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!

Deciding to stay positive this late in pregnancy

Two completely un-profound things happened recently that have changed my perspective on this whole "being pregnant" thing. So I figured I would write about them. It's been a while since I've written and why not? Sometimes you need something small and mundane to push you in the right direction.

The first thing was this little moment that happened before I dropped Jake off at work. I had a tiny contraction (short in duration, but packing a pretty hefty punch). I started to cringe and whine and ughhhh... and Jake just kind of jumped into action and walked me through it.

"Breathe."

"I am breathing."

"No, with your mouth, like this... Remember?"

"Oh...yeah. Ok. [moment passes] Well, have a good day at work!"

So it wasn't like, earth-shattering, but it started this idea rolling in my head. And the idea was this:

STAY STRONG

Or more accurately, "Stay strong, you freaking wuss! This is going to get so much harder - you will WISH you had that tiny contraction back when you're 13 hours into labor on no sleep with this extra 30-some pounds we're packing around! Because this shit is real!!" (My inner critic is such a delight.)

But I needed this reminder. A couple weeks ago I had just the faintest *inkling* of a contraction along with some back pain. It lingered for a while, and the first thought that came to my mind was "Oh my gosh I'm in labor I can't do this I'll never make it I'm getting an epidural." Then it was over. So perhaps a slight overreaction. And a huge wake-up call.

This time around we are not taking birth classes, we aren't re-using HypnoBabies (although several techniques and ideas will be stolen from those materials), and we aren't planning for a natural birth, necessarily. This flies in the face of most everything we did last time, and I am very much at peace with that. But that doesn't mean that I want to be reaching for the magic epidural wand at the first sign of labor. No no noooo...I need to do a lot of this on my own...plus the wand apparently isn't even a thing so whatever. (crap)

Focus up! Only 3 weeks to go!

So I decided I need to focus up and stay strong. I do my kegels, I walk tall and engage my core, I don't complain.*

*as much

And it has helped. Today I actually walked across campus from a work meeting whilst smiling. For real. Which leads me to the second un-profound realization I have had:

STAY POSITIVE

Earlier on this particular journey, I was suddenly hit with the poetic euphoria of the great Stevie Nicks.

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
— Stevie Nicks, Landslide by Fleetwood Mac

There are many lines of that song that speak to me, but I do not know what they all mean. And I kind of like that. Songs like this mean different things at different times, and this line about the seasons of one's life, well...it really means something to me now.

Because the seasons are a'changing. Literally, too! But mostly figuratively. I am about to have a baby and be done with being pregnant. Probably forever. My body will never grow a little being inside of it again. Do I really want to end this season of life with a bunch of negativity? I want to celebrate this, I really do. My body is amazing! But ugh, it gets hard.

How do I handle the seasons of my life? How do I deal with the fact that this is ending and that makes me indescribably sad? The door on this chapter is closing. But at the same time it is hard (physically) to be so pregnant and so heavy and so uncomfortable in my own body. I am done with the backaches and the shooting pains and the constant commentary of strangers. I look at Jake and I long to be able to decide when and when not to disclose personal details about my life. Like when I'm going have another baby and how many I already have and how I feel in my uterus area and how dilated my cervix is. (Actually, no one has asked that yet, but God help them on the day they ever do....)

I have this theory that God made pregnancy really difficult at the end so that you would embrace the opportunity of childbirth, rather than fear it. It was a pretty clever trick. And it's working.

If you consider the metaphor of seasons, that makes sense too. Summer gets so damn hot. At some point you're like, listen, I can do without the suntan and the bikinis and all that. Give me some colorful leaves, big scarves, and pumpkin patches and let's move on already!

It's a natural progression. It certainly helps that at the end of this season, I get to start a new one with a beautiful baby boy. I get to start a mother-son relationship that will never end. And I get to go to the gym and really work out again and kind of get my body back. Forever.

Not that I'm looking too shabby as it is...

image.jpg

(you get that it's a joke, right?)

(cause I'm huge...but also sexy as hell)

Maybe it's okay to NOT love your post-baby body

So let's talk about bodies.

