Change of seasons: MINDFUL EATING
Change of seasons: MINDFUL EATING
by Jen Buettner, RN
The fall season is a transitionary time. The days getting shorter, leaves changing colors and falling off the trees, and the drop in temperature are all external cues that change is imminent. During this transition period, animals prepare for winter and bears prepare to hibernate. During this time, I find myself preparing for the seasonal changes and increasingly notice my own mind and body wanting to start to prepare for its own “hibernation”. But, unlike autumns in the past, this season I am more cognizant of my own internal cues that I can use to avoid the traps of hibernation. Last autumn was tough. The world was in the thick of a global pandemic and we were all asked to quarantine. But a forced quarantine is different than a seasonal pull toward hibernation driven by one’s own internal mind and body. A year ago, during the peak of COVID, I fell into an even deeper hibernation. However, this year is a year I feel more charged to be proactive about having a more mindful approach to life with a particular emphasis and focus on what I eat and my daily activities and routines. In general, the concept of mindfulness targets becoming more aware of and proactive, rather than reactive, toward one’s situations and choices. Conversely, a hibernation lifestyle is more sedentary and dormant in one’s actions. The COVID pandemic and forced quarantine of last year changed my views of the fall season completely.
It’s like an internal tug of war. When it becomes colder and darker each day through the depths of winter, my urge to hibernate only grows stronger while my desire to be more active and mindful is growing and more present. As much as I want to join the animals to slow down and become dormant, I know that I have to continue my pursuit of mindful behaviors, which often requires a conscience decision to motivate, to work harder in choosing healthy behaviors, and to persist with the daily pursuit of being present in my moment.
To help me with this, I have 3 prominent tools in my toolbox this season: 1) Exercise/yoga, 2) Journaling, and 3) Mindful eating.
- Exercise – My exercise must shift as I cannot be outdoors as regularly due to winter weather. I will have to encourage myself to go to the gym, get on the treadmill, and maybe even distract myself with a good show to pass the time as I run. Ted Lasso is the one series I have reserved specifically for winter gratification. All summer my friends encouraged me to watch this series, but I have saved it specifically for cold winter days on warm couch or as I run on the treadmill inside. Unfortunately, for me the treadmill feels a bit like a hamster wheel so I need that extra level of comfort. Like squirrels gathering their acorns to survive, I have created an arsenal of “happy, feel-good shows”, podcasts and books to help me maintain my own cheerful mood this winter. Additionally, yoga has become another must do rite to keep myself present and grateful. While on my yoga mat, I’m able to be in that moment and only that moment. When at yoga, I can pause in a stance, focus on my breath, and balance in my own body and mind. This is the practice of mindfulness in a moving meditation.
- Journaling – this blog is like a journal for me. It provides me the opportunity to get my thoughts out on paper and send it out to the world which, as you might imagine, reminds me to be thoughtful, accountable and not a hypocrite. My mom always said, “practice what you preach.”
- Mindful eating – The winter season typically calls for comfort foods; warm chili, meatloaf, butternut squash soup. But these comfort foods may often be a little decadent and consequently accompanied by their own series of pros and cons. I must remember to be cognizant in the idea of enjoying in moderation and being aware of how I feel when I eat. There are four characteristics to mindful eating listed in an article by Courtney Ackerman, MA; (found on the internet at Positive Psychology: 58 Science-Based Mindful Eating Exercises and Tips which are as follows:
- Staying aware of what you are doing and the effects it has on your body – both good and bad.
- Using all of your sense in choosing and experiencing food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.
- Acknowledging your responses to food based on your senses without judgement (e.g.; texture, hate the taste).
- Practice awareness of your emotions, physical hunger, and the cues that let you know your hunger has been satiated.
I recently started a training program called MB-EAT that provides me additional tools in the pursuit of mindful eating, and I share these practices with others. Eating mindfully means that we are using all of our physical and emotional senses to experience and enjoy the food choices we make without placing judgement on what types of food we eat. As we become more aware of our eating habits, we may take steps towards modifying behavior that will benefit ourselves and our environment. As an added benefit, the weekly class meeting allows me to stay accountable, which further supports the need for accountability to achieve a goal. Its similar in concept to signing up for an exercise class, where you already paid for it and you need the group and instructor to motivate your attendance and hold you accountable in getting your exercise for the day. In an exercise group, showing up and allowing the group and trainer help motivate you to be active is the start of turning a daily habit into a lifestyle. Showing up day after day for yourself, practicing daily and having the support of the class is helping transform my mindful eating habit into a lifestyle. The 12-week course for clinicians is called Mindful -Based Eating Awareness (MB-EAT) training by Andrea Lieberstein.
Here is another article that discusses mindful eating if you would like to learn more:
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