8:Mindfulness and Conscious Eating

Eating is a central and important part of everyone’s life – a basic need that that we depend upon to essentially keep us alive. It is such a common and regular activity that we can quite often complete the ‘task’ of eating without thinking, on auto pilot. Eating or drinking as we go throughout the day, almost unconsciously, can become part of our daily routine. A bite of this, a piece of that, a slurp of the other, all without thought and usually whilst we’re busy or preoccupied with other tasks, thoughts and activities – sound familiar?

Well this way of eating became the norm for me, as of my daily life up until quite recently and which definitely had a massive effect on my ability to successfully lose weight and improve my health.

Fitting eating in to my busy lifestyle often meant that I did it whilst doing other activities, it made sense for me to try to combine ‘tasks’ or ‘multi task’ so I could use my time in the most effective way, or so I thought. For example, watching my favourite TV show or the news and having my tea on my lap; eating lunch at my desk and reading emails or a document etc – this again will probably sound familiar.

However the practice of eating and doing other things became more wide spread and I found that I’d progressed to eating a sandwich whilst making tea; picking the leftovers from the kids plates whilst washing the dishes; munching through a sharing sized packet of crisps whist watching a film; eating a huge bag of sweets whilst driving on long journeys… I could go on and on with the amount of ‘mindless’ eating that took place and at the end of the day I would genuinely have no idea of what I had actually eaten that day, as most of it was done without conscious thought.

This would continually thwart my eternal efforts to lose the lbs and would see me getting angry and frustrated at my lack of progress. I remember thinking on numerous occasions, ‘I don’t understand why I’m so big, I don’t eat that much’ or ‘I have been really good, I don’t understand why I’m not losing weight’.

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It was only when I actually started to examine my eating habits and relationship with food this time that I realised the extent of how much I actually ate without thinking and how common it had become in my daily life. I then realised that if I was ever going to achieve long term success with the weight that I was now losing, that I would need address this habit, as well as the others that I’ve mentioned in previous posts.

I approached this in a number of ways, the first was to begin to make a diary of all the food and drink that I had each day – trying where possible, to note this down at the time of eating, so that it wouldn’t be forgotten later. It’s amazing how quickly you can forget having a couple of biscuits with a brew or a slice of something, especially if its not something that you’ve previously planned for.

The second was to throw out all left over food straight away or to ask people to scrape their plates into the food bin after leaving the table. This now removed any temptation of eating anything left on a plate and meant that I didn’t have to worry about this anymore.

The third was to ‘eat consciously’. This may sound a bit odd, but I found when I looked further into this, that actually its a really common habit that many people have and you are more likely to eat far more when eating ‘unconsciously’, than when you eat in a planned and structured way. However with a few simple steps you can begin to correct this unhealthy trait – these include;

  • Planning meals in advance and eating in a structured way. As mentioned in my previous post, 4: Change your ‘Final Destination’ by Planning for Success, I now plan my meals for the week in a structured way to help me stay on track and trouble shoot any potential tricky situations in advance.
  • Eat when you are hungry. Sounds straight forwards but I can tell you that I am a grazer and pick and graze throughout the day if I can. I now question why I want to eat, as quite often it is not linked to hunger but something else, like boredom, nerves or even not drinking enough.
  • Eat in a designated place. So for me this meant that I now sit at the table, with my family where possible, to eat my meals.
  • Do nothing whilst eating – no reading, watching TV or making plans etc, whatever I was doing before is now off limits and I now focus entirely on enjoying my meal.
  • Savour the food you are eating.  Enjoy the taste, smell and texture of the food you are eating. Make sure that it’s not a cardboard TV dinner type rubbish that you would struggle to truly enjoy. Make mealtimes something to look forwards to!
  • Chew each mouthful 10 – 15 times before swallowing. This felt totally alien to me at first, as I found that one of my habits was to wolf food down super-fast, sometimes without even chewing it at all! Now chewing each mouthful for this amount of time before swallowing, has slowed my eating right down and gives me the opportunity to actually taste and enjoy the food I am eating.
  • Place your knife, folk or spoon down in-between each mouthful. I found that quite often in the past whilst I was eating I was cutting up my food and getting the next one ready to go, meaning that I was still distracted from what I was doing – eating – and also consuming my meal much faster. I now find that eating is a much more pleasant experience, feeling more relaxed, where as in the past it felt hurried and sometimes a little bit stressful.
  • Stop eating when you feel satisfied. I found that eating in this slower and much more controlled way, allowed my body to recognise when I was actually full and helped me to stop eating when I had eaten enough. This had been a particular problem for me in the past, as I would often eat so fast, (particularly when bingeing) that it didn’t register until I had eaten so much I could barely move.
  • Do this as often as you can to make it a habit! Sounds obvious but as I’ve mentioned before it takes up to six weeks of consistently doing something, before it becomes a habit. mindful eating

The fourth was to Plan for snacks in advance. Before I started to do this I would quite often graze without thought, continuously on bits and pieces throughout the day – whilst at work and in the evening when cooking or watching TV. I now take what I want to eat into work with me, like a couple of pieces of fruit and a cereal bar, along with my lunch and only eat this. I also put to one side the things I want to eat at night and will eat them whilst watching TV or even going to the Cinema, in a planned ‘conscious’ way. I do still sometimes eat the odd piece of ham or chicken whilst cooking if I’m hungry, but I feel I am aware of it now and able to control how much I consume. I also note everything I eat and will include these within my daily tally of food consumption.

