My sister is visiting! She lives several states over, so we only see each other three or four times a year. I showed her my bag full of chocolate goodies. She reached in immediately, sinking her arm up to the elbow in “the good stuff,” as she put it (exactly my sentiments).
Did you think I would have a sister who eats only broccoli? I guess that could happen, but rest assured, though we are different in many ways, my sis and I share our chocolate cravings. Her weakness? Milk chocolate chips, which she theoretically buys for baking…but seems to burn through at a rate not equal to her cookie production.
As we readied for the mindful chocolate eating, she said, “You know what my favorite thing to do with chocolate chips is?” I finished her sentence for her because I knew she was thinking of our old family recipe.
Would you like me to share it? Okay, pay attention; it’s very complicated.
My sister was a good sport. She gave the mindful eating thing a try, slowly eating a square of dark chocolate. Afterwards, when I offered her another piece, she declined. She felt she’d had “enough.” I count this as a big success. My sis doesn’t typically buy dark chocolate, but she’s going to give it a try the next time she’s reaching for the peanut butter jar.
Remember how proud I was of myself for mindfully eating a piece of dark chocolate, just, oh, like yesterday? Yeah, well, that’s out the window.
I had serious cravings after lunch (which seems to be the most dangerous time period of the day for me, food-wise) and instead of just eating my ounce of dark chocolate, I opened the pantry….insert ominous pipe organ music…why am I opening the pantry when I’ve just eaten a nice healthy lunch, and I’m FULL?
In the dark recesses of my pantry I found an impulse buy from a few days prior, a box of “meal replacement bars.” You’ve seen these, right? They basically look like a candy bar, have many of the same ingredients as a candy bar, and, here’s the important thing, they are supposed to replace a meal, not be eaten in addition to a meal. Ideally, they would not be eaten at all. I like to pretend they are very healthy because they have so much protein and fiber, etc. But I know I am a liar, and so, I hardly ever keep this type of thing (ditto sugary granola bars) in the house. Not even for the precious little ones.
I ate an entire meal replacement bar, not at all mindfully, after my meal, and though it was indeed yummy, would you be surprised to learn, dear reader, that I did not feel satisfied afterwards? That my longings and cravings did not go away and, in fact, only amplified? I had to brush my teeth to keep from having another.
Yesterday, however, when I mindfully ate a piece of dark chocolate, I did feel satisfied. But I think there’s something at work here besides just the mindfulness. I suspect chocolate that contains more sugar (e.g. my meal replacement bars, various milk chocolates) lead to higher cravings. I mean, is it chocolate that I’m craving or would a marshmallow dipped in crushed jolly ranchers do the trick?
Last night, I returned home after a long evening’s work on my new novel. My primary thought, as I trudged home in the snow, was, boy I deserve some chocolate. I know that’s the wrong attitude, but there it was.
A few days ago, I had tried to mindfully eat a piece of chocolate after watching Dr. Albers’ video on the topic, but I learned an important lesson: you cannot mindfully do anything when you are listening for your children’s footsteps. At least until I get better at this, I must find a time when I won’t be disturbed, like late at night, when everyone’s asleep.
Late last night was the perfect time. I selected a square of dark chocolate with hazelnuts. I let it sit in my hand. It was heavy, more than an ounce, surely, but who’s counting? I noticed the little eagle logo imprinted on the square, and if I squinted, I could even make out some tiny print above the Ghirardelli: San Francisco, Founded in 1852. I’d no idea the company was around that long, so you see, mindful eating can be educational, too!
At that point, I was really having trouble not just popping it into my mouth. The chocolate was very bumpy, just completely loaded with nuts. I took a sniff, and noticed something. Whatever those pleasure receptacles are in my brain that go on full, light-up pinball machine when I eat chocolate actually started spazzing out, just from smelling it.
And then, I ate, forcing myself to take several bites instead of one. Did I enjoy the chocolate more by eating it this way? Yes, fine, I’ll admit it, skeptic that I was, I did enjoy it more. The moments spent anticipating it only heightened the pleasure of eating it. Eating it slowly, not too surprisingly, prolonged that ecstatic experience.
