Four Action Steps for Eating More Mindfully in 2012

Adding good things to your diet is just as important as cutting out bad things.

Posted Dec 30, 2011

Here we go again. It's the new year!  Perhaps you've already started pondering your New Year's diet resolution.  If this sounds like you, consider trying out a new strategy this year. 

Rather than focusing on what you are going to cut OUT of your diet (sweets and tempting extras), focus on what you are going to ADD in (healthy, organic,nutritious foods).  Be more mindful of what you do want to eat instead of what you don't want to consume this year. 

Remember that you don't have to do anything grand or elaborate.  Creating high expectations and expecting too many changes are the type of resolutions that tend to last only a day or two. 

Instead, just be more mindful of where your food comes from. What does this do?  It can help to slow you down and be more discriminating about what you consume.

Here are some action steps that may help you get started: 

1)      Do Your Homework:  Research your favorite foods.  For example, I am a fan of Bob's Red Mill Products (particularly their steel cut oats, made in a crockpot overnight and doctored up with cinnamon and dried fruit).  I went to Bob's Red Mill website and just explored to my heart's content.  I was on their website for much longer than I ever imagine I would be. I found new foods to try, recipes and learned everything I wanted to know about their products.  By the way, they have an interesting history and are bicycle fanatics.  This research made me feel very good about buying these products.  I would encourage you to do the same.  Research your favorite snack/food.     

2)      Buy "from the farm."  One of my favorite gifts this holiday was from a company called, "Rent Mother Nature."  They provide "farm fresh foods."  It is a company in New England where you can buy a lease on a cow for a day.  I decide what day the cow will be milked (thankfully, I don't have to do this myself) and they will send me fresh Brie cheese. It would be hard to nibble mindlessly on this cheese once it arrives without picturing the image of "my cow."  Obviously, renting a cow isn't an affordable or realistic option for many of us.  But, the gift was a good reminder that we can start keeping our eyes open and be more mindful of where our food grows and what it contains.  A more realistic option may be to find a farmers market to just peruse on a Saturday morning.  You don't have to buy anything, just go look.  Also, if you already live on a farm or in a farming community, you know that this doesn't automatically make you a mindful eater. In fact, sometimes it makes it worse. Farmers work long, hard hours from dawn until dusk.  It's easy to skip meals or grab whatever is convenient.

3)      Check out one local, organic or sustainable restaurant.  Can you eat out and still be mindful of where your food comes from?  I think so. It may take a little added research or a google search.  You can go as simple as picking up a piece of fruit or a loaf of organic bread or as complex as a fancy, five course meal.  For many of us, somewhere in between is more doable.  For example, there is a hip, modern burger joint called The Rail in Akron (by Mike Mariola, the owner of South Market Bistro) "Keeping it local" is their motto. They are well known for their hand formed patties, high-quality, source-verified Ohio beef.  I got a tour of the kitchen.  The chef was quick to point out that none of the condiments were in plastic bottles.  They were made fresh each day from local ingredients.  No preservatives.  I was intrigued.  I spent less than ten dollars and got a huge burger and a drink.  I took home half and had another lunch out of it.  And, I was supporting the local beef economy to boot.  Look for similar restaurants that focus on sustainability or organic options.  Maybe this isn't something you do every day. Perhaps it is something you try out this year just as an experiment.    

4)      Be a Grocery Store Detective:  If restaurants aren't in your budge or you can't afford organic food, try this simple project.  When you go the grocery store, pick up a banana.  Really take a look at it.  Each banana has a sticker (or a passport as I like to tell kids).  Kids are amazed when you show them on a map where the banana they are eating came from.  Knowing it came all the way from Ecuador makes it much more exotic and enjoyable.  Hard to throw away a banana that made such a big trip. 

For 2012, take just one moment to pause and ask yourself, "Where did this food come from?"  Even if you don't really know or have difficulty answering that question, it's a good exercise to slow you down and start becoming more interested in where your food orginates.  When you do so, you will notice that you are taking one step closer to becoming a more discriminating and mindful eater.

Twitter: @eatingmindfully

See Dr. Susan Albers' new book, But I Deserve This Chocolate: the 50 Most Common Diet-Derailing Excuses and How to Outwit Them. She is a psychologist for the Cleveland Clinic and author of five books on mindful eating including 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food and Eating Mindfully. Her books have been noted in O, the Oprah magazine, Shape, Prevention, Health etc. and seen on the Dr. Oz TV show. (free quizes, downloads, and worksheets)