Monday, August 19, 2013

Mindful Eating: Math of Self-Change

Mindful Eating: Math of Self-Change

Ever thought about how many precedents of change it takes to change a habit? Indeed, how many precedents did it take you to quit the last habit you quit and to develop the last habit you developed? Something to ponder…

Consider this: you have invested literally a lifetime into mindless eating. It’s going to take you a little while to override your mindless eating reflex with a habit of mindful eating. The shift from a habit of mindless eating to a habit of mindful eating is a process, not a one-time decision to stop being mindless.

I suggest a simple goal: set one mindful eating precedent at each meal. Most of us eat at least 3 times a day. If you have a mindful eating exercise to try at each meal, that’s about 1,000 mindful eating precedents (just rounding up 365 days worth of 3 mindful eating precedents per day). Imagine how far a 1,000 precedents of change will get you!

Both of my books on mindful eating, “Eating the Moment” (2008) and “Reinventing the Meal” (2012), offer an extensive experiential curriculum. Each book features well over 100 exercises, meditations, and mindful practices. This allows a reader (interested in systematic, methodical, non-impulsive change) to have a mindful-eating practice/exercise to try at each and every meal.

Why am I sharing all this math, these writing notes of a self-help author? To highlight the importance of experiential homework. Both as a writer, reader, clinician and a do-it-yourself self-changer myself, I cannot emphasize enough the absolute necessity of experiential homework. Sure, epiphanies happen. Sure, people do, now and then, have a 180-degree turnaround on a dime. But that’s rare. More often than not, change is built 1 precedent at a time.

So, here’s the staging itinerary of this change journey, if you are working on mindful eating (and not just mindlessly reading about it):

Phase 1: Informational Awareness: “I know about mindful eating. I tried it…” — learn about the nuts and bolts of mindful eating, about its endless nuances and subtleties.

Phase 2: Experiential Awareness: “I experienced mindful eating, saw that it is useful, and I am trying to integrate it into my eating life…” — shop the approach, try it for size, pilot mindful eating for a bit to see if it makes any difference for you and if it does, commit to turning it into second nature. In other words, build a new reflex: a reflex of mindfulness, of presence whenever you open your mouth to eat.

Phase 3: Habitual Application: “I developed a habit of mindful eating — whenever I eat, instead of tuning out, I tune it to eating & to myself!” — ride the new habit to sunset.

Habits aren’t changed, they are built, just like the proverbial Rome, over many, many days. How many? My guess: about a year worth of days, about a 1,000 precedents of change. What’s my basis for it? An ancient saying that you’ve heard a million times: a road of a 1000 miles begins with 1 step. Time to take it!

Mindful Eating Tracker


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