The Value of Paying Attention


It’s hard to avoid the onslaught of dieting commercials on the TV, on the radio, in magazines and online at this time of the year, isn’t it? Well, that and the constant offers to buy Girl Scout Cookies. I have to say, those Girls Scouts really know how to choose the season to sell cookies. They have 52 weeks of the year to choose from, but they wait until a week after most people have abandoned their new year’s resolutions to get healthy to tempt society with their $4 boxes of fleeting pleasure.

They know what they’re doing.

A group of them found us recently outside a grocery store. My husband had cash in his wallet and an inability to say no. Some thin mints and lemonades came home with us. (They didn’t last long.)

If you aren’t “on a diet” at this time of the year,

you may feel like the only person on the planet who isn’t.

According to the dictionary, besides “a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons” a diet is also defined simply as “the kinds of food that a person, animal or community habitually eats”.

If you eat, you have a diet, even if you’re not on a diet.

It might not be the one that you want or know is best for your body, mind and spirit, but it is a diet.

But did you notice that key word in the second definition of diet?

Habitually.

So much of what we eat is out of habit. So much of what we do is out of habit.

Some habits can be developed to save us time.

I put my purse in the same place by the phone in the kitchen when I get home. (And on the rare occasions when I don’t? I can’t find it!)

Some habits can be developed to make us healthier.

I lay my workout outfit by my charging cell phone at night so when the alarm goes off at 6:15, I just have to grab my clothes and put them on. (If I didn’t, I’m positive that having to look for a workout top and leggings would be enough to make me give up and go back to bed some mornings.)

But some habits simply become habits because

they are the easiest way to deal with something.

We humans like to take the easy route whenever we can.

Eating habits are passed down from generation to generation, so when we grow up eating a certain way or are used to buying certain items at the grocery store, we often just continue to do things the same way. Because it’s easy and it’s one less decision we have to make.

You really can’t blame us. We adults make an estimated 35,000 decisions a day!

Doesn’t that make simplifying or taking the easy route anywhere sound like a great idea?

Numerous articles have been written about how successful people like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama and even Albert Einstein have chosen to wear the same outfit every day so they don’t have to spend the mental energy selecting an ensemble. Reducing our decisions in one area frees us up to make more decisions elsewhere.

We are all suffering from decision fatigue.

Interestingly, of those 35,000 decisions we make a day, only about 200 of them are about food.

This could include when to eat, where to eat, what to eat, how much to eat.

Add salt or pepper? Hot sauce? Salad or coleslaw? Seconds? Dessert?Something to drink?

In the US, more than 90% of type 2 diabetes, 80% of coronary artery disease and 70% of both strokes and colon cancer could be prevented by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and diet and participating in regular physical activity.

Understanding this incredible power of a healthy lifestyle (to literally prevent these common and horrible diseases), paying more attention to what we’re putting into our bodies, definitely seems like it should be a priority.

One or both of my girls have dance class six days a week. Even though my husband does quite a few of the pickups, I drive the same roads so many times week after week that I sometimes find myself halfway there and don’t really think I’ve looked around. I know the way so well, I’m just on autopilot.

This can happen with our eating habits as well.

This is why, when I work with clients one on one, I like to begin by asking them to write down what they eat for three days. Not making any changes, not making any judgments, not trying to tell me what they think I will want to see, just how they have already been eating, to discover habits -- and opportunities.

After doing this yourself, you may find yourself realizing…

I don’t eat too much, but I eat mostly calorie dense foods.

I barely eat in the morning, but can’t stop after dinner time.

I don’t really eat any whole grains/fruit/enough fiber.

I thought I was eating healthier than I am.

When I read at night I don’t eat, but when I watch TV I do.

I can see where the opportunities are to make changes for the better!

Last week we talked about the value of getting curious about yourself and what you can really do. And this kind of paying attention is really another aspect of tuning into yourself (in a world that is always vying for your attention).

Taking a few days to simply note what, when and why we eat and how we feel afterwards can be very revealing.

Food Diary for paying attention to what you eat

You can use the notes app on your smartphone, a notepad or download the 3 Day Food Diary in my new Resources section. It’s a little different than most food diaries, as it includes a place to write why you ate when and what you did. Sometimes, I think this can be the most revealing part of it!

You might be surprised by what you discover

about yourself and your eating habits.

When are you least likely to pay attention to what you are eating?

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Hi there! 
I’m Jennifer Haubrich, wife, mother, certified natural food chef & health coach (AADP).

 

I help smart families re-chart their path to create a delicious, healthy lifestyle by including more plant-based foods in their diet.

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