Shhh…Mind the Baby…Habit

SeedlingI am hardly Miss Meditation. In an early post, I mentioned that I found the idea of Mindful Eating was boring. But my attempts at circling in to better eating behavior were just not working. Sure, I was eating plenty of vegetables, and drinking plenty of water, but the poundage of chocolate eaten on the couch was easily overwhelming my other efforts. And the poundage was sticking to me.

So, on my birthday, the day I found I had re-gained twenty hard-lost pounds, I read the first two chapters of Mindful Eating and tentatively began to practice it.

And found it not at all boring. If I really pay attention to the food, the process has its own pleasure, sort of like stepping into a warm bath, or sitting on the porch on a sunny spring day and feeling the sun on your face. Who knew?

The wonderful side effect of tuning in is that I noticed when I’d had enough – way before eating half a bag of Oreos.

I hadn’t yet blogged about this experience. It felt too new, too tender. I didn’t want to crush it by shining too bright a light on it. Nor did I want to have to admit later that I only kept it up for a week.

A few days into these first attempts at mindful eating, parosmia crashed into my life. Nauseated and disoriented, I stumbled around just trying to find where the horrible smell was coming from, and learning what few foods I could eat.

Three weeks into parosmia, I have a list of foods that taste good or at least all right, and have begun to branch out a bit. Added to white rice, potatoes, and French bread, I discovered pound cake and vanilla ice cream. Yesterday I tolerated a bowl of white rice mixed with plain canned diced tomatoes and plain canned kidney beans. The protein felt so good!

But as I re-discover high-fat, high-sugar foods, I’m realizing that parosmia can become an excuse to return to compulsive eating. “Oh I’m sick, I need special treatment…Honey, would you please bring me another piece of cake?”

So, tentatively, I am returning to mindful eating. Yesterday I baked a small potato, added margarine, placed it in my favorite blue bowl, sat at the table without the radio on, admired the hand-embroidery on the table-cloth, took a bite of potato, rolled the rich, soft potatoey-ness around in my mouth, and enjoyed the feeling of food reaching my stomach. A small potato was just the right food, and just the right amount for that meal. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Mindful eating is still new. It’s still tender. I still have parosmia. I continue to stumble around doing the best I can.

Life is good.

Where we goin’, and what are we doing in this handbasket?*

This lovely pastel by Ylli Haruni can be purchased at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/cat-in-the-basket-ylli-haruni.html. I didn't pay to use the image, so the least I can do it plug it.
This lovely pastel by Ylli Haruni can be purchased at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/cat-in-the-basket-ylli-haruni.html. I didn’t pay to use the image, so the least I can do it plug it.

I was doing pretty well, and then I made the fatal mistake.  A couple of days ago, out of nowhere, I weighed myself. And discovered that these past two months of blogging and forming new habits has led to a two-pound weight gain.

And it all went straight to hell.

I tried to shake it off, pretending to myself that it doesn’t really matter, I look fine, I’m in it for the long haul, yadda yadda. “Coincidentally”, I went to Costco that afternoon and bought, yes, the dreaded XXL Peanut M&M’s. And a giant box of chocolate chip cookies, nicely done up in sub-packs of six for “portion control”. And one of those big square boxes of chocolate-covered raisins. And a big pack of rice-cake rolls. And a big box of those cranberry-“thin” breakfast wafers.

I’ve mainly been hitting the chocolate covered raisins so far. Raisins make my stomach hurt if I eat too many, so I suck off the chocolate and leave raisin skeletons.

I was lying in bed last night, my stomach hurting, feeling dispirited and wired on theobromine, and decided, “once and for all” (where have I heard that before?), that I just need to suck it up and STOP eating on the couch. After a couple of antacids, I was able to drift off firmly holding to this resolve.

Which lasted until exactly one minute after lunch today, when I licked off a new batch of raisins. (Got that acrostic licked too!)

This is so frustrating and discouraging.

