Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Grand Finale

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And here it is, my final post of this entire project.  What a year it’s been!  I recently read back on the “About” and “The Beginning” posts that I wrote over a year ago in order to re-familiarize myself with the reasons why I embarked on this journey to begin with.  What I learned from reading those posts is that my posts have gotten A LOT longer over the year (sorry about that) and that most of my goals for the year were achieved.  I had wanted to learn what it was like to follow a regimented diet, to learn new cooking techniques, to be able to answer questions about popular diets, and to improve my will power.  I would say I wasn’t a total success on the will power portion, but I also realized, through a year of “failing” on the will power game, that it’s not a battle that should even be fought.  More on that in a minute, but first, my “awards” for this year.

The Dow Diet Awards
These are obviously just based on my opinion, except the “Most Expensive” award.  That one is based on cold hard facts as witnessed by depletion of my bank account.

  • Most Hated: Winner – Fast Metabolism Diet. Runner Up – Paleo
  • Most Forgettable: Low Fat
  • Best for Weight Loss: Although I didn’t really lose any weight on any of those (remember: that was my goal), the ones I would recommend would be 1) Volumetrics Diet and 2) Weight Watchers
  • Most Expensive: Sustainability
  • Enhancing the Culinary Prowess: Mediterranean, Vegan
  • I Can’t Wait to Quit You: Paleo, Low Fat, Fast Metabolism Diet
  • Favorite: Too tough to choose just one. Three-way tie between Vegan, Mediterranean, and Mindful Eating.

My Dietary Recommendations for Health and Happiness, in a very specific order

  1. Eat mindfully- Taste your food, free from distraction.  Cook it and savor it with all of your senses.  It will work miracles on your relationship with food, and is by far the best thing you can do for yourself.
  2. Cook your food – Here is a video narrated by Michael Pollan, which really hammers home the importance of cooking your own food.  This doesn’t mean “preparing” a meal, i.e. a box of macaroni and cheese. It means actually cooking from scratch.  When you do that, you don’t have to worry so much about the fat, carb, and protein content of your food. It’s just nourishment at that point, and it will balance itself out over time.
  3. Don’t be a dick about it – It’s hard to put this at #3 because I want to put it at #1, but the other ones are probably more important.  I’ve always just rolled my eyes and been annoyed when people are super pretentious about their food, but these feelings were strengthened this year by trying all these different eating approaches and also by moving to Boulder, CO (the most uppity place I’ve ever experienced).  My friends back in Tucson have something called the “In-N-Out and Casa Molina” test for people.  If you aren’t willing to ever eat a tasty cheeseburger and some delicious, greasy, unhealthy Mexican food, there may be a larger underlying issue.  If you disagree with this statement, you’re probably that pretentious person I’m referring to.  Stop being a dick about it.

regular donuts

  1. Eat more produce – Everyone could stand to eat more fruits and vegetables.  Incorporate them into more and more of your meals until you eat them constantly and start to crave them.  Then, get creative, try new ones, and try preparing them in different ways.  The possibilities are endless.
  2. Whatever approach you use if you’re trying to lose weight, choose one that can be maintained long term – At the end of the day, all of the diet trials and myriad of studies that have been performed ultimately lead to the same conclusion: the diet that works best for weight loss is the one that you can maintain.  Try out different ones to see what works for you, and don’t get discouraged when the first thing you try doesn’t work for you, but it worked for your cooler, hotter, sister who everyone likes more and who has never struggled with anything. It’s so unfair! We’re all individuals.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss.
  3. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid – Literally, but also figuratively.  If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  4. Stop freaking out about it – It’s not nearly as complicated as the media and all the snake oil salesmen want to convince you it is.