I believe Dr. Albers may be on to something here…
This morning, I woke to a large amount of snow covered by a thin, crunchy layer of ice. The plans I had for all the things I was going to get done today were immediately cancelled. The kids were granted yet another snow day. Even the hubs got the morning off work.
Sometimes other forces convene to slow us down from our daily routines. And sometimes, this is a very good thing. I’m sitting in my office now with my morning coffee (mocha java, of course). I work in a bedroom closet (NOT the closet where the chocolate is hidden). It’s not as bad as it sounds; I have a large window in here, which, today, looks out over the ice-coated branches of a Japanese maple, and beyond that, our street. There’s not a sound, except the faint scraping of snow shovels and the rhythmic breathing of my black lab asleep near my feet.
And so, what does this have to do with chocolate? Well, I believe the idea of slowing down, of appreciating, can be beneficial in so many areas of life, not just eating. I BELIEVE this, I don’t often PRACTICE it. But I’d like to change that. Tomorrow, I shall attempt, via the instructions on Dr. Albers’ video, to mindfully eat a piece of chocolate. I’m pretty sure I could mindfully eat a Brussels sprout, but chocolate? Tune in tomorrow, and we shall see…
This morning, as soon as I read the challenge, I made my list with the ten things that can distract me from eating. My list includes making crafts, exercising, riding a bike, and visiting new places among others, but right now it is hard because I am so busy with college, work and family. Probably right now it is easier to find things from my comforting list which won’t take too much time and they will help to distract from emotional eating.
The challenge today was tricky. Many times I know that it is not physical hunger when I want to eat, however, it is still hard to stop myself from getting some food. While I am working, I hardly have time to eat a snack, even though in Montessori schools children eat when they feel hungry. I am teaching and I am super busy during the whole working period. If a child invites me for snack, then I will be able to sit at the table and have a little snack, if not, I don’t even think about food. Today, when it was close to lunch, I realized that my stomach was growling. Great signs! I was really hungry.
The chart that Dr. Albers sent today came in very handy. It was very clear which is physical or emotional hunger. The tools that we learned during the 10 day challenge will help in this journey of mindful eating. I know it is not easy, but the beginning has been great. I will keep trying this way of eating, and hopefully it will become a habit. Dr. Albers, in her book Eat.Q., has the best advice for all the people that have eating issues like me. I will always be thankful for this 10 day challenge which initiated me into eating mindfully.
Wow, did this challenge come on the perfect day for me to put it to work!
Today I was working from home (which I do every Wednesday) and I had to complete my year-end performance review.
Working from home when I’m NOT stressed is easy for me regarding food choices and snacking, but when I’m STRESSED it is much more difficult to manage. At work, I keep a minimum amount of food available to me … because I know I will “stress eat” if the choices are available 🙁 Usually I have almonds, pistachios, salmon jerky and cottage cheese available in the office. But at home there is a whole kitchen full of food … and the grocery store is on;y one block away if I want something that I don’t have!
And I find completing my performance review to be stressful. I know that I’ve done a good job, but I find it stressful getting the words just right on paper …
So here are some ways I can distract myself, a combination of tactics I used today and others:
This was the most fun challenge yet! I liked spending the time to actually write down non-food ways that I use to “comfort” myself.
When I was using sugar to self-medicate, I always said that I turned to sugar for EVERY emotion: happy, sad, tired, stressed, etc. Now I realize that I have developed effective ways of “self-medicating” that don’t involve food — or sugar!
5 Ways I Relax
5 People who Comfort Me
5 Activities that Provide a Little Soothing
5 Places that are Comforting
Being that today was the last day of the challenge, I wanted more than anything to have a very mindful day. I can honestly say that I was not as successful as I was planning on! My morning and lunch went well. I was at an inservice today at NASA to be certified to handle moon rocks. Like most meetings, there was a spread of “stuff”to help yourself to all day. I sat and ate only what I brought as others at my table ate granola bars, Doritos and chocolates! Success! I watched and didn’t touch!! It was when I got home that things headed a little south. I ate some broccoli cheddar soup, which I allowed myself to have since I was sick (and aside from making my own I was very unsuccessful in finding a natural no sugar added low sodium soup). I ate it slowly and mindfully and really enjoyed it. I don’t know if it’s because I am sick or what but I felt like I couldn’t get enough to eat. I had chicken, a salad, a handful of nuts and some banana chips! I haven’t felt this full in a long time. To be honest I felt a little out of control!
