If there’s one way to throw yourself into mindful eating and really try to grasp the key concepts, it may be constant travel. I’m not saying everyone should start hopping between the east and best (ahem, West) coast every three weeks, I’m just saying it’s an option if you really want to test yourself. I suppose mindful eating isn’t technically the concept you should approach with a “throwing myself into test-mode!” mentality, but regardless, here we are! I’m learning.
Prior to last summer, I probably had some vague definition of mindful eating in my head. For entertainment purposes, I wish I had written down said definition for comparison to now. For professional purposes, I’m glad I didn’t. At the end of June I met Alex at a networking event in San Francisco, and we started chatting about her coaching a Spright class. She offered “Mindful Eating” and I was like, “Sure! Sounds good!”
Real talk: I had no idea how mindlessly I was eating.
Then: To really back it up, after running and training for three marathons in 18 months (the last of which was Eugene, last May), I realized how mindless I become with my approach to fueling the deeper I get into training. It’s so counterintuitive, I know. But, truth: it happened. The day before Eugene I felt like my stomach and muscles were stuffed with carbohydrates and anxiously waiting for an outlet, and I was like “ONE more day! That’s all!” I suppose I didn’t do too much damage, because I ran well, but it wasn’t a pleasant feeling. There’s definitely a balance in there to find – consume enough, but maybe not enough to run for days without access to food.
Pretty soon after running Eugene I started at Spright, so for six months I traveled to/from San Francisco from Monterey every week, and then we went to New Zealand for two weeks, and then celebrated holidays, and then HELLO, 2016! What just happened…
Now: I’m crossing the country once a month and trying to navigate the awkward three hour time difference. I sleep well but feel like a zombie in the morning (is it 7am or 4am?) and I’m not exactly “hungry” at convenient times for at least a few days. And here’s where mindful eating is key (and you’re like OK, you did have a point).
Am I hungry?
How hungry am I?
Those simple questions aren’t hard to ask yourself, but the habit of asking isn’t one we all focus on. It’s kind of amazing what happens when you just pause before you start eating out of routine or according to a certain time of day. Are you actually hungry? Or are you bored, tired, stressed, procrastinating, or flat-out time-zone-confused? (All of the above? I hear ya!)
I’d love to say I wake up hungry and have a balanced breakfast and the rest of the day is all greens and colorful and well-planned from there, but nope. Not right away. I have some water, let the nervous system figure out what’s going on, and have some patience for a few days, until I adjust to EST and then head back West and start the process over again.
My point: mindful eating is a tool you want in your box. Learning to acknowledge true hunger vs. habit is just the tip of the nail, but I think it’s a good place to start. Step one: Simply start to ask yourself “Am I hungry?” before you eat and see what happens.