What I Learned

As I previously mentioned, I really struggled this year with will power, until I realized that there is no point to will power if there isn’t a larger goal in mind.  One of the most important lessons I learned this year is that curiosity is only a good short-term motivator.  I struggled nearly every month to stay on track with the allotted dietary pattern because I would either lose sight of why I was doing this or, when I would remind myself of the goals listed above, they didn’t seem like good enough reasons.  This was particularly true in months like Paleo and Fast Metabolism Diet when I had never felt hungrier and that transcended into some mental and emotional imbalance.  Those months were the only time that I ever got a glimpse into what it’s like to be on a diet.  One of my goals was to attempt to understand the psyche of a person undergoing a diet (thanks to those two aforementioned diets, I succeeded in that goal), but also to understand why people put themselves through the torture of a diet.  I never got to the place where I understood that, and that comes back to the curiosity thing.  Curiosity was my motivator, but the need to feel normal when you feel terrible trumps curiosity.  I imagine a person with a dire health concern or a need for weight loss has a different motivation, and that’s something that I can’t relate to at this point in my life.  Maybe if I ever need to change something about my lifestyle I’ll be able to relate to that issue more, and I’ll see the need for will power.  But right now, I think will power is a silly thing to get caught up on, and I think it’s an issue that prevents people from reaching their health goals.

So here is a larger spiel on will power, and I realize as I’m writing this, that these ideas are not something I’ve ever been taught in any nutrition or health class. They go against many of the recommendations that students are taught regarding diet counseling.  But here it goes.

The most important lesson I learned this year involves the concept of moderation.  I know, you’ve heard it a million times before – everything in moderation.  And maybe you’ve decided that moderation doesn’t work for you because you haven’t found that grasp on it – it’s either gorge yourself or go without, and if you are working on losing weight, the “correct” option is to go without.  I really REALLY learned the fault in that kind of logic this year (the caveat to this, of course, is people with addictive behaviors or personalities, which I can’t really comment on because I don’t have any kind of extensive knowledge or training in that area).  I’ll use the example again of FMD.  That was truly a “go without” month for me, and I HATED it.  Not only did I feel physically unhealthy, but I felt mentally unhealthy.  And there’s the crux of it all.  Physical and mental health are so intertwined that they can’t and shouldn’t be separated, though our current system attempts and is often successful at convincing us that they should be.  Typically things that are good for your mental health are good for your physical health, so focus on that.  You will never see the full benefit of a healthy lifestyle approach if you only focus on the physical health aspect of it.  This whole time I’ve thought that my will power issues could be rectified by taking away the stimulus.  This is the basis of nearly every fad diet and every dietary recommendation.  “Don’t keep chocolate in the house so you won’t be tempted.”  “Snack on fruits – it will feed your sweet tooth.” I call bullshit on all of that.  While this may lead to weight loss, it doesn’t do a whole lot for your mental health because you a) feel deprived and b) never learn how to have a healthy relationship with these foods that you consider unhealthy/evil.  And what is the point of physical health if mental health isn’t riding shotgun?  I don’t know what the meaning or goal of life is, but for me it has something to do with finding peace in the midst of a hurricane.  Removing a stimulus doesn’t improve will power – it weakens it.  We need to find ways to achieve balance, and we do this by being in the midst of a room full of crispy French fries, the most decadent chocolate, a succulent cheeseburger, the deepest of deep dish pizzas, the creamiest ice creams, with a littering of fruits and vegetables and other health foods… and then we choose to have a few tastes of each of those things.  We really savor them and appreciate them, and then we carry on with our day, never feeling deprived or engorged.  It’s being able to control a situation instead of letting a situation control you.  This clearly isn’t just about food.  It can be applied to nearly every situation you will ever face in life, but your relationship with your body and your body’s fuel is a foundation that needs to be built, strengthened, and continuously re-patched in order to live a long, healthy life.

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I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes that taps into the issues with how we eat in America.  Eating a diet that supports the beautiful vehicle that is your body needs to be a priority if we want to prosper and see progress on both individual and societal levels.  The path to get there isn’t as difficult as it seems.  It’s just straight into the kitchen.

