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April’s Great Mindful Eating Experiment [And P90X2 Phase II Report]

Posted Apr 01 2012 11:27pm

Tiny fingers. Shrill voices. (True story: Gym Buddy Allison asked me the other day if I’d noticed how Son #3 has a voice like a bunker-buster missile. Ah yes, the most adorable bunker buster ever but painfully piercing nonetheless.) Sticky messes. Phones ringing. E-mail pinging. And the never-ending demands. I asked my oldest son today if he could please try talking to me without asking me for something every single time and he just looked at me like he didn’t even realize that was an option. Mom = waitressing, housecleaning, cooking, driving genie with a limitless credit card.

The more chaotic my environment gets, the more intensely I narrow my focus to block it all out. Basically I put myself in time out. When I’m doing well this is a fairly infrequent occurrence but thanks to my medicine screw up (The last insurance person I talked to told me flat out, “You’re never going to get your old meds back, I can guarantee it. No matter what you do, we will find a way not to cover it.” It says a lot about my mental state that I almost started crying – out of gratitude for her honesty.) I find myself increasingly overwhelmed and unable to cope. Or rather, the way I cope is to lock myself in my closet, play word games on my phone (Scramble is so addicting!) and… eat jelly beans by the handful. After I finished an entire 14 ounce bag of my favorite SweeTart jelly beans on Friday I realized this has got to stop.

Enter mindful eating. “Mindfulness” is one of the hottest theories in psychology right now and for good reason: it’s exactly the opposite of the way most of us live our lives. (Psychologists love nothing more than to be contrary!) It’s the anti-multi-tasking approach to life. It also happens to be part of the first two guidelines of Intuitive Eating (Geneen Roth style):

1. Eat sitting down.

2. Eat without distractions.

When I first started Intuitive Eating these were the two principles I had the hardest time with because they really forced me to pay attention to what I was eating and the fact that I was eating it. Despite being in recovery (not recovered but doing light years better ) from an eating disorder, I still harbor a lot of negative feelings about food and my mental dialogue , while it’s gotten a lot better, is still hard to take. So the easiest way for me to tune out the food chatter is to read/talk on the phone/surf the web/pretend I don’t really care what Kate Middleton wears to visit sick kids at the hospital (could she have any more gorgeous dresses?).

But this is a bad band-aid – as evidenced by the fact that the only way I realized I’d eaten an entire 14 oz bag of jelly beans was the empty wrapper and tummy ache. Usually at this point someone asks me “But doesn’t intuitive eating mean you can eat anything? That not even candy is “off limits”? Why are you trying to restrict it?” The point of intuitive eating is not to eat whatever you think you want but to tune into your body and eat what it wants. And our bodies are smart – they want to be healthy most of the time. So yes, eat the jelly beans if you really want them but eat them in a way that is both appreciative of the food (actually taste it and enjoy it) and is respectful of your body (no tummy aches!).

Up until now I was kind of at a loss as to how to do this. All I knew is that I really really don’t want to eat sitting down and without distractions. I fight it. I never do it. Enter mindfulness: One of the main points is that focusing on our problematic thoughts can just make them worse. Instead of thinking I shouldn’t be eating junk! But wait I shouldn’t pass judgement on my food! Why am I still so hung up on good food and bad food! It’s all food! When am I going to learn? My two year old does this and I can’t figure it out. I’m such a failure! And also my hair looks frizzy today! Aghh!    Mindfulness theory suggests I should instead keep my focus where it belongs: in the present, on what I’m doing. Which in this case is eating. Every time my mind wanders to negative thoughts of any stripe, I need to pull it back to focusing on how my food tastes, how it feels, how my body is experiencing it, how the room feels, the company I’m with etc. Less self-analysis. More appreciation.

Live in the moment. (With a pinch of Fake it Till You Make it. Or if you live like you mean it then eventually you really will.)

I hate that phrase. I have never, ever been good at living in the moment. But before I figured that was my particular character flaw. Now I’m discovering that mindfulness is a learned skill and one I can get better at. (Someday when I grow up I would like to be like MizFit , the most mindful fit blogger I know. She’s dedicated this whole year to “Living my priorities” and it’s been a beautiful thing to see how that plays out in her decision making. Very often it is simply making the choice to be present.)

So for the month of April, I’m going to be practicing mindful eating. It’s not a diet. It’s not to lose ten pounds. It’s not even to kick my jelly bean habit. It’s to be grateful for what I have and show that gratitude in my enjoyment. Not every meal is foodgasm worthy but every meal deserves appreciation. I know from past experience that at first this will be exhausting but it does get easier. (Check out this post by The Fat Nutritionist on her experience with it. Thanks Renee for the tip!) And I’m hoping that by practicing mindfulness in this one small sphere – eating – I will learn how to incorporate it into other areas of my life.

As far as workouts go, we’re still doing P90X 2. We just started Phase 3 – the final phase which has the slight misfortune of being named “P.A.P.” – an acronym that stands for something that I can never remember because I’m too busy wondering if my pap smear is current. BUT, gyno talk aside, I am really liking this phase. And we’ll continue Phase 3 throughout April.

P90X 2 Phase II Review

Phase I did not go spectacularly well , if you recall. It was the first Experiment in five years that a core Gym Buddy has quit. But Phase II went much better after we got past the ball-happy “chest, back and balance” workout that had us doing all kinds circus stunts. Fortunately for us, Tony has an optional “V-sculpt” workout you can sub for that day and while I’ve gone back and done CB&B on my own, with the Gym Buddies we’ve stuck to v-sculpt.

If you were a superfan of P90X the original (like me) then this phase will be most similar to what you already know. Lots of weightlifting, plyos and – of course – a plethora of pull-ups. Seriously I never knew there were so many varieties of pull-ups until I met Tony Horton! It’s tough – and there are still some moves I can’t even attempt without a Gym Buddy holding up each butt cheek – but it was good tough. Lots of sweat. Some floor burns (thank you plyo push-ups off a medicine ball). But also new muscle. I am most definitely stronger than when we started in February! My only complaint is that all the workouts are very upper-body intensive, other than some plyo jumps there’s not much for the lower body. We added in some weighted back squats and lunges to make up for this. I’m not sure if Tony did this for a reason since P90X 1 had plenty of lower-body work in it. If anyone knows, please enlighten me!


Your challenge, if you choose to accept it: Just for the month of April, try sitting down and eating undistracted for every meal. Heck, just try it for a week and let me know what you think! Who’s in for this month’s experiment? If any of you have any experience with mindfulness training or P90X 2 phase 3, I’d love any tips you can give me! Anyone else have a hard time eating undistracted? What do you do when you need a “time out”?

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