With my 4-Week Food Obsession Boot Camp course launching this week, I want to tackle a topic that feels super vague, boring and at times frankly impossible–since it is absolutely an essential practice if you want to quit the all-or-nothing approach to eating. And that is mindfulness.
I want to make it tangible for you.
Because if you are anything like I was, when someone tells you to, “just be mindful” of your eating, you kind of want to punch them in the face and then yell, BUT HOW!!!
Mindfulness is one of those super vague concepts—open to interpretation—like moderation or intuitive eating and “listening to your body.” You’re like, okay great, sounds good, but how??
By nature, these concepts require both interpretation on your part and self-trust that you can actually navigate and implement them. They rely on you to understand yourself based on being investigative about things like your eating patterns, stress management, personal preferences, schedule and unique physiology. They require you investigate things that a coach can’t know or some random “expert” online just can’t possibly produce for you.
As humans, most of walk around unsure about stuff. And we’re often trained to not think independently, so we defer to people we perceive to have more knowledge than we do. And sure, some people go to school to learn biochemistry or anatomy, but when it comes to how you interact with your own eating behaviors, who knows you better than you know yourself?
And like it or not, mindfulness is one tool to start taking back control of your process and start trusting yourself around food again.
So how do you do it?
First, let’s define mindfulness.
It’s very simple (even if it’s hard to implement): it’s watching yourself. It’s staying aware of what you are doing and how you are feeling. It’s what I consider a low level of automated thinking that is happening all the time.
“Gee Jill, sounds like a lot of work!”
And it is, at first, mostly because you haven’t done it yet. So ramping up the practice will take a mental shift.
BUT. Once you start practicing, it does become automatic. It’s just how you operate, naturally checking in with things like: How hungry am I right now? How full am I right now? Do I want to finish this or could save the rest for tomorrow and still feel satisfied? Why am I craving right now? What food would take the edge off enough so that I wouldn’t just say fuck it? I am getting kind of hungry, could I surf my hunger for the next 20 minutes in order to give myself time to make a healthier choice?
That last consideration is huge.
I always say there is a difference between feeling hunger and fighting it. Hunger is not something to be scared of, it’s simply something to navigate. And the more practiced you get at mindfulness, the better you can feel your level of hunger, the less urgent FINDING SOMETHING TO EAT RIGHT THIS SECOND becomes.
Mindfulness slows down time for you, and puts space between ravenous and stuffed.
Most people vascillate between ravenous and stuffed. They feel hunger on those two levels only. Mindfuless helps you feel the varying degrees, for example, “I’m kind of hungry but I could make it 30 minutes,” or “I’m about 80% full—could definitely eat more but I’m good for now.”
Mindfulness practice is just learning to first notice, and then ask those questions. It pulls out the nuance.
So how do you begin?
One way I started practicing mindfulness was getting discerning with what is actually delicious and what is not.
Many of us do this naturally already. I have received dozens of emails from women explaining the same phenomenon, I’m going to call it Nutritional Let-Down, or simply … dissatisfaction.
For example, we get a meal at a restaurant or we eat at someone else’s house or we prepare something … and the meal is just not very delicious. Afterwards, we feel let down by it. It wasn’t the experience we expected it to be and we are now left wanting.
Understandable, I get pissed if my meals aren’t delicious too. But the problem is that this feeling of dissatisfaction can often lead to a tailspin of subsequent sweets and treats to psychologically make up for the perceived injustice that was a sucky meal.
We feel owed something better.
So in this way we are already being discerning, after the fact: we know what we JUST ATE sucked. Now, I want you to start getting good at predicting what will be delicious ahead of time.
This quick mental audit of picking and choosing your nutrition battles in real time helps us practice mindfulness.
Here’s an example:
A few weeks ago, I was hanging with a friend all weekend. It was over the holidays and I perceived that she was a little bit in a fuck-it phase, so she paid little attention to what she was putting in her mouth and kind of just eating whatever whenever. We went to a store and they had a candy basket, she’s take a bunch. We went into an office, they offered us cookies, she grabbed a few. We went to get our nails done and there were candy canes, she took some for the purse.
I get this, and I don’t judge it. But it’s an example of being mired in the all-or-nothing approach and operating with zero mindfulness. During our excursions, I had half a cookie, a single piece of candy and opted to skip the candy canes. All mindfully and all by choice.
Here are the two things I did differently:
1) I assessed if the food was even something I thought would be yummy, or if I even really liked it.
This took a split second. Sure, I could eat a candy cane, but I’d rather use preemptive cheats like a glass of wine and some dark chocolate instead because I know the #SatisfactionFactor, for me, would be higher. So it was with those alternatives in mind that I was able to decline. I didn’t feel restricted because I knew I’d have my own personal preemptive cheats later. This is an example of picking and choosing your battles. Getting discerning.
2) I used Intermittent Sampling to taste whatever I wanted but not have to eat a ton of it or save some for later.
I was able to harness an abundance mindset and have a taste but realize that if I wanted to have my own personal KING SIZE BAG of candy canes later, I could literally go to the store and pick one up. Why would I take handfuls from the nail salon of something that I don’t even really like, just because it’s free and I am operating in scarcity?
Now, I am not trying to throw my friend under the bus. This behavior is normal and we all do it! I did it for the majority of my adult life. I either operated with hyper-awareness to the point of obsession and deprivation OR I decided I was too mentally drained to even consider thinking about food and I would just turn my brain off and eat everything.
But just like moderation cuts to the middle of the black-and-white eating approach, mindfulness cuts to the middle of the food awareness spectrum:
And mindfulness is a practice. And you can begin right now.
Work on watching yourself and then, if it feels good, be discerning. Actively make a choice rather than being at the mercy of your food whims. Takes practice, but no better time to begin than the weekend, amiright? ;)
Ladies, the 4-Week Food Obsession Boot Camp is now open for enrollment. I launch this course once a year, and that time is now. I teach all my best tools, strategies and share plenty of stories from my own life and things that have worked for hundreds of my clients during this online education, delivered via video tutorials and thrice-weekly emails. Get the details and grab your spot HERE.
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