“…it turns out we don’t need to declare our allegiance to any one of these schools of thought in order to figure out how best to eat.  In the end, they are only theories, scientific explanations for an empirical phenomenon that is not itself in doubt: people eating a Western diet are prone to a complex of chronic diseases that seldom strike people eating more traditional diets.”
-Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food

Thank you to everyone who followed this project over the past year.  There’s no way I could have done this on my own – I would have quit so many times if I didn’t have followers. Thank you for your attention, your comments, your questions.  

Live Beautiful!
Caitlin

P.S. If you’re looking for another health blog to follow with posts that will take a lot less time to read than mine, check out my friends Dezi and Matt’s blog: Simple Fitness Blog.

Are you there, Caitlin? It’s me, Questions.

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food-question-mark-628x363

One day I was at work, working on this very post (it was a slow day in science), and a friend asked what I was doing. I said I was answering questions that people had for me, and she replied with initial excitement that waned into reality: “Oooh you’re like Carrie Bradshaw! Except instead of writing about sex, you’re writing about science and nutrition.  That’s not really as exciting.” No, it’s not.  But here it goes – my attempt at being a columnist.

Q: What do you know of this Garcinia Cambogia and body cleanse diet. Dr. Oz has talked about it. Have you heard anything on it?

 A: Like usual, when I saw “Dr. Oz” in the question, I cringed.  I typically consider Dr. Oz to be a bit of an extremely charming snake oil salesman.  But I decided to look it up because when the people have questions, I give them answers. First, I went to Dr. Oz’s website to see what him and his people had to say about it.  Then I searched on PubMed to find out what the science says.

What Dr. Oz’s website says: Garcinia Cambogia is a fruit native to Indonesia and supplements are made from the rind of the fruit, which is high in a compound called hydroxycitric acid (HCA).  The claim is that HCA prevents fat synthesis by blocking an enzyme (citrate lyase) that converts carbohydrates to fat.  HCA also reduces appetite by increasing serotonin production in the brain.  In effect, this improves mood and reduces the drive for emotional eating (though it is unclear if people with normal or high serotonin levels and who don’t resort to food to for emotional reasons would benefit from HCA).

What the science says: 43 Brazilian women who were overweight/obese were randomized to receive either a placebo or 2.4 g/day of G. Cambogia (separated into 800 mg consumed before each meal) in addition to an energy restricted diet (~1500 kcal/day) for 8 weeks.  There were no differences pre- to post-treatment or between randomization groups following the study in terms of weight loss (or any other anthropometrics), or any marker of the lipid profile with the exception of triglycerides, which were lower after 8 weeks in the women consuming the supplement compared to those on the placebo.  This study indicates no real benefit of using G. Cambogia.  That’s just one example of a research study on G. Cambogia, but there are many more that show similar results.  A recent review article by Astell et al. evaluated the data on a variety of plant extracts (including G. Cambogia) that have been explored in randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of human research) with regards to weight loss, and concluded that there is not sufficient data to suggest that any plant extract will significantly aid in weight loss above standard dietary and physical activity practices.  One study did show that HCA taken in combination with Gymnema sylvestre extract resulted in a 5-6% reduction in body weight after 8 weeks.

The Bottom Line: There aren’t enough well designed research studies for this herbal supplement (or any) to get my stamp of approval.  First, there isn’t enough information to suggest that they are effective, but more importantly, there is a question of safety here.  People often use the logic that herbal supplements are “natural,” and therefore safe.  But there is nothing “natural” about taking a supplement that provides you with 10 fold or more of a compound than what you would get from just eating food.  Remember, hemlock is also “natural,” but it still very effectively killed Socrates.

Q: I have a friend who is using a mobile app to track his caloric intake and lose weight.  He has lost weight, but I’ve noticed that he still eats pretty unhealthy food, drinks beer, and doesn’t seem like he’s getting any healthier, though he is still losing weight.  Is he actually getting healthier?

