What I've learned from mindfully eating for 30 days

My favorite goal from the latest 30 Day Challenge (#hmvlifechallenge) was "mindful eating." I'd vaguely heard of the concept, but never researched it. And I didn't plan to, I wanted to try it with a blank slate, no preconceptions. Or, as the French say, "like a virgin."

The idea came to me over a boring turkey sandwich at Burgerville. This was right after the holidays, and I was feeling overweight with food and sodium and the last month or so of poor decisions. So in a way the sandwich was self-punishment for my gluttonous ways, and in another way it was the beginning of making healthier choices. I don't know, take your pick.

The point is, once I started on my sad little sandwich, I realized I could actually just forget all the sad self-talk and just try to enjoy it, even though it was healthy and basic and not slathered in sauce and cheese (boo!). I could decide that it wasn't necessarily a sad sandwich, maybe it could be good. What if, I thought, what if I just close my eyes and really taste this sandwich and savor it? And...

It worked!

No really, it actually worked. Instead of absentmindedly scarfing it down, I really tasted the swiss cheese and felt the multigrainy-ness of the bread. The mayo (my fav) tasted fantastic, the lettuce was all crunchy, I was like "This is the best freakin turkey sandwich I'VE EVER HAD!"

My world was rocked. So off I went, for 30 days, trying to be mindful at every meal. Specifically (because your goals should be as specific and measurable as possible), I tried to

(a) Put my fork down between bites, and
(b) Close my eyes and focus on tasting my food.

Pretty genius stuff, right? Like I said, I wasn't trying to do it exactly by the book. I just wanted to try something basic and see what this "mindfulness" stuff could do, if anything.

So here are a few of the effects I've noticed in my 30-day experiment:

  • Everything tastes better!
  • Or it tastes worse, because I actually notice how icky it is (e.g. Doritos...very fake cheesy)
  • I stop eating when I'm full (usually)
  • I'm aware of when I'm overfull, and it bothers me
  • I leave food on my plate, often
  • I also leave wine in my glass
  • The mindful eating has expanded to mindful ... umm, drinking?
  • I notice that happy, warm feeling that an alcoholic beverage produces, and I enjoy it in a very "present" way
  • It's still hard to stop eating when the food tastes so good, or cost so much, but I'm at least passingly aware that this is is a crazy reason to keep eating
  • Mindful eating doesn't solve everything
  • I didn't drop weight like crazy. I think that's ok. This is all about the long game.
  • I don't see food as the enemy or a temptation to be conquered
  • I enjoy food more
  • As food is becoming less of an enemy, it is also becoming less of a reward. It's settling into the "just food" zone. I eat it because I'm hungry. I eat it because it nourishes me. Along the way, I enjoy it.
  • I'm still human, so I like food. So there's that.

This is not an exclusive list, but one that I've been keeping and adding to. Mindful eating is an interesting way to conquer your food issues. If you do it like I did (barely knowing what you're doing but open to whatever happens), I think you'll learn a lot. You might unravel these weird things that we do with food. Like eating too much because it was expensive. Or scarfing something down because you're late to a meeting. I really do believe that all food can and should be enjoyed. The results that come from enjoying food and really thinking about what you're eating and why ... well, I think it could be game changing.

Enjoy!

January 2016: A new #hmvlifechallenge and my goals for the new year!

New year, new me! Right?

Not exactly. That phrase is rather obnoxious. But I do have a few goals for the year. And a fun way to kick it off!

I started another 30 day challenge to kick off the year on a healthy note! This one's called the 3x30 Challenge. You can now find all my #hmvlifechallenge posts in the "Topics" link at the top of my new and improved menu bar. Ooooooh look at me being all website-making. I'm such a web wiz! (said no one ever) (it literally took me all night to figure out)

The January 2016 challenge is the second challenge I've organized, but it's so much better, because my friends are co-organizing it with me! It's fantastic. We've taken turns kind of 'leading' the group and posting every day and encouraging people. It's not like there is a script for these kinds of things, but keeping people engaged and involved is so crucial. Most people start out posting daily. Then it drops a little. People get busy or forget. Some aren't big on social medial to begin with. Some are actually following along daily but not posting much on their own.

