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.