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!
Tag Archives: mindful eating
Someone once said to me, “Kim, the doctor just told me that I am obese.” She sounded devastated . . . and desperate. “Obese” is such an emotional term for many people. It is technically defined by a certain body mass index (BMI). Defined in this way, it is very mathematical, very exact, and simply factual. It is a number after all, not a feeling, right? Or is it?
In fact, being labeled obese has a very emotional meaning for many people. “Obese” can feel like a judgmental term. When one is told they are obese, it often sounds more like “You are really, really fat.” Panic is a natural reaction, along with shock in many cases: “UGH, I had no idea I was THAT fat!”
Whether someone has just learned they are clinically obese or has just felt “really, really fat,” the results seem to be the same. Feeling unacceptably fat appears to make it harder for people to lose weight; in fact, it looks like it might cause them to gain. Recent research on the subject was really no shock to me.
I have been telling weight loss clients for years that the first step toward improvement is accepting where they are. Then, putting a focus on changing behaviors instead of obsessing over numbers will help with forward movement in a healthy direction. Once this happens, tension releases, desperation lightens, and change is possible. The alternative is lots of stress, often using food as a soother, leading to weight gain, not loss or even maintenance.
The research report states that three studies “found consistent evidence that perceiving oneself as being overweight was associated with increased weight gain.” In fact, even people who just felt overweight (but were not) gained. The perception seems to be the important point. This makes perfect sense, since what we perceive is what affects emotions, not necessarily what is actual, factual reality.
“Individuals who identified themselves as being ‘overweight’ were more likely to report overeating in response to stress and this predicted subsequent weight gain,” according to the authors. “These findings are in line with recent suggestions that the stress associated with being part of a stigmatised group may be detrimental to health.”
The report also noted that the gains may have come from emotional reactions to being considered unacceptable, OR they may have been the result of aggressive dieting. Brilliant! Can we finally all agree that crazy, rigid dieting is not effective . . . unless of course you are trying to GAIN weight.
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.)
I have a client on my mind. We met this morning, and the conversation was interesting. “I am struggling,” she said. I found myself asking lots of questions to understand exactly what the struggles are and what is causing them.
What I learned was that she is still having trouble controlling sweets at work. (People bring them in.) After digging deeper, we discovered that she really doesn’t think she can resist eating the treats at work. Although she avoids the room they are typically in, all it takes to trigger the “I can’t resist it” belief is the mention of cake or other treats by a co-worker.
She does feel conscious of the fact that there is a choice to eat it or not, but in reality it is not a choice at all. The mindless part of the habit is in the deeper belief that she cannot resist treats when they are available. Checking with herself in-the-moment about whether or not to indulge is really just going through the motions. The deeper (and less conscious) belief tells her she is not strong enough to really have a choice. Call it a perceived “willpower disability.”
Add to this challenge the guilt that accompanies the inevitable “choice,” and it adds fuel to the fire of the belief: “See, I knew I couldn’t resist. I never can.”
Beliefs are strong. And they are most often unconscious. This can make a “conscious” thought a mere habit instead of a realization of actual choice. There is a big difference between realizing on a superficial level that you can eat something or not, and really believing it. In other words, it is possible to choose to eat something and also truly believe that there was a choice not to eat it. In order for the latter choice to exist at all, one must believe that this is possible, at least sometimes. And, of course, there are all kinds of choices that exist between the two extremes of all and nothing.
Being conscious of thoughts is important, but sometimes it takes looking deeper, especially when feelings of failure and disappointment keep popping up. If the thought of an option to make a self-controlled choice is habitually followed by discouraging thoughts (“What makes you think you really have any choice at all, you spineless disappointment?”), those thoughts probably point to a deeper belief that keeps that habit going.
To be clear, it is still a good idea to keep from deliberately making choices too challenging by surrounding yourself with temptation. Let’s face it – some kinds of food are just really, really hard to resist when they are too accessible. There is no need to test your strength by leaving a whole cake out on the counter. That’s just not very kind!
