I really needed the advice about what to do when there are temptations. I need to have more self-control during those moments, and definitely the tools that Dr. Albers recommends are great. I didn’t try any of them today, because I didn’t have much temptation. However, I thought that the trick about mints could help, because many times I just want something sweet after lunch or dinner and that could help me avoid some cookies or coffee cake.
I also think that having a plan ahead of time would make things easier. Today, I was coming home at 5 pm from work (I stayed too late at school getting things ready for the next day) and I was starving. My husband had my baby and he was tired too. None of us wanted to cook, so I suggested fast food. What!? Yes, I did. My husband was shocked! I mostly don’t want fast food, but today for some reason I thought it was ok. I had a chicken sandwich and fries (NOT GOOD CHOICE, I KNOW) but I ate it slowly and mindfully. Before we started the dinner, we again smelled the food and I asked my husband and daughter to find two adjectives for the food. While I ate, I thought about the crunchiness of the chicken in the middle of the soft bun. Making a plan for healthy food would avoid these last minutes choices. Hopefully, my husband and I can work on that soon.
After dinner I found myself thinking about the seasonal Gingerbread Cookie ice cream we had bought for the kids. I’m full and satisfied from a well rounded nutritionally adequate dinner. I’m not hungry. Why am I craving ice cream? For one thing it tastes great and secondly, I’m still feeling a bit emotional. I decided to try the Elaborate Intrusion Pause method. I looked around the room for something to focus on. The lamp? No. The photo album. Nah. Coat rack? Laundry basket? Awe … My cat. Sure; why not?
For two minutes I focused on the color and shape of my cat. My cat has a shiny black coat of fur, from this view he’s curled up in the fetal position and my cat has no tail. I watched as he bathed himself & blinked his eyes repeatedly. Similar to mindful eating, I took in the sight, sound and feel of him with all my senses. I promised myself that I can have ice cream in two minutes if I still want some. I gave myself permission to eat it after two minutes and reminded myself that no food is off limits or forbidden.
Two minutes passed. I reminded myself that if I’m still craving ice cream, I can take another pause with a hot bubble bath. I’m okay ….I’m okay for tonight.
Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner.
One would think these are the only food choices we make. That’s why I was intrigued to learn from Dr. Albers that we make over 250 food choices each day.
Coffee – black? cream? sugar? in my favorite blue ceramic mug? to-go thermos? Ben’s Stanley?
Breakfast cereal (which?)? with almond milk? fat-free milk?
Or oatmeal? brown sugar? maple syrup? walnuts? raisins? milk? apple? banana? frozen blueberries?
All these choices invade my thoughts, and I haven’t even climbed out of bed yet! Okay, so the research from Cornell is probably true – but 250+ food choices a day? WOW.
Yesterday I was listening to a news interview with a guy who was wrongfully accused of murder and spent 10 years in prison. This week he was acquitted and released. He was explaining the luxuries of making his own decisions – like having a variety of things to eat instead of whatever is served cafeteria-style that day. It makes me appreciate how fortunate I am to have 250+ daunting choices to make each day.
I take comfort in routine and know I make my best food choices when I have a plan. So many of my food decisions are made on Monday nights when I make my meal plans for the week. To you it may seem boring, mundane. To me it means control, satisfaction and security. And I know I can build flexibility within the basic framework.
Dr. Albers’ info sheet on “How Do You Decide What to Eat?” was interesting to me. I never gave much thought to the process of making food decisions until now. I guess I’d conclude that the majority of my foods are PLANNED from HABIT (for example: I often eat the same foods on Tuesdays because of my routine – with the exception of dinner, which varies. But this plan is comforting and satisfying to me, and keeps me on track).
I have also observed over the years with my Weight Watchers Members and now my Health Coaching clients that those who take the time to plan ahead (and stick to the plan) are most successful in their healthy pursuits. It’s always an added challenge to counsel those who don’t have skills or desire to plan ahead, and make consistent choices. But it can be done – with tenacity, dedication, support and encouragement – folks can make a healthy lifestyle of turning off the autopilot decisions or feeling ‘victim’ to careless food options. Instead, consider making and owning your decisions – one thought at a time – and take the opportunity to make a mindful choice – as Dr. Albers advises.