But I want to do two things: 1. Hold Fast to my 52 weeks of trying to improve my eating habits, and 2. Avoid “all or nothing” mentality.

So, I am counting on you, my vast audience of supporters.

This week’s habit goals:

  •  Continue to eat breakfast at the table.
  •  Eat lunch at the table. 
  • Immediately after lunch, meditate for 15 minutes. (THEN I can lie on the couch and get to work on the XXL Peanut M&M’s. The raisins are about gone.)

Are ya with me? Send me your woes, your triumphs, your deep thoughts, the dumb joke you heard at the office.

Namaste (Is that something to eat?)

*This is apparently an old joke, but my daughter used it in context recently and I thought it was hilarious.

Couch Panda Presses On

Where's my salt-shaker?
Where’s my salt-shaker?

When I started this blog a few weeks back, I had high hopes. I was going to change one habit each week for 52 weeks until my overeating compulsion was cured.

To my dismay, I’m barely hanging on to the minor changes I have set so far. And the BIG change, the change I am trying to ignore because it’s just too hard, looms over me, miasma-style.

The BIG change is eating AT THE TABLE.

My big comfort, both physical and emotional, is eating supine on the couch, while doing something else (reading, doing crossword puzzles, watching Netflix). It’s my go-to behavior, and always carries with it a huge sigh of anticipatory contentment. Its ill effects (weight-gain, loss of physical conditioning, chronic neck pain, esophageal reflux), don’t hold a candle to that first bite taken with kitchen towel around my neck, shoes kicked off, salt-shaker at the ready, and puzzle-book in hand.

Oh, what to do, what to do? Talk about first-world problems. If only thinking about people who don’t have couches, salt-shakers, kitchen towels, or puzzle books, (let alone food) were sufficient to change my behavior.

Given my lack of progress, I have had a hard time making myself put out another perky blog-post.

But I’ve decided not to dessert. [sic]

I’m going to try to stick out the 52 weeks, and continue to make the changes as I can.

So here’s a report on how the goals are going so far:

  1. Ensure availability of prepped fruits/veggies at all times: 85% success
  2. Include fruit/veg with every meal or snack: 75% success
  3. Prepare thermoses of water with breakfast: 60% success and improving
  4. Eat breakfast at the table: 10% success and going nowhere

And for next week:

Suck it up and eat breakfast at the table. If I’m on the run, a portable smoothie is ok.

Onward and…onward!

Ac-cen-tuate the positive*

Positive reinforcement works!

Last week I set a goal of listing (and posting) habits I have improved. Now why would I do that? Why don’t I concentrate on what I still need to change?

Well, of course there is the positive reinforcement aspect.

When I was 14, my mom dragged me to a farm in rural Virginia, where she and six other seekers planned to build Walden Two, the utopian society imagined by B.F. Skinner. Reading Skinner, I learned that positive reinforcement is a much more powerful tool for behavior change than punishment. I bought in. So as I work to continue improving, I want to pause for a little self-back-patting.

But there is also another reason to list these newly acquired habits. I need to remind myself that change is possible. Changes seem to come so slowly, after so many tries, that it’s easy to feel as though I’ll never improve. Stopping to reflect on achievements, even small ones, helps me keep striving to improve.

So, here’s my brag list. These are things I used to do less than 50% of the time, and now do over 90% of the time. These are small virtues. A large percentage of the population just does these things automatically. I can only say that I envy and admire you. In that order.

  • Flossing my teeth daily, even under the bridges
  • Making the bed first thing in the morning
  • Maintaining a sparkling toilet
  • Keeping the contents of my purse organized in pouches
  • Keeping my keys in the same place
  • Replacing my glasses (I use three different kinds) in their cases so I can find them
  • Waiting for my husband to finish fixing his cereal without nudging him out of the way to get at the spoon drawer
  • Getting some daily exercise
  • Keeping the living room within 10 minutes of “good-enough” company ready
  • Eating a plant-based diet
  • Checking the calendar night and morning
  • Re-reading my emails before hitting “send”

OK, that’s my list. I would love to hear yours.