This approach is similar to that of many fad diets, and it relies on the simple principles of “calories in, calories out.”  Yes, if you ingest fewer calories than you expend, you will lose weight.  This friend may actually be getting healthier because weight loss of as little as 5% of initial body weight has been proven to confer health benefits like improvement in blood lipids and glucose, blood pressure, sleep apnea, joint pain, depression, Type 2 diabetes, and you’re bound to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.  Only 5%.  That means that if you weigh 200 lbs and you lose 10 pounds, your health will most assuredly improve.  Lose more weight, see more benefit.  So the fact of the matter is, yes, health does improve when you lose weight (if you need to lose weight. This doesn’t hold true if you’re already a healthy weight).  But this is not an approach I would ever recommend for anybody.  While you will get healthier simply by losing weight but still eating whatever you want, it’s only a fraction of how healthy you could be if you started eating healthy foods.  Matching the caloric content of two patterns, eating a whole foods diet that focuses on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats will win out every single time over a diet high in refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and fatty protein sources.

There was a “case study” that a brave soul performed on himself to prove a point to his students.  Professor of Human Nutrition at Kansas State University, Mark Haub, decided to go on a junk food diet for 10 weeks to prove the premise of “calories in, calories out.” He ate Hostess cakes, Doritos, Oreos, etc and consumed 1,800 calories/day (he should consume about 2,600 to maintain weight).  While he did take a multivitamin and eat a couple of servings of vegetables everyday, his diet was mostly shit and he lost 27 lbs.  A number of outcomes improved for him over the course of 10 weeks: his body fat percentage dropped, his blood lipids improved. (Read more about it here: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/).

The Bottom Line: So should you try to lose weight by simply focusing on calories?  Like I said, not my recommendation.  Haub’s data are interesting, sure, but we don’t know the long-term consequences of eating like that.  I would speculate that the risk for cancer would increase, and inflammation and oxidative stress would be huge issues for Haub.  Inflammation and oxidative stress are known to exacerbate chronic disease risk for diseases like cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, CVD, Alzheimer’s, etc.  The outcomes that he measured are validated markers for disease risk, but they don’t tell the whole story.  While obtaining/maintaining a healthy weight is extremely important for long-term health, there’s a lot more to it than just the number on the scale.  Eat your damn produce.

Q: Is there any science to back up Ayurvedic eating practices?

A: Ayurveda is an ancient Indian approach to medicine, and Ayurvedic eating is a therapeutic approach to eating that is often practiced by yogis and others with goals of inner peace.

The focus of Ayurvedic eating is to find joy, balance, and an appreciation of food via eating.  Most of Ayurvedic eating uses the same principles of mindful eating – being present, cooking your food, eating food that tastes good, paying attention to hunger cues, and not eating distractedly.  In addition to mindful eating techniques, the practice considers three different body types and personalities (called “doshas”) – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.  Once you determine which dosha is predominant for you, you can start eating to complement it. I’ll go through everything for myself, but use this link to find out about yours, if you’re interested.

I determined that my primary dosha is Vata, which is fairly spot on with my body type and personality.  The primary qualities of a Vata individual are that they thrive on movement and change. Vata individuals are typically tall and slender with narrow hips and shoulders and are generally energetic and enthusiastic, unless they are out of balance.  Signs of being out of balance are skipping meals (something I try to avoid because I actually do notice how much it throws things out of whack for me – I don’t know if this actually has anything to do with being Vata or if that’s just my personality) and snacking constantly (my worst dietary habit!).

One of the predominant issues with Vata is digestion.  To stay in balance, it’s recommended that Vata cook their food to ease digestive issues instead of eating foods (like vegetables) raw and heavier, oily, or warm foods are preferred.  Vata should avoid red meat and many types of beans, but sweet, ripe fruits and many cooked vegetables are supported.

An interesting thing about Ayurvedic eating is that it focuses on eating a balanced diet, not only by balancing carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals, but also taste.  There are said to be six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent.  Each meal should contain all six tastes in order to be balanced, though each dosha should focus on some more than others.  For example, the Vata dosha should minimize bitter, pungent, and astringent flavors because these are said to lead to imbalance.

