed it.  Just because the “tiger” is gurgling doesn’t mean you need food.
  • What happened right before I felt myself start to reach for food?  What event just occurred?   How did it make me feel?  What was I thinking when this event happened?  
    These questions will help you put events together with how you feel and with what thoughts actually triggered those feelings.  We often do not have control over our feelings…however WE DO HAVE CONTROL over our thoughts.  When you start to lean into your feelings and back them up to your thoughts that produced those feelings, you can start to change those thoughts and thus your feelings and thus your behaviors.  I will elaborate on this at a later time.
  • Can I eat a smaller amount than I think I actually need then wait 10 minutes before going back for more?
    All about portion control…see our post from the 1st day.

“FAILURE”  IS NOT ON OPTION
Lastly, I would encourage you to change your internal dialog around the word “failure”.  Instead of seeing any time you mess up as a failure…reword it – and yes out loud -as a “LEARNING OPPORTUNITY“.  Give yourself grace or room when you do not get this or any new behavior perfect.  None of us are perfect, and when we are learning a new behavior we have to give ourselves permission to mess up, to get it wrong…but know that we are works in progress and will keep trying to move forward, learning what we can from our “mess up.”

If you would like to learn more about how to be mindful in all aspects of your life, do not hesitate to contact Elementus.  We are here to work collaboratively with you in formulating a plan on how to modify your life and all the different elements that make you…you.

References:
* Found this great article where there are actually tools – what she calls homework – to help you become a mindful eater.  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mindful-eating/200902/mindful-eating