Real Talk 1: Gratitude
I have a system. Some might think of it as a burden, others as having 'an unhealthy relationship with food', others as a compromise to spontaneity. It may seem insane to you, but I'm sticking to it.
I'm talking about meal tracking. I've done it on and off over the last couple years, and I finally decided earlier this year that I'm going to do it forever. Every Sunday night, I create a list for the week -- every breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack is planned out in a Google doc. Every Friday night, I do the same for the weekend. Then after every meal, I stop back in to the doc, check off each thing I ate and add any items I hadn't planned.
I know it sounds like such a mundane and unsexy thing, but the effect of this practice on my life has been so profound that I don't ever want to stop. Now, this isn't about weight management, but something more. For one thing, what you eat is what makes you: it's absolutely true that we are what we eat. And there's nothing unsexy about taking great care of your body. But beyond that, it's about keeping my wits about me. There are so many messages surrounding us to eat all the time. Every billboard, every coworker's birthday cake, every networking date, and dating date, every note of that movie theater popcorn jingle. At five feet tall, I happen to be especially little, so the portions being pushed on me just do not fit my life at all. There's pressure to feed -- a lot, but rarely to nourish.
When I track, I cook. And when I have a moment to plan ahead this way, I end up cooking healthy, balanced meals. This adds value (and order) to my time at home, makes it a moment to recharge, and provides that elusive nourishment, in more ways than one.
Here's the thing: as much as I love food (and we all know, I lerrve food), I've realized that I can't really enjoy it without occasionally being hungry. And yet, I go through stages where I just eat whatever's in front of me, non-stop, without too much regard for nutrition, balance, or even taste. Lunchtime comes around, and I don't even have appetite, but I shovel it in anyway. I hate those times.
And I mean, do I still eat crap? Sometimes. And then I end up feeling gross for having done it. This is why I do the slow stuff. This is why I meal track. I love food -- and eating mindlessly makes me love it less. So, if I can prevent that, in about 3 minutes a day, why not?
Now, you don't have to be a meticulous crazypants about it like I am. But if you do want to be a meticulous crazypants, which in this case I encourage, I've laid out the details of my system below. It looks complicated, but I use 2 templates -- one for the week, and one for weekends -- in Google Docs, and employ the 'Make a Copy' function, so much of it's already filled in. The planning may take about ten minutes, because I have to figure out what I'm eating for the whole week, but then for the rest of the week, tracking (with my own little language of markings) literally does takes less than 3 minutes a day.
Tracking what I eat prevents that hungerless zombie state, and gives me a fighting chance against the constant eat-eat-eat pressure. All these things vying for our attention (and our appetite) rob us of the opportunity to do what we really want to do. And so, these little practices that shake us out of the drone state may slow us down a bit, but they help us fight those forces. These habits and wake-up calls add up to mindfulness, and they help us win.