Choosing to eat any particular food is not the problem. Knowing you could choose not to have something and having it anyway feels so much different than eating it because you feel too weak-willed to have any choice. How much enjoyment can there really be in that?
Did you know that Friday was National Donut Day? I did not.
This was brought to my attention – alas, too late! – by a client who updated me on this very important holiday. While giving an update about the past week, she mentioned that she and her husband had to have a donut on Friday for this reason. She chose it, enjoyed it, and did not feel regret later, so this was viewed as a successful choice.
This got me thinking: How many days like this are there on the calendar? I was surprised, but now I am so much more educated on the subject! Yes, there is a National Pizza Day, a National Cupcake Day, a National Cheeseburger Day, and a National Jelly Bean Day. There are also days to celebrate chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate ice cream. Is anyone surprised?
Hmmm. Is there a National Carrot Day? It turns out there is . . . AND a National Carrot Cake Day. National App Day? Sure, AND National Apple Pie Day. There is no National Cauliflower Day, nor is there a National Collard Greens Day, but there is a National Brussels Sprouts Day. Go figure!
Anyone looking for an excuse to splurge on sweets every day of the year is probably in luck. Today is probably something like National Cinnabon Day, but don’t take this as a reason to run out and get one . . . unless you decide to consciously choose it, enjoy it, and not regret it later – and you don’t need a special day on the calendar to do that.
Check out some new content:
I just received approval from Apple for the updated version (1.1.1) of In the Moment – Mindful Eating.
If you already have the app on your iPhone, just go into your “updates” and you should see it waiting for you. If you have never downloaded it – and maybe don’t even know about the app yet – just go to the App Store and search the name. It is a great app for support of your New Year’s intentions. That darned human side (ie. emotional side) does seem to get in the way of healthy changes, doesn’t it?
To read more about the app, visit the Facebook Page.
It’s two days after Christmas, the kids are gone, the house is quiet, and I am looking back at the eating pleasures and disappointments of this year’s eating experience. This is my food version of Siskel and Ebert’s classic “thumbs up/thumbs down” movie reviews. Keep in mind that these are MY pleasures and MY disappointments. Yours are likely to be different, just as we will all prefer certain movies over others, but being more mindful means getting more of what you want from YOUR eating experience most of the time, during the holidays and all year long.
Disappointments (Thumbs DOWN)
Marbled Pound Cake (made by me with a special family recipe from my Grandma)
Why? I ate a small piece while busy getting dessert for everyone else. I was focused on serving, but hey, I always have a piece on Christmas Eve, so I ate it with my mind elsewhere . . . couldn’t even tell you what it tasted like!
Why? I tasted a small piece at Christmas dinner. It looked juicy and yummy, but I could feel my body dehydrating with each bite . . . too salty!
Why? It came as part of a gift box, and to me this was just a waste of space that could have been better filled with nuts, chocolate, or fruit. I don’t like caramel corn much, so I had no problem leaving it in the bag. (It would have been more disappointing if I had eaten it.)
Holiday Eating Pleasures (Thumbs UP)
NOT eating the caramel corn
Why? I don’t really like it, so why bother? It saved room for . . .
ONE Godiva Dark Chocolate Truffle
Why? Mmmmm. Perfect size for a treat. Small, decadent, expensive (makes it even more special), all with the health benefits of dark chocolate.
Marbled Pound Cake
Why? This was the same cake mentioned above as a disappointment, but the experience was completely different this time. I ate it the day after Christmas in a quiet house . . . tasted and enjoyed every bite.
Tossed Green Salad (with pomegranate seeds, avocado, roasted beets, goat cheese, and homemade balsamic vinaigrette)
Why? Why not?? What’s not to like about that? I kept going back for more.
Leftover Chicken Enchiladas (small amount of enchilada mixed with a huge helping of steamed broccoli)
Why? This was the day after Christmas, and it was the perfect blend of clean food with the flavor of delicious homemade enchiladas. It filled me up and tasted delicious. It put me in a “back to normal” eating frame of mind.