I also find it helpful to pause and ask myself “is this bite taking me closer to my healthy goals, or further away from them?”. This can be a powerful (and empowering) thought too.
The future is yours to decide. Go to it – one bite at a time!
Today’s challenge is near and dear to my heart … decision-making around food.
If you’ve been following my posts, you know that I lost 52 pounds in 52 weeks when I was 52. That’s an accomplishment that I’m proud of. But you know what? The even LARGER accomplishment is that I’ve kept off every single pound for seven years!
I’m a member of the National Weight Control Registry (you can Google it for more information). It is a research project of people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for more than a year. They study is being done to help understand what contributes to successful weight loss maintenance.
One of the key findings is that most of us successful maintainers eat pretty much the same foods most of the time. Why? Because when we discover what works for us, it is easier to remove some of the decision-making from the process.
For me, I eat approximately the same foods at approximately the same time for breakfast, a mid-morning snack and lunch (at least during the week). It’s not a hard and rigid thing, but rather an act of simplicity and pleasure. I know what I like and what fuels my body well. For dinner, there’s more variety because I find myself in a wider variety of situations … but even then I have a few “go to” foods and choices that I know will work for me.
Today was the third busy, stressful day in a row … putting me pretty much at my limit! I don’t like this much stress. I facilitated a workshop this morning, which was a little stressful and required that I get up early and arrive at work early to prepare the room. Luckily the meeting went extremely well, but it went longer than expected. That meant that I could only get outside to walk for half an hour at lunch, and I couldn’t walk with my friends because they were done by the time I started. I missed their friendship today.
When I got home from work, my husband offered to take me out to dinner … because he knows it’s been a difficult week for me! We went to Chili’s. They have a wonderful entree in their “2 for $20” special: Mango Chile Tilapia. It’s one of their “light” dishes and I think it’s wonderful. It comes with broccoli and rice (but they let me substitute corn on the cob for rice because I find that an extra vegetable keeps me full better than the rice). Yum yum! This is an example of me having a few favorite foods that I know are good “go to ” choices for me. That way, when I am stressed and tired like today, I don’t have to struggle with making a decision. (After all, if I was good at making food decisions I wouldn’t have gained so much weight!) I already know a few choices that will please me and work for me.
So, I am now ready for bed. I am proud of how I have handled this difficult week so far. All of the big meetings are out of the way, and I’ve stayed the course nutritionally speaking. Looking forward to a more peaceful day tomorrow.
This morning I walked confidently into this challenge of choices! Having been detoxing from sugar and processed food for 19 days now, I felt fully prepared to stare down any obstacle that crossed my path! I was a little worried though that I would not really have any food choices to make today. I prepare every meal the night before so it is planned, set and ready to go! Well, whenever I feel I am on the straight and narrow I somehow find myself on a detour! Boy was the road riddled with potholes today!!
Many may not know this, but the teacher’s lounge is a dumping ground for kind and caring people to generously donate any fat laden calorie loaded food! FREE food that is!! The kinds of foods that most women stop at gas stations or convenient stores to pick up when they have had an unbearably stressful day! Cookies, donuts and CHOCOLATE,oh my!! Now, I have not walked into a teacher’s lounge other than lunch time since I started this sugar detox! Today I was feeling like the warm fuzzy feeling of a hot cup of chamomile tea! Before I knew it, my senses were on overload as the table of junk was sitting there looking very enticing! I paused for my one minute…took it all in with my eyes, took a moment to smell the donut holes, though about how sweet and powdery they would taste……made my tea and walked out!
I owned those choices today! I though about how they would not nourish my body, how horrible I would feel after the sugar high and of course how it would derail my plan!