By following these fairly simple steps I have managed to get a better handle on what and when I am eating and feel much happier as a result. We now quite often (when we’re all together) enjoy family meals at the table and I have started to enjoy cooking more adventurous foods that I enjoy the taste of. Eating is no longer a means to an end that is squeezed into my day, it is something to look forward too and enjoy the space that this new way of eating has created. I am also more aware of when I am sliding back into old habits like picking or grazing on random bits of food and feel able to stop and question myself on, ‘why’ I want to eat’ and ‘if’ I am actually hungry or if something else is at play.

Mindfulness is a really useful tool which I’ve not only used for helping me gain a better awareness and control of my eating, but in combating stress and other pressures that life can bring – which I will talk more about in a future post.

I hope you have found this post interesting, next time I will be looking at exercise and how beginning to conquer my fears around this helped me to scale mountains.

Have a good week

Much Love

Marie x

Previous posts

7: Putting Your Needs on the Menu

6: Start With Your End in Mind: Visualising what Success Would Look Like

5: Refill your Glass and Retune that Inner Voice

4: Change your ‘Final Destination’ by Planning for Success

3: What Lies Beneath: Understanding Reasons Behind Actions & Behaviours In My Relationship With Food

2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life

1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life

 

 

 

1: Introduction: My Re-Design For Life – Losing the Weight and Gaining a Life

2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life

If someone had said to me a few years ago, you’ll be climbing mountains, walking 90 miles and riding horses someday soon, I’d have laughed at them. Then probably beat myself up about how I wasn’t able to any of those things and then eaten myself into a coma.

Scaling My First Mountain
I walked Ben Wyvis earlier this year, something I would never of dreamed of even trying in the past.

But here I am just a mere 2 years 7 months after starting my journey, doing all those things and making plans for more adventures and new challenges.

Now this may seem like a long time to some, however it’s all relative. I personally feel it’s a drop in the ocean. Particularly when you consider that I have spent in excess of 27 years of not being able to do those things.

The most common question I am asked is “how did you do it?” And “you must feel like a new person”

In answer to the first question (in a nut shell) I would say I have been successful this time by;

  • Attending a well-known slimming group and following a healthy eating plan.
  • Learning how to plan what I’m going to eat in advance and making sensible choices when I’m out and about.
  • Receiving help and support from my friends and family. Mainly my fabulous husband who has been my rock throughout.
  • Challenging myself with personal goals and physical activities.
  • Visualising success and changing the way I see things (including myself).

In answer to the second question, yes, I absolutely do feel like a new person. Just one with lots of memories and experiences of being, as professionals would call me, ‘grossly or morbidly obese’. Living in a world where I didn’t partake in, well, looking back on it pretty much anything fun that my kids and family wanted to do.

A wall Flower at my son's birthday party
Being to self-conscious to take part in my son’s pool party when he was a little boy, I sat on the side watching them all have fun

Looking back I seemed to live in a very circular world of extremes. Dieting and bingeing, excessive exercise fads and not doing anything. Feeling like crap inside while portraying a happy and bubbly person, to feeling utterly desperate and demoralised.

It was an incredibly self-destructive merry-go-round with nothing really merry about it!

So why am I telling you this? Why do a blog? Who really cares about my story of how I, finally, after 30 years of trying, managed to find some strength to lose my weight. And how hard is it really to just stop eating crap and be like everyone else!…

Well my aim is to try to offer some inspiration to others who maybe feel or have experienced some of what I have or who may be on the same type of journey that I am still on. Or perhaps to just share my story with people who don’t know or have no knowledge of what I’m on about who are interested in how others live and experience life. Or maybe you know someone who is going through something similar.

So far I’ve managed to lose 14 stone 4lb and I’m still losing, with at least another stone to go to my target. On average this equates roughly to 1.5lb a week.

This has seen me drop 10 + dress sizes and has opened up a whole new world to me.

One where I ride horses, ride a bicycle (went on a 21.3 mile cycle yesterday), wear skinny jeans with heals and figure hugging dresses.

Riding high
After over 25 years I finally started riding again this year.

One where I can sit with my legs crossed (some of you are thinking, And… but some will know what I mean, I now can’t sit without crossing them just because I can!).

And finally buying clothes wherever I want – off the rack.There is nothing more empowering than walking into a shop and having the freedom to choose what you want to wear – the same as everyone else.

One of the things that motivated me to take that first step in this journey, was seeing my photo at my son’s birthday. I wore a frankly hideous top (the only one that would fit me at the time) and a pair of joggers (same reason), with my hair a mess (why bother to do anything with it?) and at my heaviest I looked and more importantly felt truly dreadful.

