Mar 22, 2016

What Are You Hungry For - Applying the Concepts to My Life

I mentioned in the book linkup post that I was in the middle of reading (listening to, actually) What Are You Hungry For by Deepak Chopra.  I found it in my library's selection when I was trying to find audiobooks that were available to listen to right away and it's been a very fortuitous find!

So a quick summary: the book talks about emotional eating and fixing it with mindful eating.  The beginning talks about how we eat to fill holes or things in our life that we're dissatisfied with.  Nothing you haven't heard before, right?  What was different (for me) was his solution.  Rather than setting regimented rules, or restricting yourself, Chopra is all about fulfilling your needs and applying mindfulness to find out what your needs really are.

Taking his advice, I spent a few days taking notes every time I had a sugar craving.  Not only was I a bit surprised at the sheer number (I think 8 times in one day was my record and this is not counting regular eating nor was I stopping myself from fulfilling those cravings), but less than half of those food cravings were about the food.  I'd get frustrated with a task, irritated at Ryan or the dogs, stuck in traffic, and boom!  "Sugar will fix this."

Knowing why I want to eat is sometimes a deterrent all on its own.  And knowing why gives me insight as to what better methods might be of coping with my own bad mood.  Like actually expressing my feelings, or asking for what I really want.  But sometimes I still want the quick, easy fix.  And sometimes I crave things just because I crave them.

The middle of the book goes into the how of healthy eating and, I'll admit, I got a bit bored.  It's mostly stuff I've read before, and it's a little extremist.  Sure, the idea of eating "pure" is appealing, but I'm not going to magically start preparing all my own meals from scratch, and I still don't care about organic produce.

But then it piqued my interest again when the author got to a section about combating cravings by making our meals fuller and more satisfying.  He talks about paying attention to our food instead of eating mindlessly while doing other things.  I'll admit, this is hard for me, because I eat while I work frequently, and I really enjoy watching TV with Ryan while we have dinner.  But you know?  Actually talking to each other would be nice, too.  And when we ate out for Ryan's birthday at a nicer restaurant than usual, we really did pay attention to the food (because it was fancy and elaborate) and it was a much more satisfying meal than usual.

He also has a few tricks for fighting cravings.  One I intend to try is drinking warm milk when I have a sugar craving.  Basically, using the 6 different types of tastes to figure out what our body is craving and provide that without going overboard.  He talks more in depth about which foods satisfy which "taste" and that's all good information but the part that really made me pay attention was when he said, "Happiness isn't meant to be so elusive."

Right on!!!

And this is the biggest, most widely applicable part of the book.  Because while overeating may not be the way you deal with unhappiness, the lack of satisfaction with our own lives is such a common problem that most of us can relate to, in the past if not now.  And life isn't meant to be lived this way.

That's the biggest change I'm making.  Remembering to actively work on my own happiness every day and not just when I'm in the pits and in desperate need of it.  Adding more mindfulness to my life, applying the tips and tricks I pick up from various books, and continuing the search for a better, and happier self.  Every day is another small improvement.

I'm also continuing to apply mindfulness specifically in the area of food and nutrition.  Why am I eating what I'm eating?  Am I actually enjoying it?  Sitting down with food without distractions and paying attention to how I feel about it.

You know that smoothie I have just about every day?  Banana/blueberries/whey protein/yogurt/spinach?  I'm actually pretty sick of it.  And I didn't even realize because I just chug it down every day while I work on things.  But when I forced myself to sit at the counter and drink it without other distractions or activities?  Yeah...  Maybe if I had a breakfast I actually enjoyed and paid attention to, those mounds of baked goods wouldn't be so tempting 10 minutes after I finish.

Another unexpected side effect of sitting down for breakfast: I felt calmer.  Lately I've had enough freelance work that the moment I get up I'm running.  Get dressed, walk the dogs, make a smoothie, drink it while doing dishes or getting started on my work, work all day with small breaks for the dogs, dinner with Ryan or exercise, back to work, sleep.  There's been no time for me.

While eating isn't the break I would have chosen for myself, it's enough of a quiet space in my day that the rest of it felt less frantic.  It also helps to take the dogs for a legit walk at lunch instead of just, "Ok, go pee, quick back inside everyone!!!"

Frankly I'm surprised at some of the insights I've found by applying the concepts to my life and I've just barely started.  I'm hoping it will continue and while I'm realistic enough to not expect it to revolutionize my dietary habits, I do think it will help.  So here's to sit down meals and making food a bigger deal rather than trying to ignore it!

Do you have sit down meals or do you eat in front of the TV?  In which areas do you practice mindfulness and where could you use more?

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