The greatest satisfaction (even greater than eating the foods that I once thought were delicious) comes when YOU make the food choices rather than allowing the foods to choose you, being the confident decision maker rather than the guilty victim, and leading yourself instead of following momentary visually triggered cravings!
Show up equipped and prepared! Keep your chin up and feel EMPOWERED by your right to choose!
Making food decisions today was tricky. Being a super busy mom, many times I eat whatever is at hand. I want to pick that is healthy, but I end up choosing what everyone else likes at home or what sounds tastier. Since I eat lunch while I am at the school, I pack my food early in the morning and most of the time that is a good choice. My problem is when we have dinner at home. I have a hard time having just one serving or stopping when I am full. Tonight, my husband made some pasta. Yummy! I had a plate, and I asked to my 3 year old daughter and my husband to think about the two adjectives. We smelled the food, enjoying how it looked on the plate and I ate it slowly. When I finished, I still wanted some more, but I didn’t get any. Tonight, while my husband and my daughter had their second serving, I was still enjoying my first one. I definitely ate less than other times when we eat pasta and that made me happy.
My problem was during lunch time. It was really hard to focus and eat mindfully when having lunch with my students. Hopefully, with practice that won’t be an issue in the future.
Today has definitely been one of those times when coming home from a long, tiring, anxiety filled day at work means shifting into autopilot. The grab and go, convenient microwaved meal after downing a few handfuls of chips would be fair game. After all, it’s been a long day and ugh … “I deserve it”.
“I deserve it”? My decision making skills have definitely gown downhill. NO; wait!! Okay, here’s the pause Dr. Albers recommended. Here’s an opportunity to choose my meal based on what my body needs and wants. No matter how tired and frustrated I am. My mind shifts, reluctantly at first, to self care. What fuel does my body need? What fuel do I desire? Thank goodness I have a great compromise. As I set my potato and chicken to bake, I mix up a pre-washed ready to eat salad mix and dressing. It’s convenient yet healthy and tasty. A moment of pride and satisfaction wash over me. I could have easily gone for chips and ice cream with the kind of day I’ve had. If I ate them mindfully, that would be one thing, yet after a trying day, I would have stuffed them down mindlessly. What a victory. Pilot at the controls:)
During these two days, I have been trying two tips to eat mindfully. I discovered that when I eat more slowly, and I try to be present in the moment, the food tastes different. While having my coffee this morning, I thought that it tasted better than other days. Was it because I was paying extra attention to the smell before drinking it? Was it because I was feeling the temperature with my hands before I brought the mug to my mouth?
At breakfast I did the same ritual as yesterday, and I ate at a slower speed. It went pretty well!
I like the idea of focusing on one skill at the time. It just reminds me of when I am teaching at the Montessori school. We believe that it is hard for children to concentrate on both our movements and on our words when teaching a lesson. So, if I am demonstrating some work with my hands, mostly, I do it without speaking. If I want to explain something about the lesson, then I keep my hands still so children can focus on my words. I thought about this as I was trying to be present while eating. When my husband was talking to me, it was hard to eat and think about the look of the food, the texture, flavors, smell, etc. I had a moment of realization that if I want to be mindful while eating; I need to focus on it without distraction. I need to be present!
Today again, I had classes at the university. During snack time it happened the same way. I was trying to eat and be in the moment, but also with my classmates. Unfortunately, it didn’t work very well for me. I guess I need to learn how to balance both things. I think practice is the key, just like many other skills we learn.
As I contemplated today’s challenge on my way to work today, I thought about the many hats most of us have to wear throughout the day. These “hats” require us to do many many things, often within a very short time period! No wonder we have become such a microwave, to go, drive through, processed food laden society. We have so much to do, so many places to be, and so many responsibilities to answer to that it has become, not only convenient, but almost necessary to work and accomplish things with one hand while eating a meal with the other!
