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How to Become a Conscious Eater

How to Become a Conscious Eater

     

    Food-Ology

    For many of the people I’ve mentored, coached and educated over the last two decades (yep, I’m that old), their biggest day-to-day challenge is managing their food intake in a healthy, intelligent and responsible manner. On a practical, emotional and psychological level, it’s also been one of my biggest challenges over the years. If you happen to ‘live’ somewhere on the scale between disordered eating and eating disorder, then today’s post is for you. It might be time to pay attention.

    While I don’t have an eating disorder (as such), it’s fair to say that my eating has been disordered from time to time over my journey. Especially when I was a fat teenager. Who became an obsessive skinny teenager. Who became an obsessive bodybuilder in his late teens and early twenties.

    Knowing Isn’t Doing

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    Sure, I might seem mild-mannered, measured and disciplined from the outside but not too far below the surface lives an eating machine that’s capable of caloric suicide and dietary behaviours which belie my alleged intelligence and knowledge. I keep that guy in check most of the time, but we all understand that knowing isn’t doing, so even somebody like me still has to work at being a conscious eater. Being an exercise scientist and coach doesn’t mean that I don’t have the ability to make stupid, irrational or irresponsible decisions. Or to eat my own bodyweight in cheesecake.

    Nutritional Dysfunction

    Many people eat unconsciously. They eat on autopilot. They eat what they don’t need. Every day. And then they (strangely) wonder why they’re fat. And unhealthy. They eat processed crap. They eat socially. They eat because it’s expected. Because it’s there. Because it’s free (wouldn’t want to waste anything). They eat emotionally. Reactively. They reward themselves with food. And their children too. Sometimes they bribe (motivate, manipulate, control) their kids with food. “If you do… (insert task)… I’ll take you to McDonalds for dinner”. Awesome parenting! They fantasise about food. Lie about it. They eat to ease the pain. To give themselves instant physical pleasure. To numb out. To escape. To fit in. To forget.

    And then when they’re finished, they hate themselves all over again. Until the next episode. And the cycle continues.

    What is Conscious Eating?

    “Conscious eating is giving our body the nutrition it needs for optimal health, function and energy. Nothing more or less.”

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    Simple huh? In theory anyway. If only we lived in the theory – we’d all be freakin’ amazing. So, what’s the most conscious and responsible question you and I can ask in relation to our eating habits?

    “Why am I eating this?”

    If our answer is not “because I need it” then we’re eating unconsciously. Irresponsibly. Emotionally. When we eat consciously, our body, mind and emotions are all working in harmony.

       

      Drug of Choice

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      For many people, food has become their drug of choice. Their medication. Their refuge. And don’t think I’m being melodramatic when I use the term drug. Food is indeed mood altering. It can produce high highs and low lows. It can be addictive and destructive. Over time, we might need more of it to produce the same ‘high’ or feeling. It affects our nervous system. And our endocrine system. It (like other drugs) produces biochemical changes. Emotional changes. Psychological changes. It can be both life-enhancing and life-destroying. Sometimes, the distance between ‘use’ and ‘abuse’ is not far at all.

      The Psychology of Overeating

      Many of us were raised in a situation (environment, mindset, group-think) where eating food that we didn’t physically need (that is, consuming excess calories, salt, sugar, fat) was rationalised, explained, justified and even expected. The fact that we weren’t hungry or actually requiring food was irrelevant. We often ate because that’s what the situation, circumstance or moment dictated. And when we didn’t eat (the food we didn’t need) we were criticised. “Don’t you dare leave anything on your plate.”

      No wonder we have issues.

      We were trained to celebrate with excessive eating. That is, disordered eating. We were taught to overeat on certain occasions. It was the rule. Still is. Christmas, birthdays, reunions, anniversaries, engagements, New Year and Easter were (are) all legitimate times to abuse our bodies with food. Apparently. We were encouraged to over-ride the ‘full’ signal. To ignore what our body was telling us. To unbutton our pants and keep eating.

      Such an intelligent species.

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      Justifiable Gluttony

      I’m still amazed at how many people become defensive, emotional and even angry (in my presentations), when I suggest that none of us need to overeat on Christmas day (for example). Amazingly, it’s actually possible to have a great day (maybe even a better day) without having to gorge ourselves on food that our body doesn’t need.  Apparently, some people can’t celebrate that way. The date (on the calendar) determines the behaviour. The notion of avoiding excess calories seems almost irrational to them. This is simply another easy-to-understand example of the dysfunctional attitudes, beliefs and expectations that so many of us have around food.

      Conscious eating is about reconnecting with our body. It’s about stopping the abuse. The lies. The excuses. It’s about slowing down. It’s about paying attention. It’s about honouring and respecting the gift that is our body.

      I’m not really an affirmation kinda guy (no shit Sherlock) but when it comes to this issue, I’ll make an exception.

      Here’s something you might want to copy and put on your fridge (pantry, forehead) for a month or ten.

      • I will not eat food I don’t need.
      • I will not reward myself with food.
      • I will not medicate with food.
      • I will not allow situations, circumstances or other people to influence or dictate the way I eat.
      • I will not rationalise poor eating.
      • I will not be a food martyr; I will simply do what I need to.
      • I will not lie to myself or others about my eating behaviours.
      • I will not eat in secret.
      • I will not repeat the mistakes of my past.
      • I will not allow my mind or emotions to sabotage my physical potential.

      I will eat consciously.

      More by this author

      Craig Harper

      Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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      Last Updated on June 26, 2020

      How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

      How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

      It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

      So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to be motivated and get what you want:

      1. Find Your Good Reasons

      Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

      You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

      If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

      Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

      Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

      • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
      • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
      • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
      • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

      Here’re 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams.

      2. Make It Fun

      When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

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      Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

      Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

      They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

      Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

      A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

      • How can I enjoy this task?
      • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
      • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

      As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

      Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

      However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

      3. Change Your Approach And Don’t Give Up

      When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

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      You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

      That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

      If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

      Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

      My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

      4. Recognize Your Progress

      Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

      We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

      Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

      Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

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      For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

      You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

      Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

      For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

      5. Reward Yourself

      This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

      Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

      Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

      For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

      For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

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      For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

      Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

      The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

      Mix and Match for the Best Effect!

      Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

      Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right away. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

      Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

      Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

      More Tips to Boost Your Motivation

      Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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