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Mindful Eating & Other Strategies to Drive a Healthy Lifestyle

Originally posted: September 2, 2021 on TrishMcFarlane.com

We’ve all heard of the “Freshman 15” when students go to college, but have you heard of the “quarantine 15”? If you’re like many people, you may have noticed a weight change during the COVID-19 pandemic. A survey by the American Psychological Association reported a majority of adults (61%) reported experiencing undesired weight changes since the start of the pandemic, with more than 2 in 5 (42%) saying they gained more weight than they intended. Of this group, adults reported gaining an average of 29 pounds (with a typical gain of 15 pounds, which is the median).

Considering many of us have been quarantined at home most of the past 18 months, this is no surprise. Eating comfort foods, exercising less, and experiencing higher stress levels is par for the course. Alcohol consumption also increased during the pandemic, so that doesn’t help feeling fit and healthy.  And although all these behaviors make us feel good in the short term, working back toward a healthier lifestyle through mindful eating and exercise will make us feel better long term.

One positive thing I’ve seen come out of experiencing life in a pandemic is the renewed, intense focus many people have on mindfulness and well-being. When I think of mindfulness, I imagine mentally preparing my day so that I am my best self. I approach my day in a relaxed, confident manner to create successes. I am thoughtful to my own feelings as well as the feelings of others.  I am making good choices in everything I consume and put in my body.

When considering well-being, we are reminded of things like exercising, eating well, taking proper care of ourselves, and getting enough rest. One new idea I’ve come