Just Play

When I reflect on my past, I find that there were times when I felt like an outsider looking in. Everyone was learning or doing a “thing” that I wanted to do too, but I couldn’t get the hang of it. If it didn’t come easy, it obviously wasn’t for me. Now I know that in those cases I had a fixed mindset and that impeded my ability to adapt and learn.

Click here to watch this video of Carol Dweck, to learn more.

In the case of weight loss, I remember feeling so overwhelmed by the process, “I have to eat every day, what food is ok to eat? Right now, I haven’t eaten anything yet I’m perfect, I’m going to mess up.” and then would give up. Then the other extreme, was that I’d be so rigid, “I can only eat these foods. If I eat these foods, I lose weight and if I don’t I’ll gain weight.” that was exhausting and wasn’t sustainable. My problem was that I was only thinking about the food. The food wasn’t the issue, the food wasn’t doing something to me, it was my behaviors that needed to change.

My inability to figure out how to make weight loss work for me would set off a series of negative thoughts. I would think, “How can you let your eating get out of control?” It felt a lot like a character flaw. My weight would go up and down in a mirror image of my personal struggles. If any of this sounds familiar, then you would understand what I was going through. This was painful.

Automaticity Set Me Free

Paul McCartney, the Edge, or Jake Kiszka don’t have to think about how to play the guitar they just play…

the Edge

Watching these guitarists makes it plain to see, they are fluid with their motions and aren’t thinking about how to play. It’s not about the guitar. Since they’re not thinking of the mechanics of playing, they can focus on the creativity and joy of playing. Automaticity means getting to a place where you don’t have to use up all your mental energy learning how to do something. They play guitar because they love it. It’s part of who they are. Doing something because you love it is its own reward and consequently intensifies how skilled you become. This is true for weight loss too.

  • Cultivate the habits that will bring you success
  • Practice these habits (repetition matters more than time)
  • Let yourself fall in love with the process and experience joy

At first glance, habits seem overly predictable and even monotonous. Actions define being. What do you want? Who do you want to be? If you want to lose weight and be a person who lives a healthy lifestyle then your habits (not your skill) will be the thing that grants you access to be on the inside. Once that happens weight loss will follow and it will not feel like work, and the number on the scale week to week will not hold all the power. You will be empowered, and you will find joy in the process.

The Skinny on Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is an intriguing process because it has a positive impact on reducing unhealthy eating behaviors (like binge eating) and is about as effective as traditional weight loss programs (Fuentes Artiles, Staub, et al) It is also something that not everyone has tried before. Why not? For one thing, it’s kind of granola. It seems like something hippies dreamed up in an ashram

Another reason mindful eating doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves, is who has the time? We are all living in a stressful busy world, but that stressful busy world is probably one of the reasons why you may want to lose weight. Stress packs on the pounds and we all know it. So maybe this technique is worth the time.

3 Steps for Mindful Eating

I am an enthusiastic novice, so I don’t really know anything much more than surface-level information. However, from what I can gather mindful eating consists of three important steps:

  1. Eat without any distractions, the room should be very quiet.
  2. Eat slowly, using your senses to be fully present and aware.
  3. Monitor why you’re eating and gauge satiety.

One of my daily habits is to eat one thing mindfully each day. I don’t feel like I can do a whole meal yet. Time is often an issue and I live in a house full. Eating is social, and think that is another reason why this technique is a bit tricky for many of us. So… I tried mindful eating with a chunk of watermelon today. It felt soft and released a lot of sweet liquid with each bite. It was strangely loud as I chewed it in my quiet kitchen. I still feel the coolness of it on my tongue. I was eating it as an experiment to share with you for this post. I am hungry still, I have not eaten dinner yet. That’s it. Give it a go and let me know how it went for you!

Don’t You Mind Me: Mindful Eating

Here is a little story about my nephew, James. When he turned four he had one of those big family parties. After he made his wish and blew out the candles, it was time for ice cream cake! He took a nice big slice and proceeded to eat it with a tiny cocktail fork. Each forkful clung to the metal until some eventually spilled onto his plate. Well, of course, there were lots of “helpful adults” on hand to tell him, “You don’t eat ice cream cake with that.” To which he replied without missing a beat, “Don’t you mind me.” and promptly took his cake to eat with his more like-minded cousins. He was hilarious! But now I have to think, was he also wise?

Food is sensory and is meant to be experienced. Want a fun fact? Studies show that we eat less when we hear ourselves chew. (Brigham Young University) It’s a little weird, but it also makes sense.

So what is mindful eating? Mindful eating is an approach to eating that can be a very useful habit to establish on a weight loss journey. Harvard University’s research has shown that “mindful eating can lead to greater psychological wellbeing, increased pleasure when eating, and body satisfaction.” All I know is that when I eat something mindfully, I savor food rather than just consume it.

Sometimes I feel like a hungry lion too.

My present goal for mindful eating is to eat one thing a day mindfully. I don’t think I am ready for a whole meal this way, but I can say – I do enjoy it. I imagine where the almonds were harvested, or I name the sweet and sour notes in my Greek yogurt. Sometimes I look closely at the pistils of a raspberry in contrast to its deep red color. Here is what I try to do to set it up:

  • Be intentional with how I feel when I sit down to eat.
  • Limit outside distractions and make eating an experience.
  • As I eat focus on the sounds I make, name the colors of the food, inhale the smells, and experience the textures on my tongue.

As I close this post and Think back on my hilarious and wise nephew, James, the kid was onto something. There is no right way to eat something you really enjoy. For him, maybe that cocktail fork added a lot to the whole aesthetic of eating ice cream cake. It might be time to lose the “rules” when it comes to food, and just get carried away with the experience of eating food I really enjoy.