Just wanted to post another invitation to follow me at my new website, lmwellness.com. I notice that there are still a number of people who are visiting this site (kimthedietitian.com), yet I have not posted in many months. I fear they must think I am lazy! Not so. I have just been posting in a different place. Join me there!
Category Archives: In the Moment – Mindful Eating App
After years of posting as Kim the Dietitian, I have now taken my blog over to my new website, lmwellness.com. Please follow me there!
My wellness company, Lifestyle Matters, has some great mindful eating tools for individuals and corporate wellness, and I will continue to write on the blog there. Please check it out. Let me know what you think. Thank you for visiting my site over the years . . . health and happiness!
I have added some content to the In the Moment – Mindful Eating app! Based on user feedback these new choice options will help users work through eating challenges in the moment even better. Here is a sneak peak at some of the new content.
How you eat matters. A recent study supports what seems obvious to me: a pleasant, relaxing eating experience leads to healthier food choices and better health.
So many people race out the door, grabbing something as they go, or they graze all day long without ever sitting down to enjoy their food. The study looked at the eating habits of over 1000 college and university students and found that those who prepared food at home and had a set eating schedule ate healthier than those who ate “on the fly,” grabbed food at school or were distracted by video games or TV.
What a shame to miss the experience of eating! It should be pleasurable; in my opinion, eating is one of the great pleasures of life. Being more mindful of the experience is not only healthier, but it’s also much more enjoyable.
I know we are all in a hurry, but we can all stretch ourselves a bit to improve the experience surrounding eating. If you never cook at home, why not try a slow cooker as the weather gets colder? There are easy recipes that take only 10-15 minutes to assemble. It doesn’t take any longer to order and grab takeout food.
And how about just sitting?! If you grab something on the go, sitting really doesn’t take much more effort than standing. In fact it is so much more relaxing. If you are someone who drives and eats . . . bad idea! You could have an accident or arrive somewhere with embarrassing stains on your clothes.
Start where you are and build a more pleasant routine surrounding meals. When was the last time you lit a candle and set the table? Even if you live alone, this transforms a meal into a relaxing moment. It may be the only time you get to relax all day, so making it a habit makes it happen.
This one was a surprise! A co-worker said her husband heard the app discussed on the WTMJ morning news show. (Click the link to check it out.)
On Monday, a nice article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel talked about the phone app I developed. I thought the writer, Lori Nickel, did a nice job of understanding my passion and translating it into a very readable format. (Just click the link to read it.)
Everyone I counsel has one goal in common: health. Beyond that the details vary a little, but for the most part, almost everyone wants to lose weight.
The goal seems simple on the surface: be healthy, lose weight (the goal), and it’s all good, right? In other words just follow the plan, whatever plan that is, and your success can be measured on the scale.
Not so fast! There’s one not-so-little detail to consider. Temporarily following a diet without actually changing the long-time habits that have driven eating in the past is bound to be a short-term venture.
Behavioral habits that lead to extra pounds are controlled by habits of thinking. Thoughts like “Oh, just one more won’t matter. They are so tasty, and I won’t be eating these again anytime soon, if ever!” Or maybe “I’m up 2 pounds today and I was PERFECT yesterday! I give up.”
There are endless habitual thoughts that play out like a well-worn tape, and the results we see in our behavior are predictable. Outwardly it may seem like you just lost control and someone else – an alien perhaps? – is driving your choices.
Binges often follow negative or unsupportive thoughts – maybe after taking a bite of the cookie you told yourself you would never eat again? If automatic thoughts were more neutral or positive, the binge would be much less likely. Positive thoughts create more desirable actions. Allowing thoughts to run wild without any awareness of them is simply not a good plan!
Changing habits of thinking is hard – really hard – but also really important. Because so many thoughts are unconscious, and because thoughts affect feelings, it is easy to feel bad without knowing why. When we notice the thoughts, it is possible to see how the feelings developed. Then there is an opportunity to really change – from the root of the feeling – the thought.