Everyone is loving post-baby bodies nowadays. Even their own bodies at times. It's inspiring,  There are some really beautiful sites that are trying to turn the tides of mom-body shaming.

Start with Jade Beall, famous photographer who captured the most loving, beautiful and truthful photos of mothers I've ever seen.  My favorite is #5 in the slideshow on Huff Post

Photo by Jane Beall

When I first saw this, it really took me aback. Like ... whoa.  I mean, look at her! The first thing you see is how strong she is.  --Just kidding. The first thing you see is her stomach.-- That's ok. It is a very real stomach. But look at her arms. They seem so confident. And her legs too, like she isn't scared. She isn't shrinking away. The stretch marks on her right leg look tough. Kind of cool, even. I think that stretch marks remind us of what our bodies are capable of...and if we need the body to make room again, it can. It stands ready. She isn't hiding the marks, but she isn't putting anything on display either. You get the sense that her shoulders are perfectly poised and she is looking straight ahead.

After noticing all of this, I looked back at her stomach. It is actually quite strong. Her figure is so shapely. It occurred to me that if I had seen her fully dressed, I would have never known that she'd had kids. I might even be jealous of how fit she is.  (I would definitely be jealous of how fit she is.)

So, thank you, Jade Beall, for bring these strong amazing bodies into the light.

And thank you to sites like the Shape of a Mother too.  Beautiful stuff going on there. 

But now why don't I love my own post-baby body?

I understand in a conceptual way that our bodies are beautiful and delightfully different and flawed and that the whole idea of "flaws" comes from a patriarchal hyper-commercialized standard of beauty that no one can attain.  Except ... I still want to attain it. I do. Deep down inside I still kind of do.

This is dangerous. Lisa Jo Baker, a writer and blogger, explains that this way of thinking is heading to a dangerous place. She is right, we need to stop hating our bodies.

Because we are teaching our daughters to be thin at all costs, and it is hurting them.  Like, really hurting them.  Watch this video, and you will feel it.

Lily Myers - Poetry Jam - "Shrinking Women"

I will pause while you shutter.  (That was goooood, right?)

This is so important. So much more important than making peace with our frumpy bodies that don't look quite right. My generation has a self-esteem issue, and we are passing it down to the next one.

If we allow this mindset to go on, we will create a generation of shrinking women full of self-hatred.  It does not stop at the body.  It probably does not start at the body either though.

And I think that is what I struggle with. It does not start with the body because the body hatred comes from the standards of beauty which come from the media which draw from the system. And when you start to think about it and unravel it, it just spirals out into the great beyond so far that I start to go cross-eyed and can't remember what I started talking about.

If I want to help my daughter love her body (which I do, because it's like, awesome and perfect just the way it is), then I can't do it simply by loving my own body. I also need to stop all the boys at school from teasing her. I need to control what we watch on TV and get away from the never-ending reel of fat jokes on every single goddamn channel. I also need to stop her friends and aunts and grandparents from talking badly about their own bodies. Because she loves them and looks up to them, and she looks like them!

If I want my daughter to love her body, I need to figure out how to make a peace with my own body.  Do I need to love my own body? I'm not sure. I'm not convinced. It is a long, long journey from body hatred to body love. It is like, the length of 10 football fields and then some. How am I supposed to get there in the span of one lifetime, in the system that I have to live in too? I love looking at body-love websites. But as soon as I click away its all the same garbage on turbo speed: diet ads! Tummy minimizers! Look 30 lbs lighter in 30 days!!

So what is a girl to do...

I tell you what, universe. I will stop calling my body fat. In front of my daughter, in front of other women, in front of the mirror. I will stop grabbing at that weird pooch you left me with. I will try to remember that you made us delightfully different from some reason, even if that reason is dumb. (Can't I just look like Beyonce ONE TIME?! Then I promise I would be SO accepting of all body types.)

But I can't promise to love my post-baby body. I don't "love" it. I still feel kind of betrayed and frustrated. I'm not ready to make nice. Not just yet.

In the meantime, it will be my utmost duty to keep this a secret from my daughter. And who knows, maybe by the time she is old enough to ask me if I love my body, the answer will be Yes.