What the Science Says:  I did look for some actual science to support this, but I didn’t find anything.  This would be a pretty difficult thing to test, in general.  First, I’m not sure what the outcome would be, other than quality of life.  Ayurvedic eating is a healthy approach to eating, both due of the mindful eating approach as well as the focus on whole foods.  This means that if you put the average person on an Ayurvedic diet, they would feel better because their diet in general has improved. You could probably put anyone one on any of the specific dosha diets and see improvements in health.  In order to test it properly, you’d need to find people that already eat healthy, but perhaps don’t eat mindfully and don’t follow the recommendations of their particular dosha.  It’s pretty difficult to properly measure a health outcome on people who are already healthy because the scale by which they can improve is drastically reduced.

The Bottom Line: While I couldn’t find any data to support Ayurvedic eating, that doesn’t mean it’s not a healthy approach to living.  It just means that no one has tried to and/or effectively tested it yet.  As I mentioned above, you’re likely to see benefit because of the mindful eating techniques as well as eating whole foods.  As far as eating for your body type and personality – I don’t know.  I can’t pinpoint a specific mechanism that would suggest that that’s necessary.  But if you’re interested in it, give it a shot.  It certainly won’t hurt you, and it looks like you may learn some interesting cooking techniques as it will force you to pay more attention to flavor pairing.

Hope that answers some burning questions that a few of you had and maybe the rest of you learned a thing or two along the way. I’ll post my final blog post within the next few days!

“When Walking, Walk. When Eating, Eat.” A Lesson in Mindful Eating.

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For my final month of this amazing, yearlong experiment, I opted for an eating method unlike anything else I have tried.  December was characterized by “mindful eating,” which focuses on the hows and whys of eating instead of the whats.

virginia woolf- dined well

Background

Most diets take the approach of eliminating or emphasizing certain foods (i.e. eat less fat, eat more vegetables, stay away from wheat, only eat organic, etc.).  The problem with these approaches is that they don’t address the psychology of eating at all, and everybody knows that we, as humans, typically eat more for psychological reasons instead of out of actual hunger.  A lot of us know that we overeat and have issues with maintaining healthy portions, whereas others undereat and never feel satiated.  We focus on certain types of foods in an effort to attain a certain goal (high protein, low carb in order to get “cut”).  In doing so, we lose any sense of joy that comes from eating food.  If that’s not enough of a reason to switch your eating style, maybe the fact that you never attain said goals (likely because you never feel satisfied and then binge on “unhealthy” foods) is reason enough to change.

Mindful eating, unlike other approaches, teaches us how to enjoy food again by listening to our body’s cues.  Take a looksee at the plate below, which does a really great job at explaining what mindful eating “looks like” for a given meal.

Print

When practicing eating mindfully, the focus is to actually be present.  By being present, we can focus on the flavors and textures of food and appreciate our food more.  Turn off the TV, get away from your computer, and focus on your plate.  Another helpful practice is to actually put your fork down between bites.  Chew and swallow each bite before you take another.  By doing this, you’ll eat more slowly (if you’re prone to eating quickly, make a conscious effort to actually slow down), which means that you’ll probably notice when you’re full, thus preventing overeating.  Do you ever get through a meal and not even realize how it tasted? Practicing the above approaches to eating will help you enjoy your food and actually form a connection with it.  You’ll appreciate it more and likely not see eating as a “chore.”

Another important point about mindful eating is the conversations that arise about food – both with ourselves and with other people.  We can be extremely judgmental about our eating practices because 1) we are either unhappy with our bodies and we associate “unhealthy” habits with our body issues or 2) the media has done a really effective job at tricking you (and everyone else) into being apologetic and judgmental about everything we put in our bodies.  This is something that has to end if you are ever going accept yourself and actually be happy with attaining weight loss or health goals once you reach them.  When a judgmental thought arises when you choose ice cream over a piece of fruit, let it go.  Allow yourself to eat the ice cream, and use the approach that I outlined above to actually enjoy that ice cream and not overeat it.  When you’re eating with friends, don’t talk about dieting or make statements like, “I’m so fat.”  Don’t apologize for ordering the burger instead of the salad.  These words don’t help you – they only serve to foster feelings of guilt.  Furthermore, they may affect someone else who is struggling with food, self-esteem, or body issues.

