The Mindset That Conquers Trigger Foods

Holidays can be intense! Especially in the food category. Even seasoned intuitive eaters can be surprised by some almost-forgotten compulsive food-feelings this time of year. Certain goodies, situations, people and places trigger old patterns of overeating.

One way to strengthen ourselves as liberated eaters this time of year is to    intentionally revisit how we think now, compared to how we used to think.

Let’s compare these two very different mindsets: the old restrictive diet-mentality that trapped us on the diet/binge roller coaster – and – the liberating mindful mindset that connects us to our bodies and ourselves again…

Old mindset: {anxious and intense}

“This is special food!!! It looks sooo good – and it’s sooo bad!!! But… I don’t get this very often so I better eat a LOT of it now!!!”

New mindset: {peaceful and grateful}

“Holiday fare is a gift. I’m going to enjoy it and honor this time of year (and my health) by savoring it…

There’s nothing I have to overeat in order to enjoy it fully.”

Old mindset: {false hope of a future quick fix}

“In January I’m gonna go on the best diet ever and this time I’m gonna lose all this weight once and for all. I’m gonna detox and exercise and eat clean for the rest of my life!  So… I better eat all the bad stuff I can now.”

New mindset: {permanent livable solution}

“Every day I can have a delicious, calm, balanced relationship with food and my body. I don’t have to live with the extremes of too-much or too-little anymore. I can enjoy satisfying portions of the food I love every day.”

Old mindset: {shame and harsh judgement lead to repeated behaviors}

“OH NOOOO!!! I blew it AGAIN…how can I be so weak and incapable? …I’m hopeless … I might as well stuff myself.”

New mindset: {mercy leads to kindness and change}

“Hmmm, I just ate past satisfied. Whew, I don’t like that old stuffed feeling. That’s ok! I don’t have to do this perfectly. I’ll take great care of myself by listening closely to my body. I’ll check in and wait for physical hunger before I eat again.”

As we step away from emotional knee-jerk reactions and into a real relationship with food, the old triggers and patterns begin to fade. A flexible, enjoyable food-life begins to grow – not just on normal days but during the messy, fun, hustle-bustle of the holidays too.

 

Yummy thanks for the Photo by Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

I Pigged Out!!! Now What?!?

Let’s assume you’ve gotten off the exhausting diet/binge roller-coaster and you’re now building a sane relationship with food. You’ve been practicing waiting on hunger, choosing food that satisfies, savoring it fully and stopping when you’ve had enough. What’s not to love?! You’re feeling good in your body and mind and you intend to continue living this way.

Then, the holidays hit.

What’s felt pretty balanced begins to feel messy and confusing again. Food is everywhere – and not just any food. It’s special food…food most of us have a long, tangled, emotionally-charged history with.

So, what do we liberated eaters do when we stumble back into old patterns?

Unlike our old dieting days, overeating doesn’t have to send us tumbling into a shame-filled downward spiral. This time we can actually redeem our stumbles. In fact…

We can learn more from doing it wrong than from doing it right.

Let’s take 3 Logical Lessons from the “Normal” Eater’s Playbook:

I. Relax, everybody overeats sometimes. Normal eaters don’t catastrophize overeating. We don’t have to either. Take a few deep breaths and acknowledge that this is not the end of the world. You’re not “bad” because you’ve overeaten. You just feel bad.

II. Don’t punish yourself. Normal eaters don’t chastise themselves after they’ve overeaten. No extreme diet, exercise or cleanse is required. This foundational difference is one reason normal eaters don’t continually swing between eating too little and eating too much.

III. Go right back to what was working. Normal eaters are in sync with their body, so feeling uncomfortable elicits a natural response – not an emotional knee-jerk reaction. They may take a walk, skip the next meal or not eat till the next day. They may prefer lighter foods after a heavy meal. This isn’t about penance; it’s about listening to your body which is naturally seeking balance and health.

We have plenty of ways to remember to eat mindfully and joyfully this time of year – and – its mighty good to know that an overeating experience doesn’t have to hijack us or our holidays.

Mercy opens the door to wisdom, peace, and balance – three things we’ve been hungry for for a long long time.

 

*Thanks to TOMKAT Studio for the delicious photo

How to Stop Overeating in 5 Minutes or Less

Overeating is a changeable pattern. It’ll take about 5 minutes…5 minutes of kind, curious reflection each time you’re not happy with how you’ve eaten.

Hang with me here. This is big.

Change starts with realizing something new. Realizations often come after we’ve stopped to think a bit. The new insights we gain influence new behavior, which brings more insight, which leads to more new behavior and on and on it goes. It’s a beautiful upward spiral.

Over time you rewire the software in your brain and the old patterns are over-ridden by the new ones.

To rewire our compulsive or habitual overeating, one of the most powerful things we can do is take a short timeout right after things haven’t gone the way we wish they had…

EVERY TIME* you overeat stop for a few minutes and:

1. Forgive yourself. No self-condemnation. No harsh judgment or shame. No “What in the world is wrong with me??!!” None of that. That just gums up the works, creates a downward spiral, and keeps you stuck.

2. Turn this overeating experience into something of great value to you. Instruct your mind to be quiet. Sit still a moment and become completely aware of your body. Be curious. Notice how you feel, and where. Focus on the sensations that feel uncomfortable.

3. Ask kind and helpful questions. Does my stomach feel bloated and heavy? Do my clothes feel tight? Do I feel tired and lethargic? How is my energy level? Do I like the way this feels? How would I like to feel next time? What could have changed this outcome? At what point might I have stopped eating that would’ve made this a good experience for me?