I have my list of 10 distractions…but I was just not having any of that!! Today was still an opportunity to learn though. I am very much an ALL or NOTHING kind of person. In the past I would have thrown the towel in and said “well I blew it… Might as well keep eating whatever I want!…I’m such a failure! I will never accomplish a goal!” Currently, I am working on and learning to move through the perfectionist all or nothing view! My day could have been much worse and not all days are going to be perfect!!
These 10 days were a great way to jumpstart or support any lifestyle change! As you continue to journey beyond these 10 days and practice mindful eating, be gentle and handle yourself with care! Negativity will not help you accomplish anything…especially if you are the one feeding yourself the negative energy! Practice distractions, be present, and rejoice in nourishing your body! I know I will…and if I can do it, so can you! Today is just the beginning of the amazing things yet to come!
You are BEAUTIFUL! You are SPECIAL! You are WORTH IT!
For me, physical hunger comes on slowly whereas emotional hunger comes on rapidly and cravings are definitely strong. When this happens, I tend to minimize the ill effects from the last binge and justify my reasoning to eat despite being full or even painfully stuffed and miserable. Today, I made an effort to tune in to signals of hunger and fullness and rate my hunger on the Hunger Scale. I was so busy at work and that structure keeps me from over eating, but cravings were strong when I got home.
When I arrived home after my long day, I was physically hungry. Tempted to eat a lot and quickly, I slowed down, ate mindfully. listened to my body and stopped when I was full. Major personal growth!!! So, while I did have a moment where I experienced emotional hunger, I was too busy to act on it at the time.
The true test for me will be those moments where I have emotional hunger, no structure and time on my hands. That’s why I’m looking forward to finishing my iBook version of Eat.Q. I’m looking forward to developing coping skills, my emotional intelligence and utilize the EAT method to embrace, accept and manage my feelings as well as distract or self soothe rather than numbing with food like I’ve done so many times before. I finally feel like I have a great chance at recovery from my Eating Disorder. What a life changer.
Oops! See my post from Day 9 for today’s challenge. I got ahead of myself!
So my final thoughts….
My 7th grade son had a basketball game tonight. As I watched him on the court, I noticed a Mother from the opposing team sitting ahead of me. She was very busily snapping photos of her son with her iPhone, then her giant digital camera. Then texting someone, then snapping photos, then showing her friend the photos, then changing accessories on her giant camera, then….it didn’t end! She spent so much time being pre-occupied with her gadgets and conversations that she didn’t spend anytime focusing on the important reason she was there in the first place – her son playing a live game. She spent so much time behind the lens trying to capture the perfect moment, she wasn’t taking in the reality and aliveness of the environment unfolding around her.
Then I realized that sometimes I eat my meals this way – totally pre-occupied with my electronic gadget, or the conversation I’m involved in. Thanks to Dr. Albers, this 10-day challenge has taught me to be alive in the moment – to be mindful of my food choices – to taste, smell, recognize the feeling of fullness, satisfaction, emotional eating, etc. And I am grateful.
So next time you are plowing through your meal without taking in the reality around you, remember the Shutterbug Mom in the bleachers who is missing the moment by being pre-occupied by a different agenda.
It’s been a great 10-days. It’s time to say farewell…..
Be well my friends. Remember to live in the moment and love yourself happy.
This morning while I was having breakfast, I enjoyed the bread that my co-teacher made for us. It was bread with different types of cereals, delicious! I ate a slice mindfully. After I finished, my daughter just took a bite to her slice and said, “I don’t want anymore.” The slice on the plate with butter and jelly on top was inviting me to take a bite. I picked it up and I took a bite. As soon as I did it, I thought, “This is a bad decision. I am satisfied with the slice I ate, and I don’t need to keep eating. I need to stop right now. It is not too late.” I asked my husband to take the piece of bread away because I was not going to eat it. He was helping my daughter so I said, “You’d better hurry before I change my mind.” It is so hard when you have food that you want but you need to say NO. I am glad I did. Even though a slice of bread was not a lot of food, I felt that I won a battle. I know it is hard to eat mindfully every day with each meal, but if I can do it at least once every day, I feel that it is a good beginning of change.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t walk around with a natural peace filled personality! Finding peace is always an after thought…after the stress becomes all consuming! I was reluctant about making this list. But, the more I thought about it…this list brings to the forefront of your mind ways to be proactive instead of always being reactive!
