Today I couldn’t get to a class at the gym, but I have gotten into the habit of exercising every day, so felt like I should do something. That’s the benefit of creating healthy habits, it just feels wrong if you don’t follow through with them.
Yesterday my husband was talking about this wonderful hike he took near our house so I thought it would be a good way to get some exercise, and to make sure that he doesn’t pass me on the Fitbit leaderboard (ha ha, he’ll never pass me!)
As I started my walk, I had an internal dialogue going in my head…and it wasn’t a good one. I was grumbling about how I really didn’t feel like walking, I much prefer going to classes at the gym, walking felt boring in comparison. Grumble grumble grumble…I entered the hiking trail and started climbing up the hill, and my internal grumbling went to the fact that my legs were sore from strength training yesterday, I was still bored, so on and so forth.
Suddenly I realized…it is a beautiful day in the San Francisco Bay Area. We are having an unseasonably warm and dry winter, a fact for which I am sure we will all pay with water restrictions this summer, but for now it is really lovely outside. The woods I was hiking through are lovely and still a bit wild, even though they are surrounded by suburbs on all sides. My body is strong, and I love the feeling of my muscles working hard, even when they are a bit sore. As I started being more mindful of my surrounding, of the beautiful day, of the way my body felt, my internal grumbles faded and I felt more at peace, and my walk became a lovely experience.
So sometimes you have to work to calm all your grumblings, and just be mindful of the moment.
An important step in eating more mindfully is being mindful when buying your groceries. Avoiding impulse buying, and knowing about the food you are purchasing will go a long way towards a healthier lifestyle.
Before you shop, make a grocery list. This will help reduce impulse buying. I really like GroceryIQ–I keep the list on my iPhone, and my husband can update the list from his phone and it will sync back to mine. I actually shop at a lot of different stores–Trader Joe’s (primarily), our local grocery store, Costco, the farmer’s market, etc.–and I can keep a list for each one.
Michael Pollan has a great video speaking to the marketing strategies used by grocery stores to get you to buy the heavily processed products with higher profit margins. It is good advice to follow while shopping. Pay attention to the marketing strategies used to get you to buy certain foods–like huge displays when you walk in the door–and work to avoid them. When you do buy a product in a box or can, pay attention to what is on the ingredient list and the nutrition label. I often use Fooducate while shopping, an app that lets you scan the barcode of different foods, and gives them a letter grade based on a number of factors, including level of processing, nutrition, ingredients, etc. Perhaps I look a little strange standing in the store scanning products into my phone, but I don’t really care. It is actually kind of fun.
Don’t assume that just because it is at store like Whole Foods, or organic, or gluten-free, or has some kind of health claim on the label, that a food is automatically good for you. We can tend to think this way due to the “health halo” effect, but it can still be heavily processed and contain empty calories and lots of sugar.
Next week’s healthy habit will be about adding more fruit and vegetables to your meals and snacks, but this week try becoming more aware of how much fruit and vegetables you are currently buying and eating.
When I was actively losing weight, I logged my food every day, every meal, every bite. As I got closer to my goal, I realized I didn’t really need to log anymore, but by then it was a habit…and to be honest I was a little scared to stop, like I would suddenly start putting the weight back on if I did. But the truth is that by the time I hit my goal weight I really understood what foods to eat, and how much, and eating healthy was such an ingrained habit that maintaining without logging has been fairly easy.
Logging was a very important step in my really becoming aware of what I was eating, and the nutrient density and caloric density of certain foods. Because of this, I strongly recommend that anyone trying to form healthier eating habits tries logging their food for at least some amount of time. Logging food includes occasionally weighing or measuring what you are eating, which is great to understand what a serving of different foods actually looks like.
The website, and associated app, I used was MyFitnessPal. It has an enormous database, and the app even has a barcode scanner. There are many other apps out there, use whichever one works best for you.
Again, you don’t need to change what you are eating this week. Just try logging everything before you eat it. It will make you much more aware of what you are eating…hard to eat mindlessly when you have to write it down first. Try it for a day or two, or even for the rest of the week.
ETA: After I posted this, an article was posted on Fooducate–a great app I am talking about in my next post–about The Top Ten Whys and Hows of Keeping a Food Diary. It is by Yoni Freedhoff, MD whose blog Weighty Matters is worth following.
For this week’s healthy habit, I’m talking about becoming more mindful about food. One way that I have become more mindful about my eating is to read articles about mindfulness, and also about healthy eating in general. So, to get you started, here’s some links to articles on eating mindfully. See if you can incorporate some of these ideas over the next week–I’m going to do the same, as over time I find myself drifting back into less mindful eating.
Mindful Eating: Get Out of Autopilot – Great list of steps to take to start eating more mindfully. You may not want to do all of them, but it’s a long list to choose from.
9 Simple Tricks to Eat More Mindfully – From one of my favorite blogs, this is a great list of mindful eating tips. I haven’t tried all of these, but some might work for you.
Watching Your Weight? Beware the Dangers of Unplanned Eating – from Monica Reinagel, the host of the fantastic Nutrition Diva podcast, discusses the antithesis to mindful eating, which is unplanned eating. Definitely this is what caused a lot of my previous weight problems.
This week, don’t try to make any changes in what you are eating. Just start spending more time thinking about the food you put into your body. Before you eat a meal, have a snack, even drink something, think about why you want it: are you hungry? bored? upset about something? Think about what is in that food or drink, and what it might be doing for or to your health. When you are eating, think about how the food tastes, and the texture. Think about the preparation of the food, did you cook it yourself? If you are at a restaurant, how do you think it was prepared? From the flavors you are tasting, see if you can identify some of the ingredients. If it is something you bought at a store, look at the ingredients list and nutrition facts. Try to spend at least part of each meal quietly eating, without being distracted by electronics or conversation. Try to slow down and really enjoy each bite (something I need to work on myself).
During this week I’ll be posting articles and resources about mindful eating, and ways to improve your mindfulness about your eating habits.