Today was day two of mindful eating: pausing before I serve my plate, thinking about what I want and need, and consciously eating my food. I’ve known about “mindful eating” for more than three years. While I had “intentions” to start practising it, and have on occasion practised for short stints, I hadn’t made any commitment to be simply be aware.
My commitment for the next 90 days is to be mindful of when I choose to eat, what I want to eat, when my body says “I’m hungry” and when it also says “I’m full“. This is all part of the Innergetics course that I am taking through mBIT Coaching.
Why Innergetics and Mindful Eating?
In January 2018 I completed my certification as an mBIT Coach: which deals with the bodies three neural networks (head, heart & gut) and how they communicate regarding our thoughts, feelings/emotions, and identity. This answered questions about my alignment and my motivation (and sometimes lack thereof). But I was left with many more questions about my gut health. The Innergetics training focuses particularly on the gut brain, and how learning to listen to our body can help us reclaim our power and motivation. It’s all about coaching, but it’s really about learning to listen.
Let me describe for you some of my challenges and why this is good for me:
Background – Coeliac Disease & IBS:
Since 2002 or 2003 I have suffered from Coeliac Disease. Admittedly, this was not diagnosed until 2012! The ten years between were spent with a mis-diagnosis of IBS, and feeling completely out of control. Take a pill a day, it will help numb the inflammation. But it didn’t really. Only took the edge off it.
A particularly difficult period was when I was diagnosed with Insulin Resistance, and put on a whole grain diet – substituting the rice and potatoes I had been eating with more gluten. Funnily enough, my health got steadily worse. And worse.
Since 2012, and being diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, I have gone back to rice and potatoes, understanding their effects with respect to the insulin resistance, but knowing that the Coeliac is worse. I tried, in 2012, the “4-hour body diet”, and admit that I really enjoyed it! It’s a bit crazy – refried beans for breakfast was quite common for me, with a yellow corn tortilla and spinach. Yet, I felt fit, energetic and healthy. I was exercising regularly, I was eating healthily 6 days a week and fully enjoying my “eat whatever I want day”, and I was taking care to avoid gluten.
Then I got pregnant and had a baby. When she was 5 weeks old, I got dengue, and got to my lowest weight ever (well, since I was about 23). After the dengue, it took me about 3 weeks to be able to go for a walk without being completely exhausted. And about two months before I could do any exercise at all. Not a good weight to lose weight! I don’t recommend that diet to anyone!
Eventually, I got all that weight back, and more, and then more. Over the past 2 years, I have put on about 20 pounds. So, I am heavier now than I was at the end of the pregnancy! So much so, that a close friend asked a few months ago if I was expecting! Uncomfortable silence. Then admission that I am struggling with my diet and insulin resistance. All that weight is exactly around the middle – right where we need it least. Highest risk for heart attacks and other health issues. Those challenges!
That’s when the reality set in of how I had allowed myself to be “governed by hunger”, rather than governing my hunger. I was eating more than I needed, snacking often and craving sugar! Always craving more sugar. I’ve done the “sugar detox” and cut out all sugar. And then it creeps back in. I give an inch and it takes a mile. And the caffeine too! Stop drinking coffee – go back to tea. Stop both. Drink one coffee. Just one. And then I go back to one every couple of days, one every morning, two a day. Oh look, there’s a bird – yes, back to drinking coffee again.
And my gut, which has never gone back to “normal” since 2003, continues to play havoc in my life. Not as bad as it was in 2010 and 2011 when I was on the whole grain diet… but bad enough! Making my life miserable. Bloated. Gassy. Hungry. Bloated.
Habits & healing:
The question I went back to at the end of January with my gut was “what haven’t I tried yet?” – in the sense that there are so many things that I know I should be doing, so many good eating habits that I should adopt, but the reality is: I was out of control! I was not following all the good advice that I had read or been given. Reality bites! I was not following any advice at all. Not even my own!
So, at the end of January, I went back to Psyllium every day. When I say I “went back” to Psyllium, I mean that I have known about Psyllium for about 3-4 years, and have tried it off and on. But not consistently. And not taking notice of what dosage works best for me – do I take it once a day, twice, or more? Do I use what the recommended dosage is – or less or more? Previously, I hadn’t taken the time to find out what really worked for my body, even though I had noticed improved health when taking it. Now, I’ve worked out what works best for me and my digestive tract. And that may change over time.