Harry and David Pear
Why? This was simply the best pear I have ever eaten. We get a gift box with 6 of these from my financial planner every year (along with the caramel corn!), and they truly are a treat to be savored. I would choose one over almost any other treat. And it’s healthy!
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Why? I just love them. Roasted with a little olive oil and seasoning, they get crispy on the edges and taste delicious. Nutritionally, they are super foods, and I feel healthy eating them.
Homemade Apple Pie with Hagen Daz Vanilla Ice Cream
Why? This capped off a delicious Christmas dinner, and I had only a sliver (the perfect amount to savor). The crust was crunchy, the filling was perfectly sweet and gooey. Rich vanilla ice cream was the perfect complement. I think I make a good apple pie, but this one made by a dinner guest was better than anything I have ever made. I ate it slowly and enjoyed every bite!
My Holiday Eating Insights
1. I am doing a good job of choosing what I really want. My list of disappointments is much shorter than my list of holiday food pleasures.
2. I will never make perfect choices all the time. Sometimes it is is impossible to know without tasting, and sometimes I don’t make completely mindful choices. I’m human!
3. The eating experience depends on more than just what is being eaten. Enjoyment is greater when I am relaxed and focused on what I am eating.
4. “Healthy foods” can be tasty, and “pleasure foods” that are truly enjoyed can help make overall eating more healthy. (There is nothing like deprivation to fuel a binge!)
5. The holidays are to be enjoyed, and food is only a piece of that experience.
Happy Holidays! I hope most of your food choices feel kind.
I had coffee with a friend recently. Retreating from the cold Wisconsin weather, we settled in, warmed up, and savored the wonders of our steamy beverages: the taste and warmth of the drinks, to be sure, but also the experience of connection in a cozy setting.
Later she sent this:
Yes! We eat – and drink – for reasons that are complex and interconnected. Do we ever eat simply for physical hunger and nourishment? If so, it is rare, at least in developed countries. I understand the metaphor of a human body as a car, and we want to use good quality fuel, but it’s not that simple!
We are human beings, not machines, so eating decisions are always interesting blends of physical hunger, pleasure seeking, and emotional needs. We often weigh these factors unconsciously, so food decisions can seem to be controlled by factors beyond our control. “I don’t know why I ate those cookies. I couldn’t stop, and I didn’t even really like them that much.” (In reality, the cookies may have been a mindless attempt to meet an emotional need, one that might have been more truly soothed with a non-food solution.)
I believe that one reason we tune out and don’t hear our genuine needs is that our diet-focused culture seldom encourages that kind of non-judgmental observation. Why would we be curious about that if we believe that we should just follow a plan no matter what?! Why question that craving? Just resist it!
People who blindly try to follow a rigid eating plan do not always realize that ignoring real needs does not make them disappear. In fact, the opposite is usually true; ignoring them is more likely to cause uncontrolled eating that appears to have no logic other than “I have no willpower, and I’m a total failure.” There’s not much insight in that kind of thinking!
This is not to say that having a plan is a bad thing. It is actually a very good thing if a plan is defined as having an intention to do something, but any plan that will work long term must be chosen, not imposed. That means it should make sense for your body and be realistic for your life. Maybe most importantly, any good plan for human beings needs to be flexible.
We know what we need if we pay attention. If we listen, true needs (sometimes for physical nourishment, but sometimes for more complex things like warmth or comfort or pleasure or pain avoidance) become less mysterious and we can choose to honor them and care for them kindly, or we can decide to ignore what would be truly supportive and act outside of our best interests.
Either way, a choice is better than mindless default. Choice always leaves the door open for a kinder approach next time, and choice is less likely to cause regret and disappointment, guilt and shame.
Attention Android Users! The app is now available for your mobile devices. For a limited time, you can download the app without a fee. Visit the Facebook page for the link and download instructions.
The Milwaukee Business Journal published a story about my phone app yesterday in their online edition.
More exciting app news: the Android version is almost finished and will be available at Google Play soon!