5 Ways I Relax:
-A cup of tea in a funky mug
-Aveda Blue Oil (rolls onto any tense areas or for aromatherapy
-Relaxing Rituals Yankee candle in Calm
-Hug myself and take slow cleansing breaths
-I read through my mantras
5 People Who Comfort Me:(in no particular order)
-My cousin Melissa
-My friend Linda
-My friend Fr. Tim
5 Soothing Activities:
-A hot shower
-A walk in nature
-Rocking in a rocking chair by the water
-Listening to a guided meditation
5 Places that are Comforting
-My Psychologist’s waiting room (trickling water, scented reeds, low lights and quiet music)
-My bed with my afghan
Parts of these lists did not come easily! Soothing without food is a new venture for me…only 25 days old! In some ways I still feel as if I am mentally detoxing from bad habits, abusing food and being unaware of my state of being. I have seen, over these 25 days, the real purpose of food! I always knew there were other ways to feel good, but why would I change what I was used to!
I encourage you to make the same list and find ways that will create a home for peace to live within!
Ahhhh….my old pal Emotional Eating….
Today’s challenge invited us to make lists (LISTS!) following the 5-5-5-5 pattern. List 5 ways to relax, 5 people to comfort you, 5 activities that provide soothing, and 5 places that are comforting. All in an effort to be prepared when emotions threaten our good eating intentions. Like many folks, I eat when I’m happy, sad, bored, anxious, fearful…you name it – I’ll eat my emotions. Every time.
An old Weight Watchers trick that has stayed with me over the years taught me to pause before kitchen cabinet surfing, put my hand on my stomach and ask myself if I’m physically hungry, or emotionally hungry. If I’m not physically hungry (which, truly, is rare), I refer to my 5-5-5-5 list, GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN, and distract myself for 15 minutes. In my case, I always gulp a big glass of water and get my hands busy (there is always a load of laundry to fold somewhere, right?), take the dogs for a walk, flip through a magazine, read a book, etc. Generally this does the trick for me and the craving passes.
Fortunately for me, I’ve never been an evening muncher, but my health coaching clients often list this as a primary complaint. I encourage them to plan ahead for an enjoyable evening snack, eat it, then brush their teeth. I also recommend preparing a cup of hot water with fresh-squeezed lemon after dinner to cure the sweet-tooth longing (also great for your complexion, cleansing your liver, etc!).
I recently read the book SHIFT, written by Tory Johnson, of Good Morning America Deals & Steals fame, (which I highly recommend). It’s a quick, easy read about her journey to lose significant weight and I found it appealing because I sometimes forget that behind all the glitz and glam of morning television, that she suffers with weight and self-image, just like the rest of us. Anyway, in her book she describes a munchy night, and her cure became painting her fingernails. After all, she couldn’t reach into the bag of chips while her topcoat was drying. GENIUS! 🙂
One of my best tricks – especially with Thanksgiving coming up next week – is to place a piece of gum in your pocket, and when you feel satisfied, but tempted to keep refilling your plate (or snack all afternoon), pop the gum in your mouth to satisfy the need to nosh.
Works. Every. Time.
Today’s challenge is to notice how each food impacts your mood and stress levels. While training to become a Health Coach I’ve spent many days experimenting with how my body reacts to different foods. Over the last year I have become super sensitive to the outcomes. One of which, to my surprise, is my dearest friend Diet Coke. I have learned the (gasp!) dangers of Diet Coke (and other soft drinks) and have s-l-o-w-l-y weaned myself from my one-a-day (you know, like a vitamin!) habit to an occasional treat. This was not an easy habit to come to terms with. But this is what I’ve learned about my body’s reaction to Diet Coke over the last few weeks:
I’m still experimenting with Diet Coke and I quit bringing it into the house, which has been a BIG help. Now, I only enjoy an occasional Diet Coke on Saturday night when we are out to dinner. But I’m learning that water with lemon is just as satisfying – even with pizza! And I walk away from the table feeling satisfied (not stuffed – from the carbonation?) and not crabby from another failed food choice.