My intention was to arrive at school, print report cards and sit down to have my natural yogurt parfait! Sounded like a sold attainable plan! Well I planned and God laughed!! I accomplished most of my plans, but was bombarded by many other questions! Before I knew it the bell rang, the kids walked in…more questions were asked and many stories were shared! I looked down at my unbeaten yogurt and realized I had 10 min to go through notes, take attendance, and INHALE my yogurt before we had to go to mass! out of all the bites I took I only remember tasting the first and last ones!
Today’s challenge goes hand in hand with yesterday’s challenge! Just like Dr. Alber’s said..this really is harder than it looks! I tried again at lunch and found my mind drifting to all the things I needed to get done! This time when I found myself “off task”, I put my fork down and tried to refocus myself. Like most things, this will take practice in order to become a habit!
It is possible to stand in a rose garden and not smell the roses. It is possible to be alive and not live. And it is possible to be awake at the plate but not fully aware!
Practice brings progress! We are worth taking the time to practice in order to make progress!
Onward EatQ challengers!!
Wellness Institute, Cleveland Clinic Lifestyle Medicine
Dr. Albers introduces her new book, Eat.Q: Unlock the Weight Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence
October 15th, 2013
Register to attend through Cleveland Clinic
A friend recently called me with an urgent request. “Help! I can’t stop stress eating and I don’t know what to do!” My reply: “Search Inside Yourself.” No. This was not my attempt at a Confucius-like answer. It’s the name of a recent book on mindfulness. It’s on my list of favorites. Search Inside Yourself was written by Chade-Meng Tan, an engineer at Google who teaches mindfulness classes. His official title at Google is “Jolly Good Fellow.” As you read the book, you will understand why he has obtained such a title. His personality and sense of humor glows through his words. Each chapter conveys a warm and thoughtful way of explaining how to cope with daily stress.
The book impressively begins with a forward by two leading authorities on mindfulness, emotional intelligence and self-regulation, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and Daniel Goleman. Dr. Kabat-Zinn is the founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Daniel Goleman is the author of the fantastic bestseller, Emotional Intelligence. Their forwards echo what you will read throughout the book—self-awareness is key to making changes and living well (including stopping emotional eating!).
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an internal google bar? To type in the question, “Why am I stress eating right now?” “What emotion am I trying to soothe or push away by eating in this moment?” The answer often doesn’t pop up as easy as it does on google. We often wait until after we are done eating to ask the question: “Why did I just eat that?” Asking yourself after you eat, instead of before or during, is often too late. Getting to the root of the emotional drive to eat in-the-moment gives an opportunity to alter the course.
I suggested that my friend try some of the self-awareness and self-regulation exercises in the book. They help people to detach and get distance from the overwhelming nature of the emotion, particularly stress. For example, we often smother feelings down with food. Instead, it can be helpful to ride through tough emotions by getting to the other side of them without reacting to them.
Chade-Meng Tan describes emotions to be like riding a horse. Sometimes we let the horse just take us where it wants to go and sometimes we can tame and guide the horse. Instead of identifying with the feeling by saying “I am stressed” you can distance a little by saying, “I am experiencing stress in my body.” You can also practice the art of breathing well to calm down. See him describing this on youtube video on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8fcqrNO7so
It’s nice to find another book that makes mindful exercises feel easy, doable and very helpful to daily stress!
Are you ready to eat more mindfully this summer? If so, great! Join us June 1st for a 10 day challenge to kick start the summer. During this ten day period, your task is to be mindful of everything you consume—snacks, meals, treats. I’ll send you a tip and a daily challenge. If you are not familiar with mindful eating, this will be the perfect opportunity to learn some of the basic skills and to give it a try. Or, if you are an expert, a great time to practice your skills. Don’t worry. Mindful eating is not dieting. Instead, it is paying attention to how you eat and breaking out of mindless eating routines.
A recent study on mindful eating in the journal Appetite *had 171 South Australian adults complete self-report measures on mindfulness and mindful eating. They found that people who reported higher levels of mindfulness were more mindful eaters and reported smaller serving size estimates of energy dense foods. Using the power of mindfulness helps people to manage how much they eat! This is great news.