Do You Feel Uncomfortable Just Eating?

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Does it happen to you that, every once in a while, you hear a sentence that causes you to have a big AH-HA moment? Well, it happened to me last week. 1300 dietitians and I were attending the International Congress of Dietetics. In one session the presenter asked us in the audience: “Do you feel uncomfortable just eating?” Of all the hours of presentations that I heard last week, it is this question, this sentence, which is stuck in my head.

In the moment that the presenter asked me the question, I gave the knee-jerk response of “no”. Now upon further reflection I realize that I wasn’t telling myself the truth. It was my knee-jerk response because it was the ‘right’ answer. The socially-acceptable answer, at least in the social context of a group of 1300 dietitians.

But upon further reflection, I realize that my real answer is “yes”. If I am eating alone, I do feel uncomfortable ‘just’ eating. As in, eating without doing anything else simultaneously. I’ve long been a believer in stopping work to take a meal break. As a rule I don’t work on my computer while eating. And, I love to entertain. While some find a dinner party to be a source of stress, I truly love feeding people. The trouble comes when I’m alone. I’ve been divorced for over 5 years now. For the first few years, I filled the lonely silence at meals with the TV (well, Netflix on my laptop to be precise). More recently I’ve weaned myself off of the TV at breakfast and lunch. But I do usually read something while I eat dinner – magazines, novels, research articles, etc. and occasionally I watch Netflix. Something to distract myself from being totally mindful when eating.

This admission is a little bit risky because I teach mindfulness with my clients. But if you’ve been with me for a while, you know that I believe in being transparent. So I felt compelled to share my experience with you. Perhaps it is this very incongruence that made the question stick in my mind. I know that you don’t expect me to be perfect. But I really should practice what I preach. When the presenter asked the question, she shone a spotlight on my blind spot.

If I get nothing else out of the International Congress, I will consider it a week well spent. Why? Because I am taking the next two weeks of my trip to implement this change; I am committing to 'just' eating.

Now it’s my turn to ask you:

Do you feel uncomfortable ‘just’ eating?

If so, I encourage you to join me in closing the book, turning off the screen, and tuning in to your food. Eat mindfully. Become comfortable ‘just’ eating.

NGC: Daily Gratitude Practice

Daily Gratitude Practice

A Nutrition Game Changer (NGC) is a food or habit that has made a big impact on the nutritional health of clients I’ve worked with. And, in my life too. Some may call these nutrition hacks. But I'm not a fan of that phrase. I share one NGC each month. Today I’m sharing a habit that isn’t actually nutrition-related. Perhaps you could call it a “life game changer” or “life-hack”.

Now since this habit isn’t a food or drink so you’re likely wondering why I’m sharing it. I’m sharing it because I’ve found it to be a powerful way to improve wellness. To increase joy. To decrease the chronic stress that drives us to eat all that highly processed, sugary, salty food. So I guess in a round-about way it really is a nutrition game changer.

So what’s this powerful habit? It’s having a daily gratitude practice. At the end of each day, simply write down one thing for which you’re grateful. You can do it in a journal or on your phone. I choose to write it on a piece of notepaper and place it in a glass bowl beside my bed. That way I have a visual reminder of all the many good things that I have in my life.

Yes, it’s as simple as that. And yes, this practice can have a powerful impact. I know this because I do it myself. It’s such a small thing, yet it made a huge impact on my mental health when I was at a really low place post-divorce. By naming one thing each day, day after day, I changed my attitude from only seeing everything that I didn’t have (glass half empty), to seeing just how much I did have going for me (glass half full). I became happy. And, my emotional eating decreased.

Since then I’ve added it to the action plans for every person who has participated in my 40 Days to a Happy Healthy You weight loss program. Many have told me how much they liked the practice (even those who originally resisted it).

Do you wish you were happier? Looking for a simple way to fit in this mindfulness stuff in your already overly busy life? Want to loosen the grip that emotional eating has on you? Give a daily gratitude practice a try. It’s a game changer.