Today’s challenge encouraged us to eat and notice our mood and stress levels. I’m a recent fan of almonds. This has become my go-to snack. I have found that 6-8 almonds in the late afternoon will satisfy me until dinner. Other items on the list? Spinach (which I mix with romaine in my salads, and aim to eat one salad each day). The Energetics of Food teaches us that eating leafy greens, by nature, lifts our mood (because they ‘spring up’ out of the ground – therefore, we take on that energy when we consume it). Really! Google ‘Energetics of Food’ for more fascinating facts and further explanation.
Oranges and oatmeal also made Dr. Albers’ list. They leave me satisfied and proud that I made a good healthy food decision, which elevates my mood and confidence. My body also benefits from the vitamins and minerals, and *ahem* digestive regularity.
I thought today would be easy.
Make a list of 5 Ways I relax, 5 People who comfort me, 5 Activities that soothe me, 5 Places that are comforting and find my ZEN on my day off. No problem:). Then I realized I had to shop for a birthday gift that would be hard to find. Four stores and three hours later mixed with early holiday shoppers, I had ZERO ZEN. Finding my zen or being able to self soothe is CRITICAL for me!! My emotions can definitely spin me in a circle and lead to poor food decisions.
After arriving home and cooking a huge Family Pasta Bar dinner (cooking ahead for the rest of the week), I mindfully ate a moderate plate of Pumpkin Gnocchi with Butternut Squash Sauce and slid into a candle light bubble bath. Afterwards, I brushed my hair 100 strokes, took 5 deep breaths, sipped hot tea and there it was ….. my zen.
The good news is that I CAN self soothe, but then again, today was a good day. Can I self sooth without food after a bad day at work or when I make an embarrassing mistake? In the meantime, practicing finding my zen is …. well…. AHHH
After the absence of yesterday, due to the storm and the loss of internet, it was great to receive the tips for mood boosting food today. As it turns out, today was one of those days that the tips really were helpful.
This morning, I received a visit from the principal of the lab school where I am doing my master’s in Montessori. She came to observe my practice, help me to assess the arrangement of the classroom, and to suggest some techniques to improve my practice as a teacher. Well, even though I was very relaxed, and I felt very confident in what I was doing, I could not avoid a little bit of anxiety after the morning was over. I talked to her to discover her point of view of how the morning went. Shoo… after that was over, it was my turn to drive my 3 hours to the university. While I was driving I started to crave something sweet! I wanted a coffee with a muffin, or with a pastry, or with cake. Mmmm I had to stop for gas and I went to get a coffee. Right there, when I was going to pick up a muffin, I remembered that chocolate works better for mood boosting so I bought one bar of chocolate instead. I started driving, and even though I hate driving and eating, I took the time to smell the chocolate for a little bit before biting it. It smelled delicious. I also took the time to enjoy the first bite. I just decided to eat half the bar and save the rest for the way home that night. I was surprised that I was able to do it, because before I would have just eaten the whole bar without even thinking about smelling, savoring, and stopping when I had eaten half.
The list of mood boosting foods came in very handy today and I am sure it will help in the future.
Ah, the list of healthy stress-reducing foods makes my heart sing!
Since giving up sugar, I have really learned how to love foods that fuel my body.
For breakfast, I had a nice bowl of steel cut oats (the coarser kind than regular oatmeal, they really stick to your ribs!) with a few raisins, some slivered almonds and skim milk.
For lunch, I had a trip to the cafeteria salad bar. Raw spinach was one of the greens, so onto my salad it went.
Mid-morning and mid-afternoon I like to enjoy a cup of tea … no sugar, no artificial sweetener.
Now, the only thing on the list that is hard for me is chocolate. I know that everyone stresses the health benefits of dark chocolate … and that at least 80% cacao is most beneficial. I have tried this … but it triggered my sugar cravings 🙁
I have found, however, that I CAN enjoy cacao nibs (they are the ground up bits of the actual cacao seed). They aren’t sweet at all, but deliver the flavor of chocolate without the addictive sugar. If I put them into a smoothie or sprinkle them on fresh fruit, the fruit delivers the slow, non-triggering sweetness and the cacao nibs deliver the chocolate flavor … works for me!
