GUEST POST: NATALIE CUNNINGHAM SHARES HER EXPERIENCES LEARNING MINDFUL AND SUSTAINABLE EATING HABITS

Today I very happily present another guest post from Natalie Cunningham.  You may remember her last post where she wrote about her history and expectations before beginning my 8 week workshop: One Brick A Strategic Approach to Sustainable Weightloss.  We just finished our 4th week of the workshop and I asked Natalie to write about her experience so far, what she’s learned and to share her process:

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Rounding the end of week three in the One Brick Nutrition Workshop and I’m both frustrated and hopeful.

Week one was fantastic because the healthy habit was one that I already practice: Drink 2-3 liters of water a day. I was super excited because I knew I’d start off with a win. The biggest problem I ran into during week one was keeping track of how much water I was drinking, but as I was easily passing two liters of water a day, it wasn’t a huge problem.

Then came week two, and I actually had to work. The following is my little ‘ah-hah’ moment from last week:

Wednesday 9/14

Today is a good day. In general I lean towards the snarky, skeptical side. But after last week’s class, Jack’s Facebook live was really inspiring and I feel fully supported in this endeavor.

This week’s habit is to eat slowly. I took Monday to gather a baseline of information. I really had no clue how fast I was eating. Tuesday I thought I would just eat slower – no need to use the silly tools and tactics Jack had given us. I am ruler of my domain. I will eat slowly.

Well, with that attitude, I added 4 minutes to breakfast, one minute to lunch and by the time I got to dinner I had forgotten to take note all together.

By Wednesday I felt like I had better take up the tactics Jack had given us or give up. Thankfully Jack did a Facebook live talk, which was super encouraging. I decided that, while I didn’t want to use the suggested tactics, I needed to figure out something that would be sustainable and work for me.

How about simply being a more polite eater? I will not put another spoon of food in my mouth until I had fully chewed and swallowed what was already in my mouth.

It felt like the way everyone was taught to eat, how we should be eating, and completely sustainable – but completely different than what I was doing. By eating in this courteous manner I took my lunch from 11 minutes the previous day to 25 the next.

It elevated my meal. Thinking through each mouthful of food is a completely different experience. I’m looking forward to this practice becoming a habit.

I feel like I’m starting to understand how this is going to work. When Jack told me about this class I thought 8 weeks seemed like SUCH a long time. Now in week 2 I want to push pauses. I’d like another week of eating slow and drinking water.

I know the next habit is going to build on the first two and I’d like some time to dedicate to habit #2.

After finding success in eating slowly I went into class feeling very optimistic. As I knew going in, each habit builds on the last. I kind of suspected that ‘Eating until 80% full” would be the next habit, and felt that I was ready to conquer it. Eating slowly had already lead to me eating less. My stomach had time to tell my brain I was full. This would be a simple addition. Lord help me, I was wrong.

Thankfully at this point in the workshop, I’ve learned more than just the habits. I’ve accepted the fact that this is all a process. That I will not be 100% every day, but that I should shoot for 80%. It’s super easy to get frustrated and quit, but if we just push for that 80%, we can easily let go of the 20% of the time when we don’t meet the mark.

I can say that going through the process of figuring out what 80% full is for me has been slightly hilarious. When I get hungry, it is not pretty. Once I was visiting a friend in New York. She has a toddler and he started throwing a fit. Her response to her child’s tantrum was, ‘Does somebody have the hunger grumps?” I too was exhausted from a day of seeing the sites and extremely hungry, I wanted to say, “Yes, yes I have the hunger grumps and I’m sorry for being an ass.” But like the adult I am, I just let her comfort her child and went off on my own to pout till dinner time.

Today, while trying to wait out my hunger to see if it was a mood or real hunger, I waited too long to eat. I became agitated, yelled at my dog, and could not cook fast enough. When I finally sat down to eat, eating slowly became the hardest thing in the world. I went back to the tactic I used last week. I experienced my food, enjoyed the saltiness of my country ham, and the bitterness of the greens I had just plucked from the garden.

Eating until you’re 80% full feels like some imaginary, impossible to measure task. Of course Jack is prepared with tons of resources to help us figure this out.

He had given us a worksheet that asked us to measure how hungry we were at the start of the meal and after. It dictated that once our hunger had subsided to a 2 or 3 (on a scale of 1-10) we were to quit eating. In going through the steps, I put down my fork when I felt like my hunger had subsided to a 3. About 15 minutes later images of Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors started to come to mind. “Feed me Seymour.” Clearly I had not eaten enough, and allowed myself a little more.

Obviously I have survived the day. I have come to accept the fact that taking on this task actually means doing the hard work of becoming body aware. Figuring out what hungry actually feels like, figuring out what cues your body sends, how to read them properly, etc etc. In other words its loads of trial and error.

Thankfully Jack consistently reminds us that these first three habits are the hardest and it is natural to take time to master them. This process is work, but it does not feel impossible. Most importantly it feels like these are things that will enact real change in my life. I’m excited to see where I’ll be at the end of this class.

p.s. I’ve also started using a Go-To-Bed Alarm. In order to have time to prepare breakfast and eat mindfully in the mornings, I need to get up earlier. And in order to do that without hating life, going to bed at a decent hour is key. Getting myself on a regular, healthy sleep schedule may be my favorite fringe benefit of taking this class thus far!

Elias Gross