The photo that did it!
After seeing this picture of myself at my son’s birthday tea party I decided enough was enough and I was going to change!

Empowerment and freedom are probably the two words I would use most to describe the journey that I’ve taken and am still on.

Empowerment as I feel that I have taken control of my life, particularly around food, which is complicated as I still do have the urge to binge occasionally. However I have found ways to manage and control these more than I did before.

And Freedom as I can do pretty much anything I want now (within the law of course), which I couldn’t before and I now have the freedom to truly choose the activities and things that I would like to do.

Before I lost the weight I would say that I literally lived in a living jail.

One where I would sit on the side lines of life, watching others live and have fun. I watched my kids ride on fairground rides, telling others and myself that ‘I don’t like them’. When in reality, initially I was too afraid the protective bars wouldn’t fasten so I would abstain, then I was just plain too heavy and above the weight restrictions.DSCF0518

This pattern echoed it’s self throughout my teenage years until fairly recently, stopping me from doing many things, I call this withdrawing from life.

This included one of my true passions, horse riding, where I basically became too heavy to ride horses anymore. ‘This was okay,’ I reasoned with myself, ‘because my kids love horse and I can support them to ride’.

However if I was honest with myself, which of course I wasn’t, I really wanted to ride and would have loved to have been riding alongside them. Not looking on from a bench or the side of a ring.

It also got to a point where others had to lead my kids around as I wasn’t even fit to do that anymore…

But again I rationalised that ‘I loved looking after horses’ (which I did) and ‘I wanted to focus on caring for them and perhaps schooling them more’. Which whist was lovely, was a long way off from my real dream and aspirations which I suppressed as they were, as I thought then, ‘just not achievable and unrealistic’.

Eventually I sold our horses partly due to a change in work patterns, which was a big wrench.

This act was a significant one as it was the last gasp of a dream that I had been fostering, of trying to lose weight to ride my lovely 15.1 piebald cob Polo.

Polo & Me
My Beloved Polo

I also withdrew from attending things, going to the cinema was challenging, until they kindly brought in VIP seats, I couldn’t fit into the stalls.

Also going out for a meal was challenging, I had to vet places in advance so I knew that the seats were okay and could withstand my weight and the environment was not too cramped.

I remember going into a café once and not being able to squeeze into the fixed booth, needless to say I was mortified.

I also have a vivid memory of sitting on a plastic chair on holiday and it collapsing under me, the compare who was doing some games for the residence kindly laughed and made some comment on his microphone, to my utter embarrassment. To which I responded by escaping back to the other side of my hotel and not visiting that area again.

I have another memory of being verbally attacked when on holiday in Portugal with my family, the woman, who spoke little English, told me I was ‘hurting her eyes’ as well as blurting out a torrent of abuse in her language, which was rebuked kindly by some passers-by who obviously understood her.

Whilst I laughed off this experience, which was bizarre in the extreme, as nonsense. I was devastated on the inside and it affected what I wore and where I went for a long time afterwards.

Experiences like this meant that my world shrank. Why would you put yourself through the pain and uncertainty of going to places you didn’t know? With people who didn’t know you and who basically judged you in a not very discreet fashion for being overweight?

This feeling was compounded over time and shaped the person that I became. A ‘clinically, morbidly obese’ deeply unhappy woman, who had internally withdrawn from life, but externally was the life and soul of the party.

My Son's 21st Birthday Party
My son’s 21st birthday party – I remember my limited wardrobe and while I was outwardly smiling I was inwardly unhappy with the way I looked.

So there is small glimpse into my complex world of being overweight and losing weight and in doing so beginning to find myself again.

I could go on and on about the different negative experiences I’ve had over the years, but I’m not going to as my main focus these days is the vast amounts of positive experiences and opportunities I’ve had and know are still to come.

I feel that I have been lost for over two 3rds of my life. Buried underneath the burden of literally hundreds of pounds (not the monetary variety) and I am now slowly being excavated. Revealing some of my hidden treasures/talents, interests, particularly with the way I look and feel. Which are the things that I had long forgotten about. Almost like the forgotten soul’s, harboured in one of the many long-lost cairns that are frequently unearthed in this country.

I’m not special. I have no super powers, wealth or great intelligence I could impart on the world. I’m just an ordinary person, with a family and a job and the same stuff that the majority of people have.

I’m just someone who has lost weight and have got/am getting my life back and if I can do it maybe you can too…

I plan to use this blog as a way of sharing my experiences and stories, both good and bad in my journey back to me – my true self.

I hope that my stories and experiences inspire, motivate or enlighten you. Or perhaps offer you some small comfort, in that you’re not alone and others have successfully travelled this road.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. If you have experienced something similar to anything that I have shared, please do send me a comment as I would love to hear about your journey/story too.

Similarly please let me know if there are any specific related topics that you would like me to write about and share in future posts.

A new woman
Feeling fabulous and confident before a concert this year

Much love

Marie x

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2: Begun is Half Done: – Taking That First Step Towards Changing Your Life