I want you to think about your environment and how it plays a role in the way you interact with food. We, as humans, are very hard on ourselves for mindless eating (eating that bag of chips while watching tv, eating a whole pie while standing in the kitchen, any sort of eating without thinking, etc) but really, who can blame us? We are constantly bombarded with TV commercials for junk food and restaurants that serve portions that are big enough to feed a whole family. What things are in your environment that could cause you to be less mindful? Are you surrounded by diet books? Are there people around you who are frequently talking and obsessing about diets and weight? Do you stock your kitchen with healthy or junk food? Take note of your environment in relation to how mindful you are.
Consider for a minute what it would be like to sit down and relax with a magazine for a few minutes. Regardless of what magazine you’re reading, it’s fairly likely that you are going to come across desserts and fried food recipes. You will also come across different diets that advise how to avoid eating so many calories. And on top of that, you will see images of perfect bodies in skimpy bathing suits. Talk about mixed signals! You want me to eat all these delicious looking foods, go on the next fad diet where you drink prune juice for 7 days, and hope to look like this airbrushed floozy? Fat chance… literally…
Also think about the commercials and advertisements in your environment. Ads for diets and images of stick-thin airbrushes fashion models can lead to unrealistic expectations of yourself, sometimes leading to an urge to eat in an unhealthy manner. Just today, I was watching a normal television show. A very skinny teenager was in the kitchen eating a pie straight from the pie pan with a fork. What unrealistic message does that send? It says, “You can eat whole pies without a second thought and still be skinny.” And commercials for desserts? Of course it’s always a beautiful skinny woman indulging in each seductive bite. We are being told that this particular dessert will make us look this certain way. They aren’t telling you that she has a personal trainer that works her out for 5 hours every day.
Being Mindful of Your Environment: Step 5 of Being Mindful
Being mindful of your environment is the fifth step in becoming a more mindful eater. What does a mindful environment look like? You would have a place to eat that is free from distractions (tv, radio, work, computer, etc), is comfortable (sitting down in front of a table), and promotes mindful eating (fewer trigger foods).
Think about the difference in eating cheap food and eating expensive food. How do you react when you have a huge bag of discounted potato chips? Well, since you know they’re not going out of stock any time soon and you’ll more than likely be able to afford another bag with no problem, you’ll probably eat handful after handful straight from the bag without thought of savoring each bite. Now think about a quality dark chocolate bar (I’m not talking a dark chocolate Milky Way bar here). You’ve spent at least 3 bucks on this small bar. And maybe you bought it at a specialty store that you’re not sure you’ll be visiting again soon. How are you going to treat this piece of food? I’m guessing you will savor it. You’ll have only a small square at a time in order to make it last for as long as possible. It is our goal to keep our environment full of more foods like the quality chocolate, in the sense that we will savor and enjoy each bite mindfully. Keep your environment clean and full of only foods that are safe and free of triggers.
And as I mentioned before, not only do you need to be aware of the food that is surrounding you, but the people and things in your environment. If you know that at lunch time at the office, everyone gathers in the break room and tends to go off about how they broke their diet or how they need to lose more weight or how little food they ate yesterday, maybe something needs to change. Maybe you could go in the break room 20 minutes later after things have died down. Or maybe you could eat outside if the weather is nice. Take yourself out of the situation.
As for the magazines, billboards, and commercials … You can only avoid those things to a certain extent. Avoiding a billboard would mean not driving. That’s unrealistic. The key is to respond mindfully to those things you cannot avoid so easily that are still a part of your environment. Pay attention to these things, but consciously decide what to do rather than freaking out and starting a war in your head.
What things do you think could stand to change in your environment in order to live more mindful?
Do you feel you live in a Mindful Environment?
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