Archives: mindful eating

Food for Thought

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A few weeks ago, I mentioned I was starting an elimination diet to help me get some clarity about how my body reacts to certain foods—and to give myself the opportunity to be more mindful about eating, in general.

The elimination diet has proven elucidating. I still have a few foods left on the list to test. But here’s where I’ve landed thus far:

White rice causes body anxiety almost immediately after eating it. I even tested this on two separate occasions to be sure. And, Yup. Me and white rice don’t seem to be compatible. (MERP)

Brown rice seems ok, though… (YAY)

And, although dairy doesn’t cause stomach pain or anxiety, it definitely seems to effect my sinuses. Within hours of re-introducing it into my diet, I started experiencing minor post nasal drip and sinus cavity pressure/headaches. During my fast/juice cleanse, I experienced zero sinus issues—which was unusual for me (I’ve always had chronic sinus inflammation that neither I nor any doctor was ever able to diagnose). I’m not sure if I’m willing to give up dairy completely….But now that I’m clear that it’s the cause of my sinus symptoms, I’m definitely going to start cutting significantly back.

I also discovered corn doesn’t seem to be one of my best friends, either. While I can’t say I had pain when I ate it—my stomach didn’t quite feel “right” afterward (lasting for two days)…

As for meat, I’ve never been much of a red meat eater (I’ve always noticed stomach pain after eating it in the past). But I do love fish. And chicken and pork are also foods that I typically eat once and a while. Since fish and chicken have both been tested and seem to be in the “OK” column, I’m going to continue eating them for now (pork has yet to be tested). It’s possible that I might end up eliminating meat from my diet altogether at some point—but I’m still contemplating this.

Another thing I noted during this whole mindful eating experiment is how, prior to taking an intentional look at the food I’ve been eating, I spent zero time thinking about where the food came from—and if it came from an animal, if that animal had been ethically raised (including whether or not it was “humanely” slaughtered). I just ate what was available and wasn’t mindful about anything except the price.

Chatting with one of my mindfulness mentors about all this, she suggested I consider investigating sustainably farmed food. I didn’t even know what this term meant before this whole experience (sure, I’d heard of it—but I never bothered to actually look into what it entailed).

So, I made some time to sit down and do some research. I’m still going through all this info and am doing my best to educate myself (there’s a lot of info out there—and it’s not as black and white as one would hope). But, from what I can currently assess, eating organic, sustainably farmed food whenever possible seems to align with who I know myself to be—and how I want to show up in the world.

Maybe it appeals to you, too?….

Here are some resources to help you decide for yourself:

Sustainable Food Resources:

Farmer’s Markets Locator:

CSA Locator (Community Supported Agriculture):

Detoxing

Detox

Last week, I mentioned how I’d been feeling like it’s time to reexamine my relationship to the food I’ve been eating (and why I’ve been eating it). And in thinking about how to go about doing this, it occurred to me that maybe I could take a “mindful” approach…

In mindfulness, we use the technique of taking a deliberate pause in order to create the space to observe our inner experience more objectively. So, I figured taking a deliberate pause from my regular eating habits might give me the perspective I needed to help me observe my eating habits more objectively…

The “pause” I decided to take came in the form of a fast/cleanse. And here’s what it looked like:

3 days (water-only)

7 days (organic, freshly squeezed fruit and veggie juice, water, home-made organic veggie broth—no salt, and organic herbal tea).

As expected, the first three days of water-only were intense… I had very low energy, severe body aches and massive hunger “pains.” But once the juicing started, I started feeling more and more vibrant. In fact, within two days of solely ingesting juice, I was feeling better than I’d felt in I-don’t-know-how-long.

Surprisingly, I didn’t experience any intense cravings for any particular foods (I honestly can’t believe I didn’t dream about dark chocolate the entire time—one of my staples)… But I definitely missed eating eggs, carbs and cheese. And the succulent smells of panfried sausage and chicken wafting in our kitchen when Kate and Angus were eating made my mouth water on a few occasions, for sure.

At one point, I deliberately stuck my nose right up into Kate’s dinner and just stood there, savoring the aroma. To my delight, however, I was able to simply appreciate the smell without feeling the need to take a bite. This was definitely a new experience for me (and one I’m happy to know I’m capable of having again in the future)…

But tests of will-power aside, I think the most significant thing I observed throughout the whole experience is how amazing my body and mind felt…. I wasn’t expecting to feel any positive changes throughout the process—I honestly thought the whole experience was just going to be pretty hellish…

But I definitely felt better during it. And not just kind-of better—much better.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the absence of what I’ve grown to consider my body’s baseline—a chronic low to medium grade anxiety. I can’t recall one moment during the entire experience where I felt that bug-eyed, tight, balled-up, cringing feeling throughout my body that I’m normally managing to one degree or another. It was seriously absent. And I’m kinda in awe.