And for next week:

Eat breakfast at the table

*Here’s the incomparable Aretha singing “Accentuate the Positive”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w3AtKlY9oY

Gut bacteria revolting

Calling for whirled peas
Calling for whirled peas

I am fascinated by the notion that my body is simply a cosmos for supporting my bacteria. When I read that our gut flora may be affecting our behavior, I started feeling a warm fuzzy feeling about my microbes. Especially when I watched this cute little NPR animation: http://www.npr.org/templates/event/embeddedVideo.php?storyId=244526773&mediaId=245227995  . So now, if my GI system seems a bit off, I think of it as my gut bacteria trying to communicate with me.

This week has been a case in point. From a recent post, you may (or may not) recall that one of my goals is to include fruit or veggies with every meal or snack. I mentioned that cherry/blueberry season makes this a breeze. I can whip through a pound of cherries a day easy as pie. (Pie? Did someone say pie?)

So I ramped up my summer regimen of radically changing from the XXL Peanut M&M’s to blubes, salads and cherries, only to have my junk-food loving gut bacteria start to bellyache, gripe, and raise a stink. They immediately began picketing (with sharp sticks, I could tell), carrying signs like: “Sugar YES, Fiber NO!” and “New Dietary Practices Unfair to the Masses!” I could feel the rumblings of revolution. In fact, for a day or two, we had outright war, with Kamikaze bugs becoming flushed with fervor. Quite a few bombs were detonated.

Well in order to calm the waters, I needed to give the fruit-troops time to grow, so I continue to eat fruit, but in much smaller quantities. And sure enough, as balance is achieved, things are settling down. What I’m hoping is that they will learn to live in harmony and quit all this ferment.

But I’m there to listen. And obey.

Goal for week 4:

Make a list of habits I have improved. Report this list on the blog next week. Receive praise from my thousands of blog fans (or at least from my gut bacteria.)

Ok, Week 2!

to-do-listI’d like to say that, (per last week’s goal), because I prepped veggies this week, I stayed off the couch and didn’t eat chocolate. Hah!

But I did eat a whole bunch more fruits and vegetables. Yay!

I also started a new To-Do List method I got off the Internet from Stever Robbins, the “Get-it-Done Guy”. The method is easy, and uses paper. This is the most successful To-Do system I have ever used. (Note: I am not an organized person.)

I started by writing my initial list in a small notebook, and drew a line at the bottom.

Whenever I  get the urge, I go through the list and do as much as I want of whatever item I want. No prioritizing, no categorizing, no worries about breaking things down into small tasks. I can write a short task like: “water petunias” and cross it off when done, or I can write “clean house”, and as long as I put away one item or scrub something for one minute., I can CROSS IT OFF. (Dontcha just love crossing things off the list?)

Once something is crossed off, if the project is not complete, I put it under the line I drew, onto the “Current” list. The previous list then becomes the “Backlog”.

To manage the backlog: If I go through the whole backlog and don’t work on ANY of the items, they all get stars, and I go on to the Current list. Next time through, starred items must be: 1. worked on, 2. crossed out and forgotten, or 3. put on the calendar for future consideration. This gets rid of the nagging feeling of failure from seeing: “Finish my daughter’s wedding album” week after week, and makes the backlog completely disappear every couple of days.

So…I did keep prepped fruits and veggies available daily this week, and in addition I cleaned some house, did some gardening, and completed several little nagging tasks that I kept forgetting about. It’s been a good week!

Next week’s plan:
1. Continue to ensure availability of daily fruits/veggies already prepped.
2. Every meal and every snack to include a fruit or vegetable.

Wish me luck! Join me if you wish!

Now excuse me; I have to go cross “update blog” off my To-Do list.