I know we’re nearly halfway through November, but with the holidays coming up, and with our proclivities to binge during this time, I feel like this post is needed—better late than never. I too must admit I have the tendency to binge, in part, because of how I first learned to diet.
While first working with a personal trainer in my late teens, I learned about the beloved “cheat days,” a dedicated day per week to eating whatever the fuck you want. Tim Ferriss calls them “Faturdays.” I must admit: in the name of “cheat days,” I’ve taken some extreme measures, including getting up and eating ice cream for breakfast!
The idea behind this is that you eat clean six days per week, so that you can binge for one day. There have even been some studies on this phenomenon, leading a few trainers to advocate this as a lifestyle. While I strongly prefer moderation as a more sustainable choice, I still find myself giving in to this form of eating.
And while I no longer eat purely for esthetics, the principles of “cheat days” have remained with me. At times it’s even to the point where once I cross a certain threshold, say eating a “cheat meal,” I think, “screw it,” and turn what could have been a simple indulgence into an entire “cheat day,” and binge from afternoon to bedtime. (My trainer also told me that you could only gain a half-a-pound of fat per day, and once you gain that amount you could essentially free-roll on what you eat. Even if this were true, I’d highly question the other health implications of binge eating.)
Still, old habits die hard.
In observing the lives of others on trains, in coffee shops, or walks in the city, it seems that nowhere in our modern lives are the effects of busyness noticed more than when we’re eating. As someone who is obsessed with optimizing every minute of his day, I’ve often found myself justifying multitasking, such as watching videos while eating, or listening to podcasts while washing dishes, or making phone calls while driving: all in the name of efficiency.
While I’m proud of some of these behaviors—intentionally scheduling calls while commuting is a necessary time saver in my opinion—I’ve taken this to the extreme.
I’m no longer enjoying the process of eating and have lost connection with my food. It’s literally to the point where after I finish cooking, I hit play on a video or connect on Skype while I’m wolfing down my meal. Not only does this form of mindless eating cause me to overeat, but I’m also missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures. Perhaps worst of all, I’m missing a wonderful opportunity to experience gratitude for one of our most enjoyable daily activities.
As we say in Italian, “basta.” I’ve made steps to correct this. While I began my journey with daily meditation, a year ago, I have only recently applied this practice toward eating. Using the “Eating” single on HeadSpace, I’ve begun the arduous process of attempting to enjoy each bite.
For those who haven’t tried meditation, by practicing mindfulness, one can experience the profound effects of eating—even for just a couple minutes—with just a simple piece of chocolate. You begin by admiring it, smelling it, then letting it slowly melt in your mouth, learning to savor each morsel. Every time I do this exercise, the food tastes better and I enjoy it more. To make mindful eating a daily habit, I’ve committed to taking 3 to10 minutes before each meal, in order to prepare myself for a moment-by-moment awareness of eating.
In lieu of the above, I’m sharing with you my goal for this month: to enjoy every bite of food I take. While I trust that I’m going to fail miserably, I feel that by simply admitting that my shortfalls have become a problem, I can take steps toward correcting them; in other words, naming and identifying our shortfalls is in-and-of-itself a success.
I aim for this to be part of a larger journey toward self-development, where each month I tackle new obstacles and challenges to improve an aspect of my life. (I’ll probably fall short of that too.) I’ve decided to lead with eating because it’s something that everyone can relate to, and it’s so easy to forget what its true essence is about.
I’d be honored if you decided to join me on this journey and commit to mindful eating during the holidays. Feel free to leave a comment below with your experience or any tips you have for staying present while eating. And if you know someone who would want to join, I’d greatly appreciate it if you shared this post.
I’ll check back in during December with another challenge, and provide an update on how this month’s challenge progressed, including any other tips and hacks that I found to work.
Peace, love, and chocolate!