4. Connect the bad feelings with the overeating. Connection is powerful; it keeps us from being short-sighted.

We’re smart. We don’t touch hot stoves anymore. But dieting has blinded us – it’s caused the normal act of eating to become emotionally charged. When it comes to food we aren’t operating out of our usual innate wisdom. But we can. And we can feel vibrant, energized, and nourished after we eat. That’s not too much to ask.

Research shows that in most cases it takes about a year to rewire our thinking; maybe longer if our food struggle has been in place for decades. That’s certainly true of my story. The good news is, with a little help, we can create the change we want to see – 5 quiet minutes at a time.

*Of course I don’t mean literally EVERY TIME. Perfection isn’t necessary or possible but lasting change will take true consistency.

Photo by Niklas Rhöse on Unsplash

 

3 Powerful Mindsets That Bring Food-Sanity To Holidays

When it comes to food, what’s happening between our ears is much more important than what’s happening on our plates, because what we believe determines our behaviors.

This is never truer than around the holidays.

Let’s take a look at 3 powerful perspectives that’ll help us navigate this time of year well:

I. Choose a connoisseur mindset. It’s OK to be picky. Food is everywhere so it makes sense to be choosy. Thinking like a connoisseur helps you identify what will satisfy you most. Don’t love canned green beans? Don’t eat ‘em. Being intentionally discerning cuts down on eating a lot of food automatically and unnecessarily.

BIG PAY-OFF: As you choose the foods that really jazz you (rather than choosing what you should eat or just eating everything because it’s there) you will naturally enjoy it more and eat less.

And here’s something really cool: Liberated eaters say that as their mindfulness grows so does their  appreciation and awareness of all the other good stuff too – holiday feelings, sounds, smells, sights, and the people they’re with.

That’s a win-win!

II. Choose a journey mindset. Becoming a more mindful, intuitive person (which is what liberated eating is about) is not like flipping on and off a light switch or falling on and off a wagon. It’s a true pilgrimage – a life-changing journey of self-discovery.

BIG PAY-OFF: Having this mindset keeps us focused on our discoveries and progress rather than getting hung up on inevitable mistakes and then harshly condemning ourselves for them. This relieves us of the pressure to eat perfectly, which isn’t possible or even necessary.

It also keeps us from doing that crazy thing I used to do: Trying really hard to “be good.” Eventually “blowing it.” Starting to plan the next Big New Year’s Diet, which led to over-eating my way all the way through November and December.

Sound familiar?

III. Choose to be gracious with yourself. Overeating sweet potato casserole doesn’t make you a bad person; it just makes you feel bad. If it happens, let go of berating yourself.  It. Will. Not. Help.

If self-criticism worked, we would’ve all been thin a long time ago.

BIG PAY-OFF: People who step off the food-shame train and give themselves grace to be human open up fresh, new space to learn and change, permanently. They begin to see what’s happening with a clear head and can begin to build the lifestyle they really want.

Grace also allows us to have a sense of humor – and that makes everything better.

So there you have it.  Savor. Discover. Forgive.

Imagine what these holidays might be like if you decide to walk through them as a gracious connoisseur on a holiday journey…

Notice Anything Strange Lately – Part 2

6 Unexpected Outcomes From Our Phone-Free Experiment

In last week’s post we looked at how our phones and screens are proving to be addictive and what we might do about it. I proposed a one week experiment and many of you took the challenge!

Our experiment was to make one change for one week. There were 5 options to choose from. I chose the “fun one” because it was the easiest: Add something fun to your week that requires no technology. Leave the phone at home for this activity…Do this fun thing 3 times this week for 10 minutes.

So I decided to swing.

Four times this week I walked out to the back yard and sat down in an old-fashioned wooden swing hanging from a real tree. I pushed off with my legs and pumped just like I used to at recess in 1964, ponytail flying. Once I got going I could lean back and marvel at the kaleidoscope of fall colors in the canopy overhead.

My only rule was to enjoy myself – no phone, no figuring, no fretting for ten whole minutes. Just be a kid again.
As the week unfolded there were some interesting outcomes I hadn’t anticipated.

Unexpected positive benefits:

  1. High ROI – The carefree goodness of ten minutes of swinging came back to mind at random times all week. When the thought returned it brought the vibrant joy of freedom all over again.
  2. Sleep – While trying to get to sleep (which often takes longer than it should) the soothing sensation of swinging came back to me. It was like meditation without an app! I felt the slow easy arc of motion up to the sky and back again. It was remarkably relaxing and I fell asleep more easily than usual.
  3. Relief & Playfulness – When I waffled about taking time to swing I would re-commit myself to the experiment: The next 10 minutes are set aside to play. Period. Once I got firm on that, I felt a surprising sense of relief and playfulness.
  4. Rekindled Memories – As I made a little space to swing this week other similar memories have surfaced. I remembered how my beagle, Stranger, and I used to dig for field mice in the sagebrush fields around our house and then nap in the warm sun, hidden by the tall sweet-smelling grass.

Revealing observations:

  1. Resistance – Sometimes while swinging I felt the pull to go get my phone to make a video and send it to my granddaughter…to turn this experience into a production of sorts. At times it was difficult to stay present – to just enjoy myself and not document it. 
  2. Need for Validation – It isn’t easy to admit this but my mind grappled with crazy questions like: If I don’t share this with anyone, is it still valuable? If no one knows about this moment, is it still significant? Yes and yes and more yes.

This experiment has seriously troubled some waters for me. It’s awakened a deep longing to protect unstructured, unhurried chunks of time, and an urgency to understand how deeply our phones are changing how we operate in our world and with each other. I believe there are workable solutions – and together we can find them.

I hope you’ll share what you’re learning with us in the comments below. Our on-going shared conversation is certainly part of our awareness and solution.

 

Note: If you haven’t seen Adam Alter’s TED Talk yet, take 9 minutes to listen.