Somehow I just stopped “sweating the small stuff”—and it happened pretty much from day one. Perhaps it was the mental act of going through such a drastic experience that put things in perspective for me. Or maybe it was because I stopped eating foods that I’d, unknowingly, been reactive to. I really don’t know…

So, how will this experience impact my relationship with food moving forward?…

Well, now that I’ve had a “taste” of what it feels like to live virtually anxiety-free—I plan to do my best to keep myself in this newfound state of feeling freakin’ great. The positive results from having eliminated most of what I used to eat on a regular basis has lead me to believe that I’m probably adversely reactive to more foods than just gluten. And now I’m intent on figuring out exactly which ones.

So, moving ahead, I’ve decided to experiment with an elimination diet. Because, if being more mindful of what I put into my body means that I can continue creating this newfound sense of ease, alertness and wellbeing—then I’m totally game. Even if it means I might have to give up some of my favorite foods because I discover they’re toxic to my body.

As I sit here writing this right now, there’s a part of me that can’t believe I’m willing to take this next step (I’m fairly “attached” to the foods I’ve been eating)… But I guess I’m just at that stage in my journey where I can no longer eat something on a regular basis that I know is harmful to me. I’ve had to give up certain relationships in my past because they were toxic in some way. It feels like what’s happening now is just another expression of this….

Simply put, I’m done with toxic relationships. I’m done having them with other people. I’m done having them with myself.

And now I’m done having them with food.

Paying Attention Isn’t Always Fun

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I’ve been noticing my relationship to food has been shifting over the past month or so… I’ve been more inquisitive about what I’m eating and why—more mindful, if you will…And I’ve started questioning some of the habitual choices I’ve been “mindlessly” making over the years—feeling like it’s time to get more clarity about what I want to eat (and why I want to eat it) moving ahead.

Ever since I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance (approximately a year ago), I was forced to start reading food labels—careful to avoid foods that contained anything with gluten in it. And, you bet, I was pissed when I first heard the diagnosis.

NO. MORE. BREAD?!… BREAD IS MY MOST FAVORITE FOOD ON THE PLANET! 

I lived on a steady diet of bagels and pizza for over a decade in NYC (with chronic and “unexplainable” stomach pain diagnosed as “IBS” from traditional Western doctors at the time). But then I finally visited a holistic practitioner to try and get down to the bottom of my stomach pain, and the news about my intolerance to gluten arrived.

The reality of my situation hit me hard. BAM. And I had two choices: either continue living with the chronic stomach pain, or stop eating gluten (ie—my most favorite foods).

Now, before starting my journey with mindfulness, I would’ve said screw it—I’m gonna keep eating bread! But one of the effects of my mindfulness practice is that I’ve started developing a fairly high dose of compassion for myself. And, as much as I wished it wasn’t true—I just couldn’t ignore the reality of my diagnosis: that gluten was hurting my body. I couldn’t knowingly put myself through that pain any longer….

So, the gluten thing was the first time I’d ever really started paying close attention to the food I was eating. And since noticing how the absence of gluten has been positively effecting my body and emotions ever since, I’ve also started noticing how other foods have been negatively effecting them—other foods that I love almost as much as bread and pizza.

And the thing is—I’ve also noticed that I’ve been dragging my feet about cutting back on these other foods… I’ve had feelings on some level that they’re hurting my body—noticing how they often make me feel anxious, lethargic, gassy, nauseous, etc. But I’ve been continuing to eat them anyway because I don’t have any definitive “proof” (like a doctor’s diagnosis) that they’re doing me harm.

THE SYMPTOMS AREN’T AS SEVERE AS THE ONES I FEEL WHEN I EAT GLUTEN. IT’S OK TO KEEP EATING WHATEVER ELSE I WANT. IT CAN’T BE THAT BAD FOR ME… I’LL BE FINE. 

If you think that sounds like some Shit talking—well, you’re right. And the thing is, my Shit doesn’t speak from my heart—it speaks from my hurt. In its own way, it means well… But it wants what it wants when it wants it—because whatever it wants is generally to “protect” me from feeling whatever big emotions it thinks I can’t handle… And burying unprocessed emotional pain under the distraction of food—especially food that causes seemingly minor physical pain or feelings of angst, etc. seems to do the trick. Plus it feels good in the moment: BONUS!

Now, of course I don’t “know” for a “fact” that all this is what’s really happening when I reach for food that hurts. But I can say with confidence that I “know” it on another level….

You see, another thing I’ve noticed about my mindfulness practice is that when something comes up, and I sense a hint of Truth trying to bubble to the surface—instead of ignoring it (like I used to do)… These days, I can’t help but pay attention to it.

However un-fun paying attention to it might feel.