I Tried A Mindful Eating Challenge For A Week, And Here's What I Learned
For millennial women everywhere, food is the fuel that powers our everyday lives. Yet the constant go-go-go lifestyles we’ve all seem to have adopted, paired with the need to always be connected (to email, to social media, to our smartphones), provides plenty of distractions that can prevent us from fueling properly. We often find ourselves grabbing whatever food is available or most convenient in the moment, rather than foods with actual nutritional value.
As a runner and triathlete, I know that what I eat every day is more important than just finding something that will hold me over until the next meal. I also know that eating more mindfully doesn’t require me to spend hours in the kitchen or consult with a nutrition coach every day. That’s why Bustle is partnering with Amazing Grass to help others who, like me, seek simple yet actionable ways to lead a healthier lifestyle. To kickstart my initiative to eat healthier, I started the first week in January undergoing a mindful eating challenge. In addition to stepping away from screens during my meals, I considered everything on my plate (or in my brought-from-home tupperware) before I consumed it, and took on a new “challenge” every day for seven days.
Here’s what happened:
Monday: Practice 'Meatless Monday'
On Monday, I challenged myself to ditch meat in favor of plant-based meals. While I love the occasional burger and have no intentions of giving up bacon forever, I know there are many health and environmental benefits of eating a vegetarian diet. Since most of my meals include chicken or another type of meat, I had to do a little internet research to find healthy, vegetable-heavy recipes. Luckily, this easy-to-execute sweet potato soup with kale and peanut butter recipe did not disappoint. I made two servings (for lunch and dinner) the night before, and ate my first meals sans screens that day. I felt a little strange — at my office, nearly everyone eats in front of an open laptop if they aren’t venturing out of the office for lunch. But it did make me appreciate the work I had put into the meal a whole lot more.
Avoiding meat one day out of the week probably won’t push you to suffer from protein deficiency, but there are plenty of supplements you can add to your meals to make up for any nutritional additives you feel like you may be missing out on. Which brings me to day number two…
Tuesday: Start The Day With A Breakfast Smoothie
Mornings can be so rushed (especially on the mornings that I opt for an extra snooze or two) that I often find myself resorting to instant oatmeal or a protein bar for breakfast. While these options are quick and relatively effortless, it’s not uncommon that I find myself ready for a full meal by 10:30am — which, inevitably, leads to snacking ravenously, not to mention unnecessarily, before lunch.
That’s why I tasked myself with preparing myself a breakfast smoothie for my second day of mindful eating. Since I’m obsessed with everything chocolate, I gave this Chocolate PB & J smoothie recipe a try. Not only was it delicious, but the combination of fruit and protein kept me full until lunch. Sipping a smoothie absent of any distractions or screens was a little less conspicuous than sitting down to a full meal solo, yet I still found myself tempted to scroll through my social feeds during lunch. I fought off the desire, and to be honest, was probably a little more proud of myself than was warranted.
On to day three!
Wednesday: Drink More Water
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You would think drinking more water would be a pretty simple task, but I often find myself reaching for literally anything else — coffee, tea, seltzer — when a glass of H20 is all I really need.
This day was no different; I was tempted time and time again to opt for something canned or bottled. Fortunately, with a simple scoop of Amazing Grass Green Superfood, I was able to supercharge my H20 — and even add some flavor. The blend of nutritious greens, phytonutrient-packed fruits, veggies and cereal grasses, digestive enzymes and probiotics can simply be added to water or juices for an energy and immunity boost, or scooped into your favorite smoothies and baked goods.The cherry on top of the day’s challenge was grabbing dinner with a friend and avoiding racking up the bill with soft drinks and/or wine.
Huzzah, another day complete!
Thursday: Replace A Ritual
While having a glass of wine with my roommate on Thursday evenings is the norm in our household, I know that it’s not the healthiest way to close out the work week. It often leads to increased snacking and spending more time in front of the TV, which frequently causes me to go to bed later than I intend. A coworker suggested that I “replace a habit” as part of my weekly challenge, so I decided to swap my Thursday nightcap for a different, non-alcoholic option: tea.
I was careful to choose a non-caffeinated option and enjoyed a night of relaxing sans the edge I usually have from a glass of wine. While nothing life-changing happened, I did actually get into bed earlier than normal, and without the usual buzz, allowed myself to catch up on some reading before I actually fell asleep.
Friday: Avoid Fake Sugar
Have you ever tried avoiding fake sugar? It sounds easy: just don’t eat it, right?! It actually requires a lot of effort — like reading every single nutrition label before consuming anything. For this day’s challenge, it was pretty imperative that I bring my lunch and any snacks I wanted to consume throughout the day to work. What made it even more difficult was that Bustle’s CEO decided to surprise us on this particular day with a company-funded lunch of burgers and fries.
Since my week-long bout of mindful eating was nearing its end, I powered through the day by munching on a lot of carrots and reveling in the fact that my screenless meals were really paying off. Not only did I stop getting food on my keyboard (a personal win!), but I was experiencing every taste, texture and flavor authentically. Instead of finishing my food in the blink of an eye for the sake of a “clean plate,” I stopped eating when I was full, eliminating the usual half hour of discomfort I usually feel after mindlessly stuffing myself at lunchtime.
Saturday: Chew More Slowly
Have you ever counted the number of times you chewed your food before you actually swallowed it? While I don’t recommend it for every meal — mostly for time management reasons — I decided to eat in slow-motion for the second-to-last day of the challenge. The method made for an interesting brunch with my girlfriends, but it also made me savor every single bite, and every last bit of flavor in my food. Some mindfulness enthusiasts recommend chewing at least 25 times before swallowing, but I think any extra thought when it comes to chewing is helpful to enjoy your meal — not to mention, make it last longer!
Sunday: Meal Prep For The Week Ahead
Some of the “meal prep” photos I see on social media make the process look super complicated, and to be honest, quite impossible. However, upon doing my research, I found plenty of relatively simple, no-frills recipes with less than 10 ingredients to choose from. The entire process — including a trip to the grocery store, food prep and the actual cooking process — took less than three hours, and I know it will not only save me time, but also money, during the week ahead.
To Recap: Here’s What I Learned
After a week of implementing mindful eating practices, I still don’t consider myself a health expert by any means. However, I did find myself considering and planning my meals more carefully, as well as enjoying them wholeheartedly. Ditching screens during mealtimes was, believe it or not, the more difficult part of the challenge, but it actually forced me to always be in the moment when it came to my food, which prevented me from eating after I was full or reaching for unhealthy snacks in between meals.
I’m not saying I won’t leave all of my former habits behind, but I’m excited to continue 2017 with a newfound perspective of eating more mindfully for a healthier (and more delicious!) year ahead.
This post is sponsored by Amazing Grass. Want to try out their organic, plant-based products for yourself? Get 30 percent off online orders with promo code 'BUSTLE30' at checkout (expires 8/31/2017).