I'm pretty keen on social media. I like posting, I like reading people's thoughts, I like commenting or "liking" or re-tweeting or whathaveyou. I'm very social in general, so having a little online discussion with friends throughout my day is energizing to me. Not always, though. I did take a little Facebook break back in December when my news feed was a never-ending stream of bad news and bummer comments. I figured out how to tweak some settings, and now I'm back!

The 30 Day Challenge captures that energy of social media and uses it to do good. On Day 1 we all post our goals. It can be any goal, but they're related to health and fitness and you can only have 3 this time! (Hence the 3x30 Challenge, get it? 3 goals, 30 days). Here are mine:

  1. Track all my food and drinks for 7 straight days.
  2. Do daily push-ups and sit-ups.
  3. Mindful eating, specifically, put down my fork between bites and really taste the food.

I'll post more about these soon, with updates. Here are a few of the great goals that other challengers have set:

  • 10000 steps per day
  • 5000 steps per day, increasing 500 per week
  • Workout 2x/week
  • 1 run or hike each week
  • Meditate for 10 mins/day
  • Drink 100 oz water/day
  • Drink 65 oz water/day
  • Lose 3 lbs
  • Lose 10 lbs
  • No fast food for 30 days
  • No dessert for 30 days
  • Dessert only 3x/week
  • Salads for lunch
  • Eat the Whole30
  • Salsa dance 1x/week
  • Barre3 classes online 3x/week
  • In bed by 10:15pm
  • Stick to a diet buddy diet (two friends)
  • Enjoy time at home with my kids

First of all, can we applaud how specific and attainable these goals are? This group is so smart and creative. We all could say that our goals are to "eat healthy and lose weight and get fit." But the way we'll get there is different. And the way we do it should reflect the things we like to do, and the way we want to live. But first, how do we specifically get from where we are to where we want to be?

For example, several people are trying to change habits and do things like "drink more water." Well, that's great, but where do you start? It turns out that you can start by calculating how much water you drink in a given day, buying a bigger water bottle, then counting how many times you need to fill it daily to up your intake. How do I know that? Because that's what several people posted about one day, and they did it! It's happening!!

I continue to be inspired by the power of the group. This is why the good Lord created social media (probably). To help us help each other to reach our goals.

Good luck out there!



I'm Glad We Did This Thing: An #hmvlifechallenge Wrap Up!

I received the best message after my 30 Day Challenge wrapped up on July 15th. It came at a great time, because as I will explain, the end of this challenge, the #hmvlifechallenge! was bittersweet.

Yesterday, I spent the entire day at the lake with some dear friends who also have a boat. I got to wake-board for the first time in my life (I actually got up on the first try), and then we had tube wars. Tube wars are effectively inter-tubing behind the boat with two tubes. The point is to try to knock off the person on the other tube while the boat driver is trying to get you both to fall off. We played two on two. I won one and tied about four rounds by taking someone with me every time I was going down.

So, today I am so very sore and all I can think if is how much I want to tell Hannah that I got some incredible exercise yesterday. I also weighed myself yesterday and I only gained 2 pounds on vacation, so I ended the challenge at a net 8lb weight loss. Less than the 15-20 I had hoped for, but progress nonetheless.

Hannah, thank you so much for this challenge. Three years ago, I participated in an Under Armour challenge that was similar (I was in much better shape then, so my goal for that challenge was to do one-arm, one-leg pushups, which I did). The thing I loved about it was the sense of community among the participants at every level of fitness, and the love and support we all received (and gave). I am still friends with some of those women whom I met during the competition and I am ever grateful for their friendship and support.

The reason for the novel post is to say, Hannah, that the same sense of community and support that I loved so much about that event is the way I have felt about this challenge, even though I was on vacation for the last two weeks of it.

