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Mindful Eating

Posted Oct 16 2008 3:54pm

Well, I'm all riled up today about nutrition so watch out! This morning at work one of the surgeons told me that "nutrition is the least of this patient's concerns" when I inquired about when exactly they planned on feeding the man with 5 bullets in his belly. "Well yes, I know he is fighting for his life", I returned, "but how do you expect him to fight with no nutrition?!" It has already been 7 days of nothing but IV fluids. Get a feeding tube in this man stat! Upon which I got some snotty response from the surgeon that I couldn't really hear. I think he said something mean about dietitians (at which point I felt like telling him that his scrub pants where wayyyy to short and really, if you are 6'2" you need to buy the extra long scrub pants because quite frankly it's hard to take you seriously in those flood pants sir!). But he did promise to put in a feeding tube the next time he took the patient to the OR. He was probably just trying to placate me but at least I got my point across. Without proper nutrition "ain't nothing gonna work right!"

Which is true for us too right? Nutrition being important that is. Even more so for the athlete that is asking much more of their body than the average joe, and expecting their body to perform big day in and day out.

And when something is really important to us, what do we do? We THINK about it a lot. We give it the consideration that it deserves. Which leads me to the second piece of the healthy lifestyle eating puzzle - mindful eating. I've already talked about the first - sustainability.

Mindful eating. Ahh...music to my ears. And what do I mean by mindful eating you ask? Well, simply put, mindful eating is planning out your meals, your snacks, WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO PUT INTO YOUR BODY day in and day out. With the goal of making sure you make the best possible decisions.

I liken mindful eating to a good, solid training plan. You have a big race coming up so what do you do? You plan out your training months in advance to make sure you get enough base work, enough strength, enough speed and that your taper is spot on. And the result is a stellar race, perhaps a PR.

So mindful eating then is planning your meals each day so that you make sure you get enough protein, enough fruits and enough veggies, enough whole grains and enough healthy fats. And it's not just WHAT you are going to eat but WHEN you are going to eat it.

Example - every week when O and I go grocery shopping we plan out our dinners for the week. We make sure we have some red meat, some chicken, some pasta in there, something fun (pizza night!) and of course the fruits and veggies too. This helps us to make sure that we have everything in the house that we need so there are no excuses for poor decisions. The food is there, we just have to make it.

THEN, every night, I plan out my meals for the next day, depending on what my schedule is and when I'll be doing my training. I'll make sure I eat before each training session and something directly after for proper recovery. I'll make sure I have at least 5 fruits and veggies (total), enough protein and whole grains and that it's all spaced out throughout the day evenly. I'll have it down meal by meal and snack by snack.

Now I know what you are thinking. PURE craziness! You are thinking that is too regimented and BORING. And too controlling. But let me tell you folks - this is how good nutrition happens. It won't just happen on it's own. You have to MAKE it happen!

And I look at the alternative. Without planning I struggle to get all the good stuff in. I end up eating pasta for lunch and dinner with no protein source to be found. I end up driving around doing errands for an hour after my swim without eating anything because I didn't think ahead enough to put a PowerBar in my bag for recovery. I end up eating no fruits and one measley serving of vegetable. In short, I end up with a very poor showing for the day.

This is not to say that you can't change something throughout the day - substitute this for that or perhaps have your salad at lunch instead of dinner. Flexibility is key! But if you have at least a basic plan, you are much better off than having no plan at all.

Now I can hear the whining already - "but I travel a lot for work and I don't know where I will be eating." To which I reply - BOO HOO! It may take some more thought and planning but it can be done! You know where you are traveling to, so find which restuarants you might be able to dine in. Find their menus. Find the healthiest options. Find the grocery stores in the area and figure out what you can buy that will supplement all the eating out. And take snacks and healthy options with you! If it's important enough to you, you will find a way.

Besides the day to day planning of meals, mindful eating also encompasses THINKING about what you put in your mouth. We've all been guilty of mindLESSly popping chip after chip after chip down the hatch while watching tv and before we know it, the whole bag is gone. NOT GOOD! Or mindlessly snacking on M&Ms as we make dinner. Not that chips or M&Ms are bad and shouldn't be eaten. Quite the contrary! The problem here is that you are not taking the time to think about what you are doing. You aren't enjoying those chips or M&Ms as you should and you aren't processing how they should fit into your daily meal plan. You are just shoveling them in. Mindlessly. So time to get mindful! Need a snack while you are watching tv? THINK about it first. What would be best to have? If chips is the only answer you can come up with, well than chips it is! But, put an appropriate serving size of those chips in a bowl and THEN eat them...so you aren't left with an empty bag and a very full stomach without even noticing.

So there you have it. Mindful eating. Give it a try. I think you'll like it!

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