As it turns out, we are better off when we just observe thoughts without judging the fact that we are thinking them. We can then use a very useful tool – the brain – to work with us toward finding solutions to problems. The brain is not very creative when it is judging. It is too busy sending uncomfortable emotional messages that affect feelings.
With practice, different kinds of thoughts become more automatic. New habits of thinking can develop – how exciting! That means that healthier habits will play out in actions too, and the body will become healthier overall.
So let’s return to how we measure success. Even when weight loss is the goal, the scale does not have to be the main focus. The number is not entirely within our control day to day – too many opportunities for false conclusions and feelings of failure. It is true that regular weighing is one of the habits associated with people who keep weight off, but I would bet they don’t take the daily variations too seriously.
Drawing attention, without judgment, to thought patterns that drive actions gets to the root of the problem. The scale will take care of itself without a need to fixate on it. This may sound like a subtle difference in focus, but it is really the key to maintaining weight loss.
A long-time dieter I know has been working on this. She is still getting used to viewing progress with her thinking. Her comments illustrate how shaky it feels to change over to a new way of evaluating progress, but the progress is obvious upon a closer look (my comments in bold).
The only thing I can think to say is, “struggling but not giving up.” . . . So I continue on. I am becoming much more aware of my hunger and of what I am eating. (Awareness of hunger – great! And not giving up – essential!)
Work has been stressful but just yesterday I convinced myself that I don’t need to get so hung up with it. It was making me sick . . . . (Yes, other areas of life affect eating – good to realize that.)
I find it hard to understand why I am having so much trouble with this. (At least she is trying to understand.)
I’m grateful . . . that I haven’t given up. (Hooray!!)
Being able to see these glimmers of positive change are so important to moving forward. It would be easy – frankly easier for someone used to thinking negatively – to throw in the towel. That’s the old way of life that lines up with the old habit of thinking. Here is what would have stood out:
The only thing I can think to say is, “struggling
but not giving up.” . . . So I continue on. I am becoming much more aware of my hunger and of what I am eating.
Work has been stressful
but just yesterday I convinced myself that I don’t need to get so hung up with it.It was making me sick . . . .
I find it hard to understand why I am having so much trouble with this.
I’m grateful . . . that I haven’t given up.
It is likely she would have at least temporarily given up.
Picture yourself with a new pair of glasses – perhaps rose-colored ones that notice more positive thoughts developing. Noticing them and giving yourself credit for that important progress is the first step toward long-lasting healthier eating habits.
I married a very, very smart man. Why? He listens to me.
Peter loves to ride his road bike, and he likes to go on long rides, long enough to be “completely worn out.” He knows that going out 2 days in a row will just be too much, yet he has such a hard time resisting the urge to ride when the weather is nice.
After a brutal Wisconsin winter, recent glimpses of spring weather have provided quite a challenge for him, to lay low on alternating days and swim instead. One such day came along last week – sunny, 70-ish, perfect riding weather – and he told me “I might not be able to resist.”
I put in my 2-cents worth. It went something like this: “You have a right to do that.” (In my head I was saying, “You have a right to make an unsupportive choice.”)
I knew he could tell what I was thinking. When I returned home in the middle of the day, I found this note on the counter:
Kim – Went to the club to swim. Listened to my body.
As I said, he is a smart man.
How well do you listen to your body. There are many opportunities to make unsupportive choices, even though we know we won’t feel well later. Being more mindful – without judgment – of what the body really needs can be a doorway to a healthier lifestyle, but only when we realize that we are not “wrong” no matter what we choose. In other words, we need to know we have a choice.
These are the choices on the treadmill I use regularly: quick start, pause, and cool down. I can also enter a pre-programmed workout, but I always just press “quick start.”
Without an iPod this morning, and with no interest in the TV options, I found my pace and settled into my thoughts. My eyes again glanced at the words: “quick start, pause, cool down.” They began to mean more to me than options on a treadmill.