Thank you for encouraging me to think more about my own health in a time when it has been getting me down (I had just had that depressing Dr visit where my doctor told me that were I to gain 3 lbs, I would officially be classed as obese...that did nothing for my self esteem), and thank you for making it fun and exciting.

This is a great group of ladies and I can’t wait for the next round of challenges so that we can see/learn more about each other and continue to grow. Thank you for being my motivation during the last month, Hannah.

Xoxo
— EF, 30 Day challenger

Wow. Talk about motivation. Talk about some radical self-love and yeah, a lot of love coming at me too. I'm overwhelmed.

Sometimes with these group challenges when people start dropping down in participation it can feel like "no one cares" and why should I when no one else does? Well, of course, that's ridiculous. People still care. Our group had 13 members. Everyone posted stuff at first. Everyone set goals. By days 20-30, I only saw regular posts from about 5 people. But I'm almost certain that 12 of 13 were still checking in and occasionally "liking" or commenting. That's pretty cool. Would it have been better if more people kept actively engaging, sure. But realistic?

I think it was a lot of feeling like ugh I don’t want to put myself and my struggles out there when others aren’t. ... After while it felt like ok, others aren’t posting much so I can not feel bad.
— 30 Day Challenger

So why would my mind go straight to "no one cares"? Probably some subconscious trick to give me permission to quit. Also an excuse not to post anything, not to stick my neck out. I heard this from others too.

Someone smarter than me can think up a way to deal with this phenomenon. How can the group keep each other feeling motivated and supported? That's the heart of the 30 day challenge in my mind. Finding that sweet balance of positive encouragement and open vulnerability.

Setting that aside, however, lots of cool stuff was happening in this group. Here are some of my favorite comments and tidbits in no particular order:

  • SS, attempting new workouts: "I dug out my ballet shoes and am going to attempt a class for the first time in 3 years! Wish me luck!"
  • EF, making badass choices: "Thanks...Not nearly as fit as I want to be, but I remember how self conscious I was wearing two piece bathing suits before I had kids and realized that no matter what shape I am in ten years from now, I will probably wish I had the body I do now...so I am belligerently wearing two piece bathing suits this summer in honor of future me. lol"
  • hmv: "It's been good having this challenge in the summer months because I tend to overdo it in the summer. It's just so fun and vacation-y and friends are around. But I'm trying to learn that that doesn't have to mean tons of food and booze. You know?"
  • SMS: "My alarm clock woke up early this morning ... so today's breakfast is after a beautiful morning run. Never thought I'd say that and mean it!"
  • SS, again: "I'm planning on going to ballet again tomorrow night"
  • CJ, after my self-esteem breakdown: "When I see you, I see a strong, confident, amazing lady. Isn't it difficult when we struggle to see that in ourselves? You're doing great."
  • DH, on self-love: "I'm doing well at some goals and sucky at others, but I'm choosing to be self-compassionate instead of judgmental. Some days I rock and some I'm just tired, like today. But all days I'm worthy of love and belonging just like everyone else."

Will I do another 30 Day Challenge? I think so. Selfishly, of course, I got a lot out of it. I lost 4 lbs, I got tips on workouts and recipes and getting better sleep, and I learned a few things about myself. At the beginning I worried that starting this group would force me take the lead and that kind of puts me in a vulnerable place (which did basically happen). But my fellow challengers responded with so much love. Just massive truckloads of love. It was the best possible outcome of being the de facto leader.

Top row: 4th of July run with Carolyn. ED inspiring her family. CJ pouting about her poor performance.
Bottom row: After pic of hmv. Lunch ideas shared by SMS. The 30 Day Challenge pics of the day.

Thank you, everyone, for participating or following along. It's been fun!

Want to join me in a future #hmvlifechallenge? Leave a comment below or click "Contact hmv" on the banner above!

Previous #hmvlife challenge posts: click here!

Creating new patterns: A 30 Day Challenge update!

As I've mentioned, I started a 30 Day Challenge group (#hmvlifechallenge). You can find us posting on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Mostly Instagram. Each day has a theme, and the group has been posting great things every day.