And now, for my bedtime snack. I have a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter and the oranges are calling my name.
I am enjoying this challenge so much! Having a daily tidbit to think about is just enough to help keep myself aware and mindful throughout the day.
Ah, the food pushers.
Early in my weight loss, I ran into this a lot. “Just a bite won’t make you fat,” they would say, not understanding that I wasn’t avoiding the calories … I was avoiding the battle I had with sugar addiction for my entire life! And I hadn’t read any of Dr. Alber’s books … so I wasn’t very well prepared with what to say.
But now that I’ve maintained my 52-pound weight loss for seven years, I don’t find that any more … my success dis-arms any food pushers!
I do try, however, to use Teachable Moments. On behalf of myself and all others who consider themselves sugar addicts, I think it is important for people to know that some of us just can’t say “No” to sugar once we start. I believe that my relationship to sugar is the same as an alcoholic’s relationship to alcohol. Without sounding self-righteous, I explain to people that it’s best for me to just stay away from sugar because once I start eating it I can’t stop. Most people will respect your will-power and the boundary that you draw for yourself.
I also believe in the power of “No, thank you.” We have a lot of celebrations at work that involve cake 🙂 People are used to me just politely saying “No, thank you” when it is offered … and I just continue chatting with my friends who have gathered for the celebration.
P.S. I recently celebrated my 30th anniversary at work. My boss went to at least three grocery stores to put together a magnificent bowl of exotic fresh fruit for everyone to enjoy! We had donut peaches and black velvet plums … a treat for everyone!
I have come to the realization, and I guess acceptance, that battling temptations and facing food triggers are now becoming part of my everyday life! In the past, you see, I gave in to every food whim, every craving,every desire! I never told myself NO, and if I did I always found a way to persuade myself in the other direction or justify the food choice! I am the person who has never seen 100% weight loss success and have never made myself faithfully stick to any health ventures I set out on! I have always been driven by momentary emotions. Food has been a friend, a void filler, a soother, an anxiety easer, a place to drown my sorrows or celebrate my successes! It has been all these things, but only for a short period of time…before it turns on you and stabs you in the back and makes you feel ashamed, guilty, unworthy and a down right failure!
Today though, food was none of those things! Food wasn’t even given the opportunity to make me feel powerless! I walked into lunch feeling mediocre about the Italian Chicken Stew I made for lunches this week! I know I am weird, but I hate the taste chicken has after a day or two. Anyway, I was dumping my stew into my bowl and another teacher walks to the fridge and takes out a giant Chipotle bowl. My whole insides (mind, heart, stomach) all sank at the same time. Why? Why? Why, couldn’t I have Chipotle today!!! I began leading my mind on a sensuous journey through the many tastes of a burrito bowl. And I stopped! The food I have is sufficient, it is whole and nourishing and I can be satisfied with what I have! I looked across the table at her a few times, but for the most part I focused on my hearty meal. When I finished eating, 35 min later, I was full, satisfied and no longer thinking of the Chipotle I couldn’t have.
I am not sure if you ever recover from the thoughts and tastes of foods you choose not to eat, much like a recovering alcoholic or drug addict can pull up the same thoughts about their substances. The difference is, it is more important now to focus on the satisfied and nourished feelings that whole sustainable foods can bring us.
Empowered, proud and worthy of the very best!
Today’s challenge is a learning experience for me. When I was first introduced to the idea of mindful eating, my biggest fear was that I would eat nothing but junk food 24/7. It took me a while to embrace and incorporate the concept that I could eat what I desired and often my body will naturally desire “feel good” food instead of just “comfort food.
As I learn to eat mindfully and tune into hunger, fullness and how food affects my body, I tend to want antioxidant rich, fiber filled foods chock full of vitamins and minerals. Wait! My big fear was that all I would want was pizza, pie, chips and chocolate. I realized that when I remind myself that there is NO “good food”, “bad food” (food has no moral value) and give myself permission to FUEL my body with what it needs, my body naturally wants to strike balance and feel energized. While junk food tastes great, it makes me feel foggy and sluggish like a post Thanksgiving tryptophan slumber whereas quality fuel leaves me feeling vibrant, alert, clear headed and filled with energy.
Signing off to have my mindful evening snack: an orange.