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’.

DSC00122

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

 

 

 

7: Putting Your Needs on the Menu

Life can be hectic for most of us at times, particularly if you are a parent or carer. We quite often learn to juggle our ever increasing tasks or responsibilities until they become second nature.

Looking after the kids or a loved one, running a home, being head cook and bottle washer, chauffer, counsellor, confidant and main provider all compete for attention – meaning you need to prioritise what needs to be done in the time you  have to do it.Life Juggling

Like most people I had and continue to have many responsibilities as an adult. Being a mum/latterly step mum, a single parent (for large period of my children’s lives ), to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (managing school or psychological services meetings and planning for changes, like school holidays),  working or studying , running a home (shopping, managing money, bills, cooking, cleaning, childcare, washing),  looking after animals, a husband/new family and so it goes on.

The majority of people experience this in some form or another and with all this going on its no wonder that we quite often find ourselves (our wants or needs) near the bottom of the list, or even shuffled off it all together.

This is what happened to me, over the years.  Often in the past I would focus entirely on all the things that I listed above and precisely zero on what I ‘really’ needed as an individual or the ‘lead’ person of our family. (By this I mean the main person for keeping everything going)

Now I’m not talking about owning a horse and maybe going out for the odd night out or lunch out with my friends – I’m taking about truly considering what the best course of action or simply put, the ‘things’ that I needed to live a healthy happy life- which was and continues to be a my main focus for my then children, now adult children and family.

img028

 

It has never dawned on me before that if my health or happiness needs were never met or even considered, that it would effect my ability to function or keep all those plates spinning fully. Or that by putting myself last continually, would mean that others would take my lead and inadvertently do the same.

There is a reason when flying, that the responsible adult puts on their oxygen mask on first…put yourself first

However this was what was happening and my well intentioned or more accurately unconscious ‘sacrifices’ were not only actually causing me harm – but also helping to instil bad habits into the very people I was trying to protect – not to mention providing a poor example for ‘some’ aspects of our life, particularly around healthy eating.

Thinking back on my life before I ‘rebooted’ it, 2 years 9 months ago – I was so busy focusing on ‘doing a good job’ and supporting everything  and everyone else that I totally removed myself and my needs from the equation altogether.

An example I can share would be with my choice of meals and food – particularly when I was a single parent. My priority tended to be what could I cook in the time & budget that I had, that the boys would eat. To anyone who knows my family the flaws in this are obvious, but those who don’t, I’ll share them with you. both my boys have a form of Autism and their choices of foods that they like to eat are not only extremely limited but different from each other.

So at that point in our lives my focus and choices would generally have consisted of;

  • cooking three totally separate meals or three different variations of the same meal,
  • or  an easier option of a large ready meal (like cottage pie or lasagne)  – as well as a separate meal for one of the boys,
  • or the totally easy option of a pizza or large dish or cheesy pasta or take away from the local chip shop, (that sold chips, pizza and chicken strips, so everyone had something that they could eat).

As you can see the first option is time consuming and costly so I would tend to steer away from that one, particularly when the boys were younger and I was a working single mum. The second option I went for quite a lot and the third option became the norm for a while, when we first moved to the Highlands and I was on my own and juggling everything with limited support.

The difference now is that I think more in terms of what do I want or need and then to focus on how can I either make it work for everyone or what else could do to make sure that we’re all catered for.

Now if things are crazy busy, which they quite often are and we’re pushed for time for our evening meal I would generally do the following;

  • plan in advance and have made something I can reheat or make something in the slow cooker that everyone likes – like homemade spaghetti bolognaise
  • let everyone else have take away and I rustle up a healthy speedy meal for me, like stir-fry
  • or we get a take away that we can all eat where I can choose a reasonable option, like Chinese food (the boys like chicken balls and chips or rice).

These aren’t earth shattering changes, however they make a world of difference to me and us as a family.