My Experience

In many ways, this was simultaneously the hardest and easiest month of the year for me.  It was easy because shopping and cooking were more streamlined, and I didn’t have to overthink my menu.  I could eat any food at any restaurant, which was really nice when people asked, “Oh wait… what diet are you on this month? Can we go there?”  It was more difficult than many because I had to take the time to sit down and actually think about what I was eating, why I was eating, what I liked/disliked about my meal, pay attention to satiety cues, etc.  Isn’t that interesting? That actually thinking made this month more challenging than most? I’m sure I’m not alone in that reaction to mindful eating.

Some of the strategies that I used to be more mindful (in addition to what I outlined above) went as follows:

  • Setting the table and eating free from distractions.  I always say I don’t eat in front of the TV because I don’t… but I eat in front of my computer, watching Netflix, which is the same freaking thing.  I always looked at this as using my time efficiently, but that’s the equivalent of an 8 year old argument, and it’s time to stop that nonsense.
  • When at work, not checking emails while eating lunch.  Another thing that I thought was just efficiency.  I move too fast through my life.  There’s no legitimate reason to sacrifice my meal time to make it more efficient, when a better way to achieve efficiency would be to simply cut the extraneous BS out (like..Facebook).
  • Sitting down for snacks as well as meals.  When I get home, I typically go right to the pantry and grab a handful of something – almonds, popcorn, crackers, chocolate-covered-whatevers.  But this month I would ask myself, “are you willing to actually sit down and eat this?” Typically the answer was no because I wasn’t actually hungry, so I wouldn’t eat it.  It made me stop mindlessly munching on things, which is one of my worst dietary habits.
  • Attempting to eat slower.  I say attempt here because it turns out that I really am an extremely slow eater.  I’ve been told all my life that I’m ridiculously slow, but I always just thought that other people were fast.  Yes, every single person I’ve ever dined with was a fast eater and I was normal.  Makes sense… So I tried to slow down when doing mindful eating, and it was not possible.  And that’s when I finally accepted how slow I am (cue lightbulb turning on).  But most people should actually try this.

One of the things that I found most interesting about this month was people’s reaction to my description of mindful eating.  I would tell people about focusing on the flavors and textures of foods so that they would enjoy them more.  Many people who are focused on a health goal would reply with something along the lines of, “that sounds horrible because my food sucks.”  This always baffled me.  Just eat something that tastes better.  You can very easily attain a health goal while eating delicious food.  And that was something that I realized as well – I stopped eating crappy food this month because I was focusing on the flavors and textures.  This meant that I really avoided processed foods because I started paying attention to how much they suck.  Imagine that…

Final Stats

 

Goal/Normal

DASH

Low Fat

Sustainability

FMD

MedDiet

Volumetrics

Mindful

Anthros
Weight

121-60

123.5

123

123

125.5

127.5

123.5

125.5

BMI

18.5-24.9

19.5

19.25

19.25

19.7

20

19.5

19.7

PBF

21-32

?

?

?

?

?

?

?

WC

<35

?

26.5

27

27

27.5

26.5

27

HC

?

36.5

37

37.5

38

38

37.5

W:H Ratio

<0.8

?

0.73

0.73

0.72

0.72

0.7

0.72

Blood Pressure

<120/80

91/68

103/66

103/68

95/65

102/73

105/72

108/75

Diet
Total kcal

2000-2200

1865

1780

1905

925-1688

1920

1820

1855

Protein (%)

13058

15

22

19

15-61

16

18

20

CHO (%)

49-52

52

60

52

28-77

46

54

53

Fiber (g)

at least 25

30

23

25

30-52

28

31

28

Fat (%)

20-35

33

18

29

10-46

38

28

27

Sat Fat (%)

<10

8

7

8

3-7

7

7

8

Sodium (mg)

2300

2147

2315

2282

1250-1740

2127

1975

2325

Potassium (mg)

4700

3874

3143

3746

4014-4624

3826

3906

3826

Fruit/Veg (servings)

5-9

7-9

4-6

5-7

8-12

6-9

6-11

5-8

Cost

127.32

145.2

254.45

195.14

204.3

128.5

?

