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Michelle May, M.D.

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Reclaim Your Time and Energy: 5 Ways to Take Your Life Back From Food

Posted: 05/07/2012 6:24 pm

Busy? Overwhelmed? Wish you could discover a few extra minutes every hour?

For many people, time and energy are more valuable than money. Where do you spend it? Where do you squander it? More importantly, where could you invest it for a greater return?

Productivity coaches often have their clients do a "time study" to see where their time really goes. Here's my twist. In addition to tracking your activities, it's helpful to notice when your attention drifts away from what you're doing to something else. That is mindfulness.

Try it. Make four columns on a piece of paper with these headings: "What I'm Doing," "Start Time," "Stop Time," "Thoughts." Simply notice what you do throughout the day. When your thoughts wander take a second to jot down what you were thinking about.

You're probably thinking, "I don't have time for that!" Exactly! However, awareness is the first step toward change.

Thought for Food

Many people are surprised to discover how much time and energy they spend thinking about food, eating, weight, or dieting. Notice how much time you spend:

  • Thinking and talking about food
  • Thinking and talking about diets
  • Reading articles about nutrition or losing weight
  • Looking at recipes
  • Watching cooking shows or food segments
  • Watching news stories about obesity or shows about weight loss
  • Watching commercials about food and diets
  • Talking about who has lost or gained weight (and how)
  • Thinking about not eating the food you really want
  • Wondering what there is to eat
  • Thinking about how "bad" the food you want really is
  • Looking for food
  • Buying or preparing food
  • Eating food (ironically, very little time compared to the amount of time spent thinking about it)
  • Cleaning up after eating (or hiding the evidence!)
  • Feeling physically uncomfortable and tired after eating too much
  • Mentally adding up calories, points, carbs, or whatever you happen to be counting
  • Feeling guilty for eating
  • Thinking about how "bad" you are for eating a "bad" food
  • Exercising to pay penance for what you ate
  • Wishing you were thinner
  • Thinking about your weight, your hips, your thighs, your belly, your "bat wings"
  • Feeling bad about your body and yourself
  • Telling yourself you're fat and out of control
  • Thinking about starting a new diet
  • Repeating the entire process over and over

Silently and steadily, you squander your valuable time and energy on something that should be natural and effortless -- fueling and nourishing your body so you can live your life. And where has it gotten you?

You have a choice: Reclaim your rightful ownership of your time and energy or continue to waste it thinking about food.

Here are five strategies that when practiced consistently, free you up to live the vibrant life you crave.

1. STOP! Whenever you catch yourself thinking or talking about food, eating, dieting, or weight, say STOP out loud (or at least loud in your head). Unless you're physically hungry, don't fritter away your valuable time worrying about food.

2. Redirect your attention. Trust your body to let you know when you actually need food so you can focus your attention on other enjoyable, more productive activities.

3. Let go of guilt. When you stop obsessing about everything you eat, you'll discover an untapped well of time and energy. Amazingly, when you stop restricting, depriving, and punishing yourself, you'll naturally begin to seek balance, variety, and moderation in your diet. Although it seems counterintuitive, a participant in our Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating, Vibrant Living Retreat expressed it like this: "I had been seeking a sane way of dealing with the food and I believe this retreat marks a turning point in my life."

4. Eat mindfully. The best time to think about eating is when you're eating. If you love food so much, act like it! Turn off the TV, sit at the table, notice the aromas, textures, and flavors, and pay attention to your hunger and fullness signals so you'll feel great when you're finished.

5. Invest wisely. Look back at your time study. What's missing from your day? Could you be trying to fill that gap with food -- or distracting yourself by focusing on your weight instead?

You're in charge of where you invest your most valuable resources. Nourish your body, mind, heart, and spirit for a more balanced, fulfilling, and vibrant life.

For more by Michelle May, M.D., click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

 

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