As I mentioned in the post  4: Change your ‘Final Destination’ by Planning for Success, in the past I wouldn’t generally consider my needs and would automatically roll with whatever suited everyone else. Which really hindered any chance of success I may of had with trying to make positive changes to my/our life.

Still sticking with food. We now live as part of a larger family and my shopping list has grown in keeping with the increase of our family. Everyone takes packed lunches to work, college or school ( and I still have the constraints of an exceptionally fussy eater, who has an incredibly limited range of foods they will eat) – so I need to buy a large range of things that gives everyone something they like to eat.

For a while I didn’t consider my own needs within this and would eat what everyone else wanted. I quite often got, can you get me this that or the next thing? which I did – but I would never get the things I wanted or needed. At the time I remember thinking that it was a big waste or a luxury buying these low fat or specific items for one person, so I wouldn’t buy them – which compromised trying to lose weight and would see me fail time and time again.

I Now don’t see things this way, in fact I actually I see them as polar opposite from before. Now I feel it is absolutely essential for the cupboards, fridge and freezer to have the things that I can eat in them and totally unacceptable for this not to be the case.

I have also become much more stricter with who eats this food. This aspect has been a bit of a change for some within my family, who liked to have their full fat cake and eat all the low fat alternatives too! They had to get used to the fact that for once I had started to be a bit more ‘self-fish’ and put my needs first – basically learning to say no to the things that weren’t in my best interest.

This shift has took a bit of getting used to, for me and for the other people in my life, however this has become our normal way of working and we ‘all’ have a far better standard of life because of it.

Instead of going with the flow the first thing my family now ask is, are you ok with going there, eating that or doing that, to which we can make informed choices that caters for us all.

I love meLearning to love myself and put my own needs on the map has not only helped me to lose almost 15stone in weight, giving me a better standard of health, as well as feeling happier and more confident with who I am -but has also led to a change in ‘us’ a family. We are finding that we are doing more activities as a family now than ever before, due to these changes and are planning our next family holiday where we’re going to go scuba diving, something we wouldn’t have even considered before.

The most important thing for me is I feel that I am able to be a better example to my children, by taking control of my health, life and changing things for the better.  I really feel that I can be proud of my achievement, and I actively encourage my now adult children to make sure they put their ‘true’ needs, if not first, then up there alongside other peoples in their relationships and situations in life.

I now live within a larger family so have the luxury of being able to work in partnership with my husband and share the tasks and responsibilities that I once did alone, which has created more space to allow us to focus more on ourselves and our needs and wants.

IMAG0471

I’ve had numerous conversations over the last few years with fellow slimmer’s and this ‘problem’ of being at the bottom of the list, is a regular feature within them.

My advice to anyone thinking about making any kind of lifestyle change is to evaluate where you sit on your list and if you’re not at the top or pretty close to it, you need to change it.

Neglecting my own needs turned out be very detrimental to my health and essentially not only led to unhealthy choices but to me putting my life at risk. Should I have continued down the route I was on, I know wouldn’t have been around in my boys future and wouldn’t be able to watch them grow and flourish or support or help them with their challenges.

Nor would I have discovered or enjoyed the many hidden treasures that I’ve discovered just by making a few, at times slightly uncomfortable but totally worthwhile, changes.

I hope you find this post of interest, next time I will be focusing on consciously eating and how mindfulness helped me achieve success this time.

Good luck

Much Love

Marie x

Previous Posts

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

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

Knowing where your destination is in any journey is pretty standard stuff, however for me I found that I couldn’t see an end point or ‘visualise’ where I wanted to be at the end of the road.

DSCF1406

 

As I mentioned in previous posts, I had such a mountain to climb in terms of the volume of weight I had to lose, that I couldn’t face the reality and would quite often return to the sanctity of what I ‘knew’, even if it wasn’t what I wanted.

 

On closer inspection however, I found it went much deeper than that.

As part of my plan, strategy and arsenal of attack to combating my weight this time, I used a series of hypnosis CD’s & DVD’s to assist me. These ranged from topics on managing stress, (I’ll look at this more in the future), weight loss and even a psychological ‘gastric band’.

