Mindful Eating

Posted on August 6, 2018

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“Training your mind to be in the present moment is the #1 key to making healthier choices.”
Susan Albers

A couple of years ago, my doctor suggested that I lose some weight. My sister, my cousin, and I commiserated at the family picnic that August, as we had all received the same message, like many folks in their 50s and 60s.

My sister got busy and did work! Last year she showed up at the family picnic having lost thirty-seven pounds! To my shame, I did not make similar progress. I thought about how much I want to avoid getting diabetes and how the extra weight I carry exacerbates my chronic pain by adding stress to my damaged spine. But that’s about all I did: I thought about it.

I didn’t DO anything about it, because I knew what was required, and I didn’t want to do it. I know that the problem is that I’m addicted to sugar, especially in the form of chocolate. I know that the only way I’m going to lose weight and avoid the health consequences of obesity is by decreasing my caloric intake and avoiding sugar.

But how?

This is NOT where I tell you about a new diet I’ve discovered. I do NOT diet. I’ve never seen a diet work. It may help a person lose weight, but we all know that if one isn’t eating in a way that can be sustained over a lifetime, the weight will be regained. Even without dieting, I’ve gained and lost the same 30 pounds ever since I had my first child at 19. I know how to lose weight, and I know how I regain it. I know there’s no magic diet.

When summer came this year, I was ready to get serious about losing weight and exercising. I approached the task with a researcher’s mindset. What are my eating patterns? When do I make the best and worst choices? How can I increase my activity?

When I looked at my eating patterns and thought about ways to cut down on sugar, I thought that an easy way to limit my food intake would be to simply limit the time I allow myself to eat. We all know that we shouldn’t eat before bed, so I decided to make 7 pm my cut-off mark. I made a rule for myself: No eating after 7 p.m.

Then I decided to stop eating breakfast upon waking–to find out when I actually FEEL hungry in the morning. I discovered that I can comfortably wait until 11 or 12 to eat. That leaves me a 7-8 hour window to eat–and a lot less time to make bad choices. Since I’ve based this schedule out of mindfulness of my own body’s patterns, I do not feel like I’m depriving myself. In fact, one surprising discovery is that I do NOT feel hungry in the morning. I have ZERO cravings, AND I have a lot of energy. I can walk, bike, or garden vigorously for 2-3 hours without difficulty, and if I want to study or write, my mind is clear. I have to admit, these discoveries were surprising. I believed that I needed breakfast to be productive, but it turns out that I don’t.

One day last week, I decided to look online for indications that the eating schedule I’d adopted was beneficial or harmful. I was surprised to find that what I was doing is an actual thing called intermittent fasting, and “There is some good scientific evidence suggesting that circadian rhythm fasting, when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can be a particularly effective approach to weight loss, especially for people at risk for diabetes” (Tello, 2018).  Mayo Oshin reflects on using the 16:8 eating schedule for four years, saying, “It’s a lifestyle change that I strongly vouch for because it simplifies my life and frees up more time to focus on what really matters to me.” Unlike a diet, I will be able to sustain this schedule over my lifetime, and I plan to do so, because it’s simple and easy for me.

By mindfully observing my own body’s patterns, I was able to decrease my food intake without dieting. Since chocolate is what I crave, I treat it like an alcoholic treats alcohol. I avoid it altogether to prevent the cravings from returning. I know that if I eat a little, it will start the cravings, and soon I’ll be right back where I was. I recently ran into an ex-boyfriend, and it felt great to realize that seeing him had zero effect on me; I am OVER him! I realized that I want to feel the same way about chocolate, and the easiest way for it to have no effect on me is to avoid it. It’s been a month without chocolate, and I can walk right by it in the grocery store with ZERO cravings!

I’ve decided to put off weighing myself until a month has passed since the last time, so I don’t know how much weight I’ve lost, but I do know that I’ve already put away my biggest pants. I am delighted to report that have a waist again! I know that when I do step on the scale, I will see progress.

Perhaps you, too, struggle with maintaining a healthy weight. Perhaps some mindful attention to your own eating patterns can help you find a way to lessen your caloric intake. Perhaps some version of intermittent fasting will work for you. Each of us has to find what works for us as individuals when we realize we need to lose weight. What’s important is that we are mindful of the food choices we make and the consequences of those choices. We all know that it’s a lot easier to NOT eat something than to have to work it off later. By simply scheduling my eating and saying NO to chocolate, I’ve cut my caloric intake considerably–and in a way that I can sustain for life.

I don’t usually write about personal matters here, but I know that my mindfulness practices play a crucial  role in navigating my relationship with food and in changing my eating patterns. I share my experiences in hopes that I can help readers to “be happy; be well; be free of suffering; be at peace.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in: Mindfulness, Wellness