“Quick start.” I’m good at that, I thought. Get going, just do it, take action! I have that mastered! I am someone who finds it uncomfortable – really! – NOT to be productive.
I started thinking about the potential down side to that. Possible drawbacks include anxiety, trouble sleeping, . . . all of the consequences that result from not using another choice on the treadmill: RESET!
Everyone needs to reset hormones and brain chemistry, which in turn resets mood and restores a healthful balance. Adequate sleep, healthy eating, enjoyable physical activity, and pleasant interactions with people all help to keep body chemistry “happy.”
It goes beyond that as well. Balance brings more balance. Erratic hormones and brain chemistry, left unattended, often lead to more chaotic emotions and a less balanced lifestyle.
Among the many benefits of attention to self-supportive care are better sleep, less anxiety, and all-around better self-care. I know this sounds a bit repetitive, but my point is that good self-care leads to more good self-care. Unfortunately lack of attention to self-care makes it all too easy to skip a workout, eat poorly or skip meals, and let unsupportive thoughts run wild.
What we do not see is how body chemistry that we create through our actions can affect how we act moving forward. This is powerful knowledge! Work with your body, because mere will-power is no match for body chemistry!
This is where a “pause” or “cool down” can be very helpful. I’m right there with all of you overachievers and perfectionists! This can be hard, but it is absolutely necessary for health. For me, sleep is key. I know I need to wind down and pause at the end of my workday and resist the temptation to schedule one more appointment, answer one more e-mail, or make that last phone call. I know that ultimately this will lead to more efficient use of my time once I’m ready to “quick start” again.
I remind myself I can start again, but the most productive thing to do at that moment is to take a break and pause. Do you notice how I managed to call a pause “productive”? That is one way to make pausing a little easier for a productivity freak like myself.
I can see myself doing it. I’m procrastinating again! I have a work project I had intended to work on today, but I keep getting up from my desk. “Just a little snack . . . a couple of nuts . . . then back to work.”
Who am I fooling?! I’m just not going to finish this project right now, so I may as well do something else. I am a disciplined person. I like setting deadlines for myself, planning out my work, keeping on target. So why would I advocate just quitting for now?
The simple answer is that I AM quitting right now. I can either embrace it, OWN it, lose the guilt, and do something else (productive or just plain recreational), OR I can keep pretending I’m working on my project and keep drifting into the kitchen for that little “something” to give the illusion of taking a needed break.
I’m not hungry! I don’t need to eat, so why do I do this, as so many of us do? I think it is because eating in small little spurts like that is “really not much of a break” and “It’s not like I’m sprawled out on the couch watching soap operas or anything!” In short, I am justifying.
When I hear myself doing this, I laugh. It really is ridiculous, don’t you agree? We are the masters of fooling ourselves, especially when it comes to eating.
I can usually spot this pattern quickly, now that I recognize it for what it is. This has taken lots and LOTS of practice. I now find that admitting to what I’m doing is the beginning of the way out of the habit. Then I can decide if it is realistic to expect myself to buckle down and do my project now, or lose the guilt and do something else.
Sometimes just stepping away, even when a deadline is looming, allows my head to clear. Then, magically, creative thoughts start flowing and I’m engrossed in my endeavor – and loving it!
To be able to say, “Yes, I am procrastinating, and while I’m at it, I intend to do an incredible job of it!” eliminates the guilt surrounding it. A psychologist friend recently told me that guilt is an emotion that has absolutely no positive side to it. I believe it usually just drives procrastinators into deeper pits of paralysis, which leads many of us to munch on food we don’t really need or want.
How many unnecessary calories do you think you consume while procrastinating? Hundreds? Thousands? It’s hard to really know, because procrastination is often so mindless.
My phone app (In the Moment – Mindful Eating) addresses this issue, so it may help the procrastinator in you to be more self-compassionate during these times. Here is a screen shot that gives a glimpse.
Ahhh, now I feel better. This post is a perfect example of productive procrastination. Now I think I can go back to work on my project – refreshed.