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.


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!