Mindfulness is about being present in the moment, focusing on being here, now, and absorbing and enjoying and interacting with your surroundings, instead of worrying about what happened yesterday, or what’s going to happen (or not happen) tomorrow, next week, next year.
Now I could go on and on about mindfulness and how practicing it has helped me recover from a lifetime of binge eating, anorexia and bulimia, but there are people better versed in it than me, so I’ll leave it to them.
I will, however, tell you my biggest takeaway:
The problem isn’t that we eat crap and feel bad. The problem is that we eat crap, feel bad, and are overcome with shame and guilt, which often leads to eating more crap, feeling more shame and guilt, and so on.
I never understood how people could eat crap, feel physically blech, and then get up and live life the next day. I would always let my sluggishness (because let’s be honest, my “crap” is ALWAYS carbs, thus the malaise) compound my shame and guilt. I’d eat more crap. I’d set a date 3 days in the future to stop eating crap, some arbitrary date because “It’s Monday” or “It’s February first” or “It’s 3 months exactly until bikini season.”
The arbitrary start date is a blog rant for another day, but you get what I’m saying.
Then I planned my cheats.
Actually, let’s call them indulgences. I hate the negative connotation of “cheats” and I hate the sound of the word “splurges.”
When someone offered me cupcakes, I wondered, “ Are they worth it? I am going to Friendsgiving this Saturday and I really want to splurge on sweet potato pie with marshmallows on top. Do I really want these cupcakes? Are they that important?”
Then I thought, “I’m going to wait 10 minutes and reevaluate my need for these cupcakes.”
Later that night, someone offered me a drink and I said, “I’ll see how I feel in a little bit,” and I meant it. Then I forgot about it entirely because as it turned out, my body wanted a buttload of seltzer, as it usually does.
What began as a single-minded goal of only indulging when I planned to slowly helped me be more present. I thought about things more. I indulged less frequently. When I indulged, I ate less because I was actually enjoying it, rather than scarfing it down. I noticed when I was full. I ignored this and kept eating, but I stopped before I was uncomfortably full, and definitely before I was Louis CK full.
Suddenly I was a person who could indulge for one meal and get back on track. In the last week, I also became a person who could indulge for one meal that wasn’t planned ahead and get back on track.
I’ve been trying to figure out how it happened. I know it started with my goal of losing weight while still enjoying refined sugar occasionally, but it turned into something bigger, something that I apply most of the time now.
Then it occurred to me: It’s not about carbs, calories or crunches. It’s about being in control and aware of your mind and your emotions. Then you can think over your options carefully, and make an informed decision. Even if it’s a decision that involves far too much bourbon and/or onion rings, it’s a decision you made thoughtfully and mindfully, after considering the consequences.
By making thoughtful choices instead of impulsive ones, you eliminate (or significantly reduce) the shame and guilt. Without that shame and guilt, you can move on without eating crap for the next 5 days. The cycle ends there. Wait. There is no cycle.
You can only do this if you’re fully present in the moment that you’re in.
That is how I took control of my emotions and stopped eating them.
That sentence sounds really strange now that I reread it, but I kind of like it so I’m leaving it.
The weirdest thing is all the mental airspace that’s left now that I’m no longer feeling guilty and ashamed of every time I’m not 100% on point with my nutrition and exercise. In fact, I’m far from it. But I no longer feel awful about a missed workout or eating too many carbs. I just think, “Well, I’ll make healthier choices starting now.”
Sometimes I say things I used to say, like, “Ugh I’m so fat I shouldn’t have eaten that ____,” but I don’t really mean it. I'm not happy with my body right now, but I’m no longer actively shaming myself about it. It’s a body that I have as a result of thousands of tiny decisions I made and DNA, and I realize that it’s going to take a few thousand more tiny decisions to make it into something I’m prouder of. What’s a couple of onion rings in the grand scheme of things?
I’m going to Florida in 16 days and I thought I would be 15 pounds lighter by now, but I’m not. I can still see all the cellulite on my legs. But I’m so much happier that I almost don’t care. I trust the process. I know that I’m fixing my brain and my thighs will follow, and for the first time in my life I realize that my mindset is more important than my body fat percentage, and that, my friends, is huge.
Below are some tips on mindful eating from this website that I found extremely helpful!