Not everyone posts pictures, that's ok, the idea to keep thinking about your fitness goals and hold yourself accountable each day.

Recently the themes have been:

  • Day 7 Motivation
  • Day 8 Family
  • Day 9 Pattern

Motivation! These little smurfs are my motivation. Get healthy, feel young, be happy!

I didn't necessarily do this intentionally, but these three worked really well together. People were posting about how their families were motivating them to stay active and healthy for years to come.

 

Several of us are parents. It's hard to stay fit with kiddos. But look how hard we are trying!
 

 

 

My friend, Elisabeth Doherty, has twin boys. TWINS! She works. She works out. She travels for work. She has twins. She's basically superwoman.

 

 

Another friend took these great pictures of a hike she was on with her dad on Father's Day; her Motivation was to keep seeing these amazing views. I can see why!

We all come from different places, but our motivation is very similar. We are trying to make life better. And healthier. And longer.

And it's hard. That's another interesting theme I've been noticing. Why is this noteworthy? Because we don't act like it's hard. We act like we could lose weight and get healthier if we just wanted it bad enough. That's ridiculous. It is hard to stay committed to one's goals. It is hard to make good choices every day.

Another theme: creating healthy patterns. Day 9's theme was "pattern." To be honest, at first I was thinking people would post about the patterns on their clothes or some pattern they spotted on a run. Not even close. We are too clever for that shit.

We talked about setting better patterns in life (JSC). We talked about making small, incremental changes to get to where you want to be (SMS). Really it wasn't so much about patterns, as habits. Getting in the habit of healthy eating (EF). Making a habit of caring for ourselves and our families (SS).

As we keep going on this challenge I'm going to be thinking a lot about creating habits. Can I sustain the weight loss and low carb dinners every night? No. But I think I can get enough good ideas and inspiration to start setting a new course. Ultimately I needed to be inspired to WANT to eat healthy and to WANT to get to the gym and walk more. At the end of the day, I want to live in a manner that makes me happy. I am figuring out exactly what that means.

 

The 30 Day #hmvlifechallenge! Part 1: Getting started

I started a 30 Day Challenge group, and it's a-freakin-mazing. I'm going to blog about it, you know, for posterity. But you can also follow along on my Instagram @hmvlife or Twitter or Facebook. The "group" lives on Facebook, and we check in there daily. The rules are simple:


1. Set your own goals
2. Post something to the group every day
3. Encourage others
4. Kick ass

If you like to take pictures, you can join in the photo challenge on FB, Instagram or Twitter. Here is the photo challenge, one word for each day:

I did another 30 Day Challenge with my friend from grade school (thank you Facebook, for these interesting connections). And from these experiences so far I have gleaned a few general observations:

  1. The 30 day aspect is important. Limit the time, focus the energy. By around day 20 I found it hard to stay committed, but the group helped. After day 30 hardly anyone posted. That's ok. That's why it's limited.
  2. Wow, so motivating. It is SO motivating to stick to your goals when you have a group of people you're working "with" (even if just online). And posting something every day keeps you in check too.
  3. Wow, so much learning from others. Our group is smart.
  4. There's something fun about NOT knowing other people in the group. You don't have to know them personally to support them in what they're doing. And that blind support is kind of exciting and fun.

I'll post more specific updates later. For now, here's a few of the amazing goals that people have set for their 30 Day Challenge aka #hmvlifechallenge

Day 1: Goals.

  • Work on core strength
  • Eat breakfast every day
  • Try 2 classes at my gym
  • Eat when I am hungry
  • Take 30 minutes to myself each day
  • 3 new PRs on the weights
  • Track food daily
  • Lose 4 lbs
  • Lose 20 lbs
  • Drink 6 glasses of water a day
  • Karate 2x a week
  • 28 day squat challenge
  • 30 day yoga achallenge
  • Try one new recipe each week
  • Floss every day
  • Half plate veggies at dinner
  • Cut added sugar from my diet 5 days/week

...aren't these amazing?!

And lastly, I leave you with this sweet face. Here we go!!