Day 46–100 Days To A Healthy Relationship With Food
I read a brilliant article by Breana Wallace about mindful drinking of alcohol. She questioned her relationship with alcohol and examined the social pressures.
She reflected on the fact that alcohol is seen both as something to console with (“I’ll get through Christmas with the in-laws as long as I keep the booze flowing”) and celebrate with (“I landed the contract, beers are on me!”)
This idea that alcohol helps us — and how problematic that is — is one she wrote about with great eloquence and impact:
“When we allow ourselves to internalize that message, that a substance can help us deal with our problems, that’s how we set ourselves up for a lifetime of dangerous conditioning.”
Food has definitely been set up as something than can help me deal with my problems. And, as for a lifetime of dangerous conditioning? Check.
The result of Breana’s thinking was that she drank mindfully for a year. She didn’t abstain from drink, she was just very deliberate about when and why she chose to have it.
She ended up drinking 3 glasses of wine in a whole year.
So, not for the first time in this project, I’m looking for parallels between alcohol and food. Could a mindful approach to eating be helpful?
I’ve written before about intuitive eating (tuning in to what you body “wants” and having it) and how I don’t think it would work for me (I’d just “want” biscuits and beer the whole time).
I think mindful eating is different. This is just my interpretation, but I see it as choosing what you eat in your regular way (for me trying to have a healthy balanced diet with some treats very carefully planned) but then really being mindful of what else is going on above and beyond that. What else do I crave on top of that? Why?
For example, take my old baddies/buddies — biscuits and beer.
Intuitive eating — I eat the biscuits and drink the beer. The theory goes that as I get better at “tuning in” to what my body wants, I’ll gradually not want them as much, I’ll want more nutritious food instead and my weight will naturally gravitate towards what my body “wants” it to be, which “should” be healthy. And even if it isn’t within the BMI range of healthy, that doesn’t matter because BMI is not helpful and it’s possible to be healthy at all sizes.
Mindful eating — I think about why I want to eat biscuits and drink beer, examine carefully if it is really me who wants to eat and drink that or is it other factors (e.g. the football is on and all my mates have beer bottles in their hands, so I want to join in). Then make a decision on whether to have them or not. Then analyze how it feels as I have them, and learn.
“Mindful eating basically boils down to just paying more attention — to your hunger, your cravings, your food, and how your body feels before, during, and after you eat.” — ‘How Mindful Eating Can Help You Lose Weight’, Sally Wadyka, consumerreports.com
I enjoyed reading Sally Wadyka’s article about mindful eating. I found it more down-to-earth than most of the articles I read about intuitive eating. Sometimes those things matter. You need to find techniques which resonate with your personality. You have to “buy” what people are saying.
Sally lists a few simple mindful eating techniques:
- Assess (and reassess) your hunger — stop when you’re 7 out of 10 full
- Slow down — chew more, take more time to eat
- Stay focused — don’t eat while watching TV or on your phone
- Key in to cravings — ask your body why you want it
- Savour the first few bites — they might be enough
Some of these I have my own versions of already, which have emerged in this project. I’m eating slower (which has really helped). I am savouring my food more. I don’t eat in front of the TV or with other distractions.
I will have a real issue with the first one, and this is one for another article, because I always finish my food. It has been ingrained in me — perhaps unhelpfully — from an early age out of politeness and avoiding waste.
The stats around mindful eating are noteworthy:
“…in a study published in 2018 in the Journal of Family Medicine & Community Health, researchers looked at how a 15-week weight-loss program that included mindful-eating strategies would have an impact on both eating behavior and weight loss. A total of 64 individuals were divided into two groups — one that received the intervention and a control group that did not. Subjects in the intervention group lost six times more weight than those in the control group. In addition, 98 percent of the mindful-eating group reported that they continued to use the techniques at a six-month follow-up.” — ‘How Mindful Eating Can Help You Lose Weight’, Sally Wadyka, consumerreports.com
One question I have about that study is whether the control group had the same weight loss program (just without the mindful eating element) or whether they weren’t even trying to lose weight at all. That is unclear from how it is reported. But the 98% of the mindful group that chose to continue the techniques? That is impressive.
I am going to try to build in the simple mindful eating techniques into my eating and will report back later in the project.
On track. The habit of this project is building, it really is. I still feel hungry in the mornings, but I feel that is when I’m doing “the work” of the project, so I knuckle down and get it done.
45/46/100 (Number of days goals met/ number of days into project/ 100)
Be responsible about food and weight management. Research a healthy weight, and healthy methods of weight management for you physically and mentally. Remember, you are not defined by what you weigh. I am not a nutritionist.