In general, there were no real changes from a health/dietary intake perspective.  I also didn’t track cost in December because I was home in Tucson for the last 9 days of the month, not buying groceries, so everything would be skewed.

Final Thoughts

This month resonated with me more deeply than any other month this year.  2013 has really been a year of striving to achieve mindfulness and presence on a very personal level.  I think this is true of many people, but I am very rarely present when I’m by myself, without the distraction and conversation of others.  My mind wanders to what I’ll be doing later, how I want to recount a specific activity to someone instead of just being present for that activity, and I fill my life with distractions – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest… the internet, in general.  When I’m at work, I am often inefficient because I can only focus on a given activity for a few minutes before I check one of several social media sites or read a blog post.  These are habits I’m trying to break, but it’s a struggle. (You may be wondering how any of this relates to mindful eating, but it does (because everything relates to everything else 😉 I’m getting there).

One way that I have been working on mindfulness is via my yoga practice.  Yoga is a way to connect deeply with yourself in a way to better your relationship with yourself, which will benefit those around you, by working through series of asanas (postures).  The goal is to remain very present by focusing on your breath, the areas of the body that feel great as well as the areas that feel tension or discomfort.  My mind wanders constantly in yoga – as a way to escape the tension or discomfort and because that’s just what I do.  I make to do lists or daydream when I’m attempting to meditate, simply because I don’t know how to free my mind of thought and stay present.

This month felt like a culmination to what I’ve been working on personally for the whole year, even though I didn’t plan for it to end up that way.  I truly recognized how much of a journey all of this is (“this” meaning life or whatever you’re trying to work on with yourself).  Of course I knew that, but I hadn’t really enveloped it.  It’s all about progress.  One of my yoga teachers made the point that you don’t suddenly reach enlightenment when your heels finally make contact with the earth in downward facing dog.  It’s a journey of progress and a single success isn’t exciting if you didn’t have to work for it and earn it, nor is a single success exciting when it isn’t a part of a bigger picture.  This is true of all health goals too – whether it be weight loss, incorporating more vegetables into your daily routine, running a marathon, or mastering a balancing sequence in yoga.  You have your whole life to work towards making the best version of yourself, so take your time, be patient, and do it right.  When you don’t do it “right,” have the patience to come back to your center and start anew.  Be gentle with yourself and those around you.  And don’t take it all so damn seriously.

This mindful eating month provided a new approach to remaining present.  The focus was with food, but that transcended to other aspects of my life.  I found myself better (but not perfect) at meditation in yoga.  I stopped checking my Facebook account so much.  And I became more patient with myself and stopped having judgmental thoughts towards myself whenever my mind would wander in meditation, or I would check my Facebook even though I had just checked it, etc.  I just let it happen and then reconvened.  I can’t tell you how empowering this is: this practice of not being so self-critical because I finally realized that it gets me nowhere.  December was defined by progress, and it was the first month out of the whole year that I felt like I hadn’t learned all I needed to know about the given dietary approach in the allotted month.  I continue to eat mindfully into 2014, learning everyday from the approach, and I don’t think it’s something that will go away anytime soon. If you’d like more information on mindful eating, please comment, and I’ll send some resources your way!

And with that, 2013 has come to a close.  I’ll write a couple more posts to wrap everything up.  One will answer the questions that people asked me.  The other will summarize the year.  Not many people sent in questions, so please do if you have any!! Thanks, as always, for reading all these many many words 🙂

P.S. I’m sorry for ragging on Facebook so much in this post.  It’s a great forum and perfectly acceptable way to network with others.  I just have my own issues that need to be addressed.  It’s not Facebook’s fault.