I take Psyllium for 2 reasons:
- It soaks up all the water in my colon, adding extra fibre;
- More importantly, it is a prebiotic. This is really important for my immune system, and getting a balanced gut bacteria.
But, I don’t just take Psyllium – I mix it with Diatomaceous Earth, which is known to kill viruses, parasites and bacteria. In particular, it kills the gas-producing bacteria and parasites in the intestinal tract. After more than a decade of a completely out of balanced gut, finding helicobacter pylori and a 4-week session of antibiotics, a balanced gut is a lot to strive for. I’ve been so far in that hole – I even considered a fecal matter transplant. Instead, I’ve chosen to go with regular Diatomaceous Earth – which simply helps keep the “bad bacteria” and parasites in low numbers. A side benefit is that Diatomaceous Earth contains Silica, which is really important for bones, cartilage, skin & nails!
To that I mix some flax-seed and chia seeds (for the oils and energy) – and drink that down three times a day, usually 10-20 minutes before I eat. This slows down my digestion enough for me to actually absorb the nutrients. Because it’s 10-20 minutes before I eat, it also fills me a little (it’s only about 1/2 a cup of liquid with the heaped teaspoon of powder & seeds), so that I am more mindful of what I am eating and whether or not I am actually hungry or full. It also keeps me full for longer and not craving something at 11.00 a.m.
About a week ago, I ran out of Psyllium, and I thought to myself – let’s try this without the Psyllium. For me, that option didn’t work. The flax-seed & chia with Diatomaceous Earth mix was the same as taking nothing at all. So, I went back to mixing it with the Psyllium, feeling much better again. I’ll write more about this in another post.
Another part of the process and habits that I use to manage my Coeliac Disease is meditation. Without a doubt, taking time to simply be still each day is an essential part to healing and health. I have been consistently meditating for over a year now (since April 2017), and even last year, my “stress” levels were always “above average”. This year, even when I am feeling “stressed”, my stress level measurements show me at “low stress”. The only difference that I can account for in this is the daily meditation practice: because the actual level of stress in my job and life has not diminished much.
Funnily enough, about two or three weeks ago I signed up for Oprah & Chopra’s 21 Day Meditation course called “Shedding the Weight: Mind, Body & Spirit“. It started last week, and was perfect timing to come into the process of the Innergetics program. Setting exactly the right tone each day to be conscious and mindful of what I feel about my body, my needs, my wants and my thoughts!
I was particularly intrigued that yesterday they (Oprah & Chopra) discussed the 2 hormones that tell us that we are hungry and full: ghrelin & leptin. Ghrelin is produced in the stomach (primarily) and sends a message to the brain “I’m hungry). And leptin is made in your fat cells, and lets the brain know when it has stored enough energy. Then I get into the first session of Innergetics, and what do I learn about? Leptin & Ghrelin. Coincidence? I don’t think so!
So, what am I now mindful about?
It’s relatively easy. I’m taking note of when I’m eating, why I’m eating, how I’m eating (watching TV; standing up; driving; at my desk working; or actually seated at the table and eating without any other distractions), and simply noticing “what have I noticed?”. Like any other mindfulness exercises: it’s just awareness.
With awareness, comes the opportunity to change habits (should I choose to do so). For example, I noticed today that I was walking to park eating an Almond Snickers – and I was about 2/3 of the way through it before I realized I had opened the package. Suddenly I was like “what am I doing?”. Mindlessly eating. The next question was “Do I really like this?”. I know that I can sit down and truly enjoy a dark chocolate mousse, savour each mouthful. But, does an Almond Snickers actually reach that same level of enjoyment? Or was I just looking for a sugar & caffeine rush before arriving at a park full of 4-5 year olds?
Asking myself this allows me to consider: do I feel that I don’t have enough energy to walk around after a 4 1/2 year old in the park for a couple of hours? What could I change in my lifestyle that would give me more energy for these activities?
The beauty of mindful eating is that it stops you labeling food as “bad food” or “good food”. It is just food. The questions that you start to look at are more along the lines of “Am I eating because I’m hungry?”. And if I am not actually hungry – “why am I eating?”. Thirsty? Anxiety? Boredom? Habit? For a moment, you just sit with the thoughts, feelings and needs of the body. And it just is whatever it is. But the beauty of this is simple: do I want to change anything? And if so, what will I change?
This is only week one: I am looking forward to the next 12 weeks and everything that I will learn on this journey.
If you are interested in pursuing a personal journey into “total choice” and “mindful eating”, feel free to reach out to me for more information.