Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The art of paying attention...

I hear this quite often and myself have thought it a million times before, particularly in regards to eating out:  
"But I just want to enjoy myself" instead of thinking about 'doing good'/paying attention.  
For some reason, we just equate being mindless with relaxing and celebrating.  But the truth is:  It rarely ever ends well.  We THINK being mindless is going to be the path to happiness...Oh, I can't even begin to TELL you how many times I thought a bag of Fritos + the couch + "The Hills" was going to make me happy...only to wake up the next day, regretting everything, swearing to exist only on water and air from now on, all while poking, prodding and finding 'new fat rolls' left and right because we just feel overall GROSS.  Why do we expect a different result, swearing you'll be FINE, every. single. time???  (See also: the definition of insanity.)  

Here's one example (of the probable 500 I could give):
Over the holidays we had went out with some friends to an Italian restaurant where food served family style and in BIG portions is the main star of the menu.  And using "the holidays" as an excuse of the evening, I decided I just wanted to eat without much thought.  And even though I noticed my stomach sending out major "full" signals?  Well, I just decided to ignore that biatch and keep it rollin...rollin right into feeling SO beyond full that the only word you can use for it was disgusting.  You guys ever feel that way?  When you're so stuffed it just goes into beyond full and into feeling horrible.  I've been there...ummm, approximately 9 thousand times, give or takeJ

A few months later, we had been eating better and right smack in the middle of 'doing better', was another trip to this same Italian restaurant.  But this time, I was DETERMINED to enjoy it, minus that horrible, disgusted feeling of STUFFED.  So instead of just eating mindlessly, I decided to tune in to how I felt throughout the meal.  But here's the part where it became just an exercise VS. work:  I checked in ever so often, instead of feeling like I was in a FRENZY of panic and paying attention as I had in the past.  Instead of GRIPPING the wheel white-knuckled and obsessing about EVERY bite and whether it was too much (how exhausting is THAT?), I just had moments ever so often that said "is that really even good?"  "have you had enough?"  "do you really want/need any more?"  Just these subtle little moments of awareness kept that feeling of OVERstuffed completely at bay, all while enjoying WITHOUT obsessing.  (that's important, because being CALM vs. frenzied keeps that PANIC/obsession that can lead to binging away)

Another thing this also helped me to do was to be more discerning in what I really wanted.  The fried mozzarella that I usually love?  Today it tasted kinda bland and a little cold.  But that creamy, fresh burratta spooned over the toasted crostini slathered with sublime roasted garlic?  SEND IT OVER.  The standard chicken parm?  Been there, done that and not really in the mood for it today.  But the masala cream sauced rigatoni with tender shredded chicken and caramelized onions??  I'm lookin at you...and maybe I even want another small dish.  See what we did here?  Instead of just eating what was in front of you because 'it's what you always do' and even though it wasn't really THAT great, you kept eating anyway "because you just want to not think."  But when you tuned in?  You got to try ALL of the best stuff that you REALLY enjoyed, while not filling in the gaps with the sub-par food that you just weren't feeling that day.  See how this is a win/win....all while NOT obsessing over every bite and/or not allowing yourself to have that great burrata??

So the question to myself & to all of you is:  Is the enjoying yourself REALLY in the eating without limits??  Or is it in having what you want and enjoying it FULLY, but stopping before you've crossed into food oblivion?  It's certainly a work in progress, but just one little question to put in the back of your mind the next time you are faced with a lot of food, all while trying to keep yourself in a 'calm place.'

Another little related story of something that happened within the last month:  So we were having a normal, healthy day/week and right toward the end of the week, we got what life is best at throwing:  a curve ball in the form of a (QUICK) trip to the ER for Katie.  Thankfully, this was a quick, non-event, but still one to throw my stress level into code red and where we were coming home way passed our usual dinnertime...aka-we were HUNGRY.  And stressed.  A B-A-D combo.  And what did I want?  PIZZA.  No thinking involved.  Just pizza topped with sweet, plump tomatoes and a side of mind-numbing.  I came home and inhaled 3 pieces before I even knew what I was doing.  The result?  DISGUSTING.  I mean, even beyond the usual for me.  Since this happened right as I had been in the middle of being very mindful the last few weeks, I can only think the OVERTHETOP horrible feeling came from knowing that I definitely KNEW BETTER, but plowed on anyway.  That little voice that had been slowly getting louder in telling me when to STOP EATING got drowned out in a sea of if I was never going to get to eat without limits again for the rest of my days so I might as well go full-throttle, right??

The next day I actually got sick to my stomach and spent a few days with a lingering queasiness.  A queasiness where, come Saturday night, the ONLY thing that sounded good on planet Earth was Chinese food.  But the only thing I did NOT want??  That overwhelming fullness that I usually allow myself to reach using the excuse of "take-out" or "eating out."  Then suddenly, that small voice in the back of my mind said "then don't over eat."  Could it really be that simple?  (totally taking the moment here to acknowledge that some people don't even need to OVER think that thought here.  It's just very natural.  But not for me!)  So I canceled my order for an eggroll appetizer (that I didn't really want or need, but just was going to order because, ya know, I'm obviously never going to order chinese food again in my whole life so I MUST get it now!), knowing the one thing I really wanted was lemon chicken.  Yes, lemon chicken in all of it's battered, crispy, fried glory.  I tried to rationalize 'better choices' in my head, but nothing sounded even remotely as lovely as that crispy chicken.  So I got it....then proceeded to walk into my kitchen and got out my usual salad-sized plate vs. the full-sized dinner plate I would normally allow myself for take-out.  And when the food came, I portioned out my rice & chicken on the smaller/normal plate, ate my portion and then was done.  No going back for seconds, no inhaling the whole pint 'just because it was there.'  Instead, I treated the meal like my 'usual'/weekday/smaller portioned meal, got to enjoy the crispy chicken vs. steamed vegetable and moved on.  I had exactly what I wanted without the gross feeling I had just days earlier with the pizza.  Not to be absurdly dramatic, but here it goes:  It was a revelation.  To stop allowing myself to be constantly STUFFED, based on an excuse of 'weekend/take-out/stressed/I worked out/insert your own excuse here' has been one thing that has helped so much.  Especially in keeping that 'calm, clear' mind.  Because without the overeating, there's no stress that 'tomorrow I'm NEVERGOINGTOEATAGAIN' extreme/panic/deprivation.  It is freeing to the ten zillionth degree.

Now, don't get me wrong...I'm writing all of this as just as much of a reminder to myself as I am in telling it all to you  (especially considering both stories with varying results happened all within months of each other).  But I'm hoping that we, together, can make these mental notes and reminders to ourselves BEFORE 'the damage' is done.  That we just take those few moments to evaluate what we really want and how we feel vs. the habit of using any graspable excuse we can make to justify overeating and then, in turn, feeling lousy.  Whatever it takes to make yourself feel one ioda more mindful:  do it.  And we'll slowly keep making these strides toward freedom of enjoying life and all the good stuff, but putting the brakes on before at our max limits.  Hope this post helps you sort through your own brain for similar thought patterns and ways to turn them around.  I'm working through them right along with you!

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