Even though they all had a slightly different focus, they generally worked by putting suggestions in my head about the sorts of foods (mainly healthier options) I would like to eat, stopping when I was full and most effectively and challenging for me, visualising success.

The CD would ease you into a relaxed state and ask you to think about what you would look like in the future in different scenarios. At dinner with friends, where you would be all dressed up looking lovely, happy smiling and eating lovely healthy food. It would ask you to feel how you might imagine feeling at that moment. What the smell and taste the food you were eating was and how good it would essentially feel to be you in that point in time.

Similarly it would ask you to ‘visualise’ yourself doing something you would like to do in the future. What it was, what you were wearing, who you were with, how you were feeling. It asked you to ‘visualise’ this image in bright vivid colours and to imagine it as often as you could throughout the day, as a way of instilling in you what you visibly wanted to achieve. Basically painting a picture of your future self with your mind.

I found that the hypnosis was really helpful in lots of ways, however there was one aspect that I really struggled to get my head around, which was of course what I would look and feel like thinner. For me this was totally unimaginable, I had spent the entirety of my adult life and the majority of my childhood being ‘obese’ or ‘morbidly Obese’, so I literally had nothing to draw from.

I looked at pictures of when I was a child or teenager and whilst I was thinner than I was now/almost 3 years ago, I wasn’t slim and was still overweight. This time, I really wanted to conquer my life long battle with the bulge, so I knew a half measure of being thinner than I was but still classed as obese, would not be that helpful in terms of a target or goal.

I started to listen to one particular CD every couple of days, which I felt best suited my needs. It only took 30 minutes and I could squeeze this into the most unexpected places. Like when I took my son to his guitar lessons, I had 30 minutes to spare, where I would usually wait in the car and look at Facebook or something similar. However I started to use this time to play my hypnosis CD, which fitted in perfectly.

It took a while but I literally invented a new person, probably borrowing a look or image off someone from TV and making it my own. They didn’t have a face for a while, as I couldn’t imagine what my face would look like, so this was generally unclear in my image, until I gained enough confidence to settle on something I thought might look right for me.

My image of something I really wanted to do at that time was actually walking in the woods, sometimes with my family and dog Evie, but mostly with my husband and Evie.

This was a bright a beautiful image of us walking over a hill, all smiling and I was wearing fitted jeans, a snug blue Barbour style jacket and long boots. This image was something I thoughts about as often as I could during those early days,  purely focusing on this as my goal and target.

As I mentioned in previous posts I had joined the slimming club and the weight had started to fall off, which felt fantastic. However this image was the thing that became my focus and goal, not really what the end scale reading would say.

Family Walk
A recent photo taken on one of our walks, overlooking Loch Ness

 

As I began to achieve these walks that I had envisioned, I began to feel and look like the person in my image, so I changed my goal.

journey 3My new goal was horse riding again after over 25 years, which when I first started this journey, was totally unimaginable.

I began to visualise me riding horses again and what it would feel like, how I would look and what it would smell like. For me this was the ultimate goal and achievement and one which I actually started to live for real earlier this year.

I now regularly ride, every other week and have started my new goal, which is go be good enough to go on a riding holiday, which I’m working towards and hope to achieve this next year. I also have a longer term goal of owning my own horse again in the future.

This goal is less about weight or size this time and more about lifestyle and time management. I’ve already started to map out a basic 5 year plan with my husband, to help reach this. But this goal is certainly something that will keep me focused and on track!

DSCF1377

If I am honest I still really haven’t fully decided what my final weight will definitely be other than within my recommended BMI range. My main focus continues to be what I am and will be doing in my life now and in the future.

I don’t use hypnosis so much these days but I do use visualisation as a tool to help me get where I’m going and would heartily recommend it to anyone thinking about making a life change, as its a very powerful and positive focus to have.

I hope you found this post interesting, please feel free to share your experiences I would love to hear about other people journeys too.

Much Love

Marie x

Previous Posts

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