Mindfulness: the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. It’s a word that I have heard in use over the years relative to school, work, exercise and of course nutrition. Only recently however, have I begun to truly understand the meaning of the word and its implication on the decisions that we make every day. Most recently, and if you were in my group for the Whole Life Challenge you are already aware, mindfulness has been at the core of my approach to diet and nutrition. As we enter our food-centered holiday season it is hard to think of changing anything about our eating until the new year, but a little bit of mindfulness can go a long way to kicking the new year off on the right foot.
Every time someone asks me about my philosophy when it comes to nutrition I tell the story of my friend (and lifelong fitness and nutrition mentor) who was inspired by our elementary school principal’s simple life advice “if you want cake, eat cake.” Now in reality, I think he was actually talking about cake, but if you think about it he was talking about mindfulness. Many approaches to diet and nutrition focus only on the food and not the reasons why we make the choice to eat the food. If I told you how many times I have heard “I know what I am supposed to eat, I just don’t do it” your head would spin. While it sounds like it should be an easy fix of “just do it” it is a bit more complicated than that and the first step to making better choices is to understand why we are making our current choices in the first place.
We all lead such busy lives that it is easy to go through a whole day without really thinking about what we eat. It might be in little bits like eating a few pieces of candy each time you walk by your co-worker’s desk or all at once like eating a whole pizza. Here is where is gets tough, each of those choices could have been made mindlessly or mindfully, the choice is still up to you. If the candy at your co-worker’s desk is your favorite and you are looking for a little indulgence to enjoy, grab one and enjoy it and congratulate yourself for making a mindful decision. If the candy is 3 months old, tastes gross and is collecting dust and you are still eating it every time you walk by, check yourself because you are eating mindlessly. If you forgot to pack a lunch and by 1:00pm you’re starving so you eat a whole pizza from that place on the corner that is pending health department shut-down, probably a mindless choice. If you have been craving pizza and decide to order from your favorite pizza place for dinner, enjoy it and move on because that my friend was a mindful decision. After making those mindful choices you can then decide if you would like to continue that pattern or make different choices in the future.
As we enter the holiday season I challenge you to make mindful choices. Enjoy the time celebrating with family and friends, enjoy the spirit of the season and enjoy your favorite food! And remember, if you want cake… eat cake.