What is the first thing that happens when you start a diet? Normally, it is to wonder when the diet is going to be over. Someone told me last week that he was giving up dairy, grains, and alcohol, but he had no intention of doing that after his diet and after he lost some weight. Uh oh. I smell trouble and potentially an eventual avalanche of weight gain. In fact, the first problem with dieting is the near inevitable weight gain that follows.
- If a diet is based on deprivation, have-tos, and shoulds, the feeling of going without is not particularly enjoyable. If you have a list of things you can’t have, or are not allowed to have, it is possible that your inner petulant child will want to rebel. It’s normal because we tend to want the forbidden. This approach and attitude are unsustainable. According to Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles approximately 80 percent of people who have lost weight regain all of it, or more, after two years. It is so unpleasant to approach dieting with what you cannot eat that no one wants to stay the course.
- Our bodies are smart. They are programmed to store fat when denied calories. This function enabled our cave-brethren to store enough adipose to keep them warm in the cold months both for extra stored calories as well as for protection. Starving yourself is the opposite of a mindful, self-nurturing approach to optimal health.
Why Mindful Eating is the Solution:
- There is nothing more magical when it comes to radiant health and vitality than to fall in love with food that is good for you. When you mindfully choose an organic Fuji apple and some organic Greek yogurt over a doughnut, you are honoring your body with a love message. You are declaring your own worth and you
feel good about your choice. This gives you back a double-positive-whammy. The whole food you eat gives you energy and promotes wellness, plus you get to give yourself an atta boy or atta girl for your choice. One of my clients recently told me that there is no negative side effect for having some fresh fruit after dinner, versus the long chain of guilt and shame he feels after overindulging in sugary desserts.
- Your emotional body is healed along with your physical body with Mindful Eating. It is a simple formula and practicing it will transform your life and your relationship with your body and with food. Simply ask yourself what you are feeling when you reach for food. Learn to name your emotions. You will get better with practice. This is a very profound exercise. As your emotional fluency improves you may discover that what comes before wanting to eat could be boredom, fear, sadness, loneliness, excitement, joy, anger, frustration, and more. When you tune in to your body, and ask what your physical experience is, you might discover fatigue, tenseness, hunger, thirst/dehydration, and the like. These questions teach you to tune in. As you develop your awareness of your body and what your body is telling you, you will discover that food is not always the best answer. For example, if you are anxious, it may work to stuff your emotions with food, but then you are stuck with buried emotions. Discovering that a walk around the block, doing a relaxation or breathing exercise, or calling a supportive friend works better than food, will transform and bless your life.
- Through Mindful Eating you naturally discover the different kinds of energy and intoxication you can experience in your body. Since sugar is as addictive as cocaine and one of the culprits of the obesity/diabetes epidemic, it is critical to retrain our bodies to want true nourishment. Steady and even levels of blood glucose provide sustainable energy without the spike and crash effect of excess simple carbs that contain empty (not-nutritive) calories, like what happens after pigging out on junk food. Eating the nutrient dense food helps you feel so much better than a quick
burst followed by plummeting energy. In fact, as you develop this loving sensitivity toward and awareness of your body, what used to look appealing suddenly relays its true nature. Things start to taste too sweet. You can imagine the awful stuffed feeling before you over-indulge and dodge that bullet. You can look at a beautiful bright green salad and crave how balanced and happy you feel when you eat it. You are on the right track and there is nothing to give up, except feeling crummy, which you are so happy to do.
- Mindful Eating improves more than your weight and health. There is a cascade effect by learning to self-honor your body with nutritious food. In addition to a significant boost to your self-esteem and self-confidence each time you make a life-and-health-affirming selection of what and when to eat, systems in your body that promote personal success get activated. Nutrient-dense and whole food will help balance your mood and provide mental clarity. You can learn to count on your body rather than fighting the weight. Becoming more centered and calm supports nervous system functions to improve sleep and digestion. Releasing embarrassment and shame by strengthening new habits and choices will free you in ways that may seem disorienting at first, but will eventually be part of your makeup. Falling in love with food that is good for you is a portal for falling in love with yourself. By being present with how food tastes, smells, and makes you feel leads you to become more present with life.
- Beyond food are relationships, work, and expressing ourselves in the world. As a completely recovered food and carb addict, and as one who gives thanks every day for finding my way past a serious eating disorder, I know from experience that life is better when we have our heads on straight about food and nutrition. One of my clients told me that she is much happier when she sets a good model for her kids. She discovered that she was leading her two young children down the same dark alley of her poor food choices. As she got herself pointed in the right direction, she discovered that her husband was excited to get on the healthy wagon, and her kids learned to love fruits and veggies. Imagine a mother’s joy in leading her family in this way!
Here are four simple steps you can start to enjoy a joyous life of Mindful Eating. Get yourself moving in the right direction to be joyous, happy, at peace, and confident around food, nutrition, and discovering your natural size and shape.
- Ask yourself what you are feeling right when you are reaching for food. Ask yourself what you are experiencing in your body. If it is anything other than hunger, find other ways to nourish yourself. Reach out to other people and explore feel-good activities that do not necessarily include eating.
- Turn your attention away from what you can’t or should not eat to alternatives that include whole, beautiful, fresh food. Focus on food that is as close to nature as possible. Look at how beautiful this food is. Use it to crowd out other things you ate in the past. Look towards health-promoting food to adjust your focus and train your brain.
- Set yourself up for success. Avoid the never and always when it comes to making good food choices. One day at a time is best. Each small step is a victory and empowers you to make more like that.
- Have a wins journal, or a wins buddy. Track your good choices, document how you feel, and share this with someone who wants for you what you want for yourself. Being happy, calm, and confident around food is worth celebrating!
With love and encouragement,
Board Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
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