Mindfulness is all the rage these days, and quite frankly, I couldn't be happier. I think as more people embrace mindfulness practices throughout their day, the better the world will be.
When I noticed that I hadn't been feeling well and – let's be honest – my jeans were fitting a little snugger, I decided to try to put mindful eating to the test. I downloaded a note-taking app on my phone and began tracking what I ate for ten days. Here's what happened.
The key to this exercise, I've found, is to make sure you're honest with yourself. Don't attach shame or guilt to the practice (I know, easier said than done), simply record what you've had to eat and drink and move on with your life. But take stock of what those things are and where you have room for improvement.
Better yet, find the places you're excelling and recognize them. For instance, if you're great at getting the recommended eight glasses of water in each day, pat yourself on the back! Eat breakfast every day? Way to go, you! Don't just focus on the "bad" stuff. Notice the good, too.
1. I slept better
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I slept better from day one. No indigestion at night, no caffeine rush in the evening – because I was paying extra attention to how much tea I drank in the afternoon – and no sugar lingering in my bloodstream to keep me up at night.
Experts recommend that you wait two to three hours after eating before hitting the hay, which allows your body enough time to digest the food in your stomach and get it moving on its way through your digestive tract. I can tell you from experience that this recommendation is spot on. With a less-full tummy, it was much easier to get to sleep.
2. My digestion problems went away
Not only did I no longer have indigestion at night, but I found that because I wasn't eating too much at each meal – and I'd cut back on coffee despite my perceived horror at what that might look like – most of my gastrointestinal issues suddenly disappeared.
I dug in and did a little research on the topic and found, surprisingly, that our stomachs only hold one to two cups of food. That seems pretty small to me. Granted the stomach stretches to accommodate more food, but ugh, do we pay for it! (Is anyone else having flashbacks to last Thanksgiving?)
Foods that are either high fat or high fiber take the longest to digest, so if you gorge out on junk food, it can make your stomach hurt for longer. The result is pressure on your diaphragm, which is just uncomfortable, or heartburn, which involves the digestive juices from your stomach pushing up into your esophagus. Not tasty.
3. I began drinking mindfully – and less
When I started this experiment, I didn't think that it would cause me to take greater stock of what I was drinking too. I love my red wine, I'll admit, and my guy and I go out to eat a few times a week. Sometimes, it's nice to have a cocktail with dinner.
When I started writing everything down, I found that I didn't want to have to write down that I'd had three glasses of wine after dinner. So, I didn't drink three glasses of wine.
4. I stopped having cravings
And when I did have a craving, I could approach it with a sense of awareness I hadn't before. Did I want something sweet or was I just bored? Was there something else my body might need? Was I drinking enough water? When I did actually eat something sweet, it was because I really wanted it, not because I had nothing better to do.
5. I lost an inch around the middle
To my surprise – remember, I really started tracking my food so I could feel better – I even lost an inch around my waist. My jeans aren't tight any longer, which is super nice, and I don't feel bloated any more. I'm sure the smaller waist is because I'm snacking less between meals, making better choices, and drinking more water, but I'll take it!
6. My relationship with food started to change
I've always had a strange relationship with food. As a child and well into my teen years, dinnertime was a heavily emotional experience, and not in a bad way. It was the one time that all four of us came together to talk about our day, catch up, joke with each other, and connect.
As a result, food has always been a very social thing for me, with lots of happy emotions tied to it. More food equals more happiness, as far as I was concerned. Seriously, I'm never happier or more secure when I can barely open my fridge without something struggling to stay on the shelf. Thankfully, I love fruits and vegetables. Otherwise, I'd have a real problem!
But as I started cataloging everything that I ate, I found myself working on my mindset as well. Food is fuel; it's not emotions incarnate. As I began to analyze how food made me feel physically, I began to separate emotions from the experience.
Sure, my ten days are up, but I'm going to keep the practice as part of my regular daily self-care. When something makes me feel this good, I'd be crazy not to press on!
Want help with mindful eating? Drop me a line or hop on my schedule!