I am a creature of habit. I tend to eat the same thing (gluten-free oatmeal with apples, flaxseed, coconut oil, cinnamon and nutmeg) for breakfast almost every day. Occasionally I’ll mix it up with a smoothie or some toast with peanut butter and banana, but mostly, it’s the oatmeal. I also tend to gravitate towards the same thing for lunch if I’m home: steamed kale salad with flaxseed oil and avocado, a baked sweet potato and a hard boiled egg. My snack is usually celery and peanut butter. Since I’m still staying with my folks, dinner is usually whatever my mom and I have planned (or neglected to plan) making that day. You might be thinking “Ew, boring”, like my mom does, or you might be thinking “Yes, routine!”. I tend to vacillate between these two frequently, sometimes longing for something different but other times wishing I hadn’t ventured into the great unknown. What if this sandwich upsets my stomach? What if I’m not satisfied? With this kind of stress wrapped around every meal, eating (one of my favorite things to do), can become a complete nightmare.
I have often preached the concept of mindful eating. A client shared with me that when she has a box of cookies or pastries in her house, it’s impossible to just eat one and be satisfied, she keeps going back for more until it’s gone. I suggested she make it a special occasion; create an atmosphere of sensory pleasure by setting aside a specific time to enjoy it, put it on a fancy plate, turn off the TV, make some tea and really notice and savor each bite. I suggested this because this is something that comes easily for me. I can just have one cookie and be satisfied, so of course, it’s my immediate solution to the problem. She looked at me like I had three heads. “Or,” I said sheepishly, “maybe just don’t buy the cookies in a box, but one at at time?”. She couldn’t understand how I could possibly have the willpower to stop at just one, but my struggle with eating in a mindful way manifested itself in a different way.
My parents own a pub here in Brevard, NC (Dugan’s Pub, stop on by!), and I find myself there often. I have been managing their marketing, social media and website since the move and also serve as a hostess when they need more people on the floor. I attend the weekly trivia game on Tuesday nights and occasionally stop in for lunch with my dad or folks visiting from out of town. Since it’s a pub, there aren’t a ton of healthy options. Certainly no kale. I have pretty much exhausted the three healthy dishes I order on rotation, and have found myself in yet another habit. This time, however, I am beginning to notice how having a more rigid structure of “permissible foods” is becoming a problem. Last time I was there I ordered a salad with grilled chicken, which is almost always my go-to. Ate the whole thing and did not feel satisfied. My solution: onion rings. Don’t worry, I totally ordered them for the whole table…and proceeded to eat the vast majority of them myself. The result: a very unhappy tummy and an overwhelming feeling of greasiness. Normally when onion rings are in front of me, I can have about two and feel like I’ve had enough. This time, I just couldn’t stop myself, even though I didn’t really want any more. I now understood my client’s cookie dilemma wholeheartedly.
When I go to a restaurant, I really want to order the chicken and waffles, but I order the dish loaded with veggies, clean my plate, order a glass of wine and dessert and go home feeling like crap. Why can’t I just order the chicken and waffles, eat only as much as I want, and then go home a happy camper? I have pushed myself into this healthy-eating box that only allows for very specific things, but ultimately leads me to feel like I’m not getting what I need. What is this fear surrounding ordering exactly what I want and feeling good about it? Over the next few weeks, I am going to make a concerted effort to eat mindfully, as in actually stop and listen to my body and let it dictate my choices. It’s time to practice what I preach. I’ll keep you posted on my journey, and I encourage you to investigate your own mindful eating habits. Are you truly nourishing yourself, or are you falling into habits, like me? Share with me in the comments below and we’ll tackle this thing together. See you at the table!