Chew for Bliss! Thoughts on Mindful Eating

You know the drill. You’re running like mad to and from work, to pick up and drop off kids, to soccer practice, to the dry cleaner, to the grocery store. Day in and day out. Life never seems to slow down for a minute, let alone give you a day off to catch up. Taking a break long enough for mindful eating at an actual meal seems like the last thing on the priority list.

The key to successfully keeping a healthy weight while still enjoying a feeling of satisfaction during meals may not take diet programs, measuring every ounce of food or living on plain salads. Research shows that mindful eating is the key, and it may be as simple as taking your time and chewing as thoroughly as possible. No extra thought or preparation required. During the last few weeks I have committed to putting everything I eat on a pretty plate, eating it as slowly as I can, and chewing each bite at least 30-50 times. What I’ve discovered during this process is really incredible.

utensils

The truth is, it’s hard to build a habit to eat more slowly. It’s hard to build any new habit after years of eating a certain way. I can’t even count how many nights I’ve spent bingeing myself into a stupor over the past 20 years. It is easy to get carried away with a busy schedule, grab food on the run, or sit in a daze in front of the television after a long day shoveling the snacks in for comfort. Pretty soon you’ve eaten a day’s worth of calories and didn’t even notice, let alone enjoy it! I’ve totally been there.

Eating slowly and chewing more takes a lot of work and practice. To be honest, my jaw gets a little tired, I’m initially pretty bored and restless, and sometimes I feel like a 90-year old woman when I sit and chew each bite so many times. But suddenly, in the middle of the meal, I’ll get this incredible sense of bliss and peace. It’s really astonishing. My whole body relaxes, and I realize that no matter what it is I am eating or what is going on in my head, the meal is perfect and nourishing and I am enjoying it to the fullest. I’m taking the time to give my body exactly what it needs and wants, and really living in the moment. Mindful eating works!

pastries

What you eat really isn’t the important thing. It’s how you eat it.

After this, contentment happens. I feel peaceful and relaxed and completely in tune with my body’s needs. I always leave the table feeling satisfied, without needing to stuff myself to dull my emotions or comfort eat into oblivion. A portion which used to take me perhaps 2 minutes to inhale has now taken 20 minutes. My mind is at ease and my stomach has had the time to process that it has been filled. It may take a while to build the habit, and it is usually far too easy to slip into old patterns. Nobody is perfect. Schedules will still be crazy, and it will be hard to justify taking the time for a 20 minute meal in the middle of chaos. I still binge occasionally, and I know that comfort eating will still lure me in when things get stressful. But this trick is totally worth it. Eat slowly, chew a bunch, and wait till the satisfaction sets in!

What are your tricks to eating mindfully and feeling satisfied?

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Surviving the Holidays

The holidays are always a stressful and crazy time of year. Even under the best of circumstances, there are get-togethers to plan, meals to make, and gifts to wrestle out of someone else’s hands in the mile-long line at the mall on Black Friday (kidding! Play nice!). Worst case scenarios bring crazy relatives, stress eating and emotional breakdowns during what should be a time for fun and celebration with loved ones. Studies have shown that the incidence of deadly heart attacks spikes during the holidays, especially around Christmas and New Years Day. Surviving the holidays becomes a difficulty no matter what we do! So how do we manage to avoid, or at least minimize, the stress? How do we keep holidays fun and relaxed?

May your walls know joy, may every room hold laughter, and every window open to great possibility.

Mary Anne Radmacher

After my mother passed a few years ago, it was a huge challenge to keep the holidays alive. She was the glue that held our families together, and without her it felt like there wasn’t any meaning in any of it. Even a small family get-together felt strained and painful, a reminder of loss. The grief lingered, but I finally realized that forcing myself to engage in uncomfortable situations wasn’t the answer. I had to find my own meaning, make new traditions. So now, I do what feels comfortable. I’m gentle with myself. I’ve learned how to say no (although it’s still a struggle at times). And I’ve found a few things that really help when it comes to dealing with stress during this time of year that I hope you will find useful.

Holiday Puppy

Acknowledge Feelings.

This isn’t always easy, especially if relationships are strained or someone is going through grief. But simply letting others know how you feel can relieve stress. Don’t feel that you have to force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holidays.

Reach Out.

I learned this one the hard way. As an introvert who’d rather hide in my bathtub with a book than host a dinner party, it isn’t always easy for me to reach out, especially during the holidays. It’s even harder when I’m admitting I need help or I’m feeling isolated. By talking with a friend or seeking out a community support group, we can lift our spirits during this stressful time.

Winter leaves, Surviving the Holidays

Do Relaxation Exercises.

Finding a quiet place is often difficult during a bustling holiday season, but even just a few minutes of meditation or deep breathing can do wonders for surviving the holidays and calming a stressed-out mind and body.

Say No!

I don’t mean it’s necessary to avoid every uncomfortable situation at all costs, but learning to say no is crucial for keeping stress at bay. Saying yes when you’re already overwhelmed only creates resentment and frustration. If it’s not possible to say no, such as working overtime or an emergency situation, give yourself a break later on to make up for it.

Holiday cake, Surviving the Holidays

Keep it Healthy.

It’s easy to over-indulge this time of year given all the sweets and parties. Surviving the holidays is about keeping the food as simple (read: quick and easy) and healthy as possible. Despite their quick burst of energy, sweets make us feel worse over time, not to mention adding weight-gain into the line-up of potential stressors. Certainly don’t beat yourself up for indulging, but try to tune in to your body and ask what will make you feel best before diving mindlessly into the sweets. During the month of December, I’ll be sharing lots of healthy vegan versions of holiday recipes to help lighten the calorie load and give you ideas for holiday get-togethers!

Plan and Budget.

Nothing is worse during the holidays than having to scramble last minute for gifts and meals. So give yourself some extra time to plan ahead – you’ll keep things healthier that way too. As for gifts and parties, decide how much you can spend and then stick to it. Make homemade gifts, donate to charity, or start a new holiday tradition that doesn’t involve spending so much!

Give yourself a Break.

Be realistic about the holidays. They don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. After my mother’s death this was the hardest thing for me. I felt as if I had to swoop in and re-create exactly how it was when she orchestrated Christmas parties. Everything had to be perfect down to the carefully crafted hors-d’oeuvres and the mountains of gifts. I drove myself crazy trying to do all that, and it turned into a nightmare because I couldn’t replace what I really wanted – my mother. Once I learned that being realistic and giving myself a break from all that was the best thing, the holidays got a whole lot simpler and less stressful.

Winter Sunset

Forgive.

Whether you have a crazy relative who drinks too much and causes a ruckus, or some simmering disagreement with a family member, relationship stress can be difficult during a time of year when families come together. So remember to have some empathy. They’re probably just as stressed as you are! Be understanding and forgive each other. And don’t forget to forgive yourself.

 

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Free Silk Vanilla Almond Milk

Hey all!  Just thought I’d share with you, Silk is giving away 700 free half-gallons of their Vanilla Almond Milk every day through October 10th!  Click here to enter for your chance to win.

 

Free Silk Vanilla Almond Milk

I’m sure these coupons for the free half-gallons will be going quickly each day, but I grabbed one and I’m sure you can too!  The coupon should arrive by mail in 8-10 weeks.

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Coca-Cola Commercial Controversy

Coca-Cola sent out a really powerful message in its Super Bowl commercial, in which the song “America the Beautiful” was sung in 8 different languages. The commercial even featured two fathers skating with a child, and is the first Super Bowl commercial to feature a gay couple. In fact, the message was so powerful that it instantly spurred a whirlwind of furious conservative responses online.

As a vegan, I tend to care about issues pretty passionately, especially animal-rights issues and eating issues. Perhaps this makes me more empathetic when it comes to political and human-rights issues as well. I’m not a supporter of Coke or any other soft drink companies, but this message moved me to tears. I was horrified (although not particularly surprised) to see the incredibly negative responses that the commercial prompted.

If nothing else, this commercial should make us think a bit harder about how we love ourselves. Most people might think “Why? It’s obvious these negative comments come from people who love themselves too MUCH! Otherwise why would they be so quick to put down those of other race or sexuality?”

But I want to argue that, in essence, the way that we love ourselves is the most important factor when it comes to acceptance of others. Think about it: all day long we put ourselves down, for not being successful enough, or intelligent enough, or thin/beautiful enough. In America especially, our society has developed a great deal of self-hatred and a huge amount of fierce competitiveness. Most people (especially women) don’t feel that they can truly accept themselves just the way they are. And if a person can’t love their own body and heart and mind unconditionally, then how can they hope to unconditionally love another unique, yet utterly flawed individual? When we love ourselves unconditionally, we can finally love others the same way. Tweet it.

Today I challenge you to do two things. First, spend five minutes in front of a mirror and practice truly seeing yourself. Pretend your eyes have never seen your body, your face, all of you, before. Try to notice your characteristics without judging. Try to imagine how your life and particular situation have shaped you. That includes your upbringing, your sexuality, your beliefs, your weight, even your skin color. What do you think your life would be like if one of those things had been different? Practice feeling love for all of yourself, unconditionally.

The second thing is to practice this exercise again, but this time looking at another person. It can be someone you know, or a stranger. What’s crucial is that you see them as a unique, yet valuable person. Practice unconditional love, or caring, for this person, if for no other reason than that he or she is a human being just like you. He or she has the same dreams, hopes, feelings, the same capacity for love.

If you practice this exercise often, you can learn to love yourself more, and let go of judgments. Life is SO good, why shouldn’t we foster joy and love? Let’s do it!

Organizing the Spice Drawer

All of my spices live in two top drawers next to my stove.  As much as I’ve always wanted a fancy spice rack, or a magnetic strip to hang them within easy reach, instead I’ve always struggled with a mish-mash of spice bottles crammed in drawers, labels completely out of sight.  Trying in a frustrated panic to find the right spice while my dish is burning on the stove is a normal dinner-time event in my kitchen.

Now I don’t know about you but I’m always trying to find ways to penny-pinch.  Saving money makes me happy, which is partly why I haven’t spent the money to organize my spices.  But I finally got sick and tired of it, and decided to try to make the best of the situation while at least improving it somewhat.  Organizing the spice drawer became top priority.

Enter free cardboard post-office boxes and label stickers.

First I consolidated all the spices that were in multiple bottles (sometimes I buy more because I don’t know I already have it!!).  Then I labeled (get this) the TOP of each bottle.  I know, genius, right?  The hardest part of the project was measuring to make sure all the cardboard pieces were the correct length and height.  But once I managed that, I simply made a cut a slice in each piece to fit them together, and voila!

Kitchen Solutions for Spice Drawer

The Mexican chili powder is apparently being a rebel – look at that sideways label!

It worked so well that I did the second drawer too:

Kitchen Solutions for Spice Drawer

I can’t even tell you how excited I am to make dinner tonight.  It’s going to be AMAZING.  I’ll actually be able to tell what spice I’ve grabbed before I accidentally pour a bunch of cinnamon sugar into my stir fry.

In all its organized glory:

Organizing the Spice Drawer

How do you go about organizing your spice drawer?  Will you try this cheap and easy method?