Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mindful Eating: Three Questions

In our obesogenic environment, mindful eating is a way to curb the impulse to overindulge. The basic idea is to slow down all behaviors related to eating, from your attitudes toward eating and choosing foods, to portion size and the mechanics of eating itself. Tuning into your body and the sensory experiences related to eating in an accepting and nonjudgmental manner are among your goals.

The three questions I really like are from a recent study using acceptance-based therapy (ABT) interventions to facilitate weight loss. In addition to mindfulness, ABT helps you tolerate distress by learning to accept thoughts and feelings without trying to change them, using values to choose behavioral directions and being open to your present experience in the here and now.

The three questions to ask before eating:

1. What is triggering me to eat this food right now?
2. What are my other options for food to eat or behavior in which I can engage?
3. Is eating this food the option I want to choose?

Your conversation with yourself might go something like this.

What’s triggering me? Am I bored, upset or feeling entitled to a special treat?

What are other options? If I’m bored maybe I need to get out and do something…upset, call a friend…entitled to a treat…take time for myself, a hot bath, massage, walk, those would be healthy treats.

Is this what I want to choose? There may be other options that are healthier, more consistent with my eating plan and will make me feel better later. What are those?

Also check out Susan Albers’ website for great info. And get more tips for eating the mindful meal from Brigham & Women’s Hospital.

As Albers says, eat, drink and be mindful. And before you indulge, ask the 3 questions.
To get in the questioning mood, I recommend Questions 67 and 68…Chicago

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Truth or Fiction? Write Your Stories

In an interview, author of That Old Cape Magic,“ Richard Russo says: “The deepest failures any fiction writer is likely to have are failures of not quite comprehending the truth of the story that he or she is telling. And I think that's why Jack Griffin can't write this story ... there's something about himself that he hasn't quite recognized."

Russo goes on to talk about how missing the truth of one’s life happens in real life as well as in fiction. Memories of the past are not necessary shared precisely by the participants, much as eyewitness reports frequently differ. So where’s the truth?

What does this have to do with anything? It speaks to the need for all of us to address our own truths and try to gain perspective about ourselves, our choices, our behaviors.

There’s a great exercise in Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life (Steven Hayes). It calls for you to write the story of your suffering, including the main problems and all the reasons (historical, situational and personal) for the presence of these problems in your life. Suffering being a bit strong for some of us, you could just write the story of your present difficulties. Then you underline only the facts of your story…not interpretations or analyses. Finally, you take the facts and write a completely different story, with a different ending. As you can imagine, the meaning of the facts changes dramatically in the two stories. Hayes goes on to suggest that you can write yet another story using the same facts to further demonstrate how the stories we tell change the meaning of the facts.

In other words, our interpretations of the facts of our lives change our beliefs about the truths of our lives. It suggests that we can change those truths by re-writing or re-interpreting our story.

For example, it’s possible that you’ve been less accomplished, less intelligent and less capable than all your siblings. It’s equally possible that you’ve taken the road less traveled, made unpopular choices and picked experiences you desired over those preferred by others. The question becomes how can you be the person you wish to be instead of the incompetent you’ve believed yourself to be? (It’s just one possible example.)

My suggestion: Write and re-write your story. See how it comes out each time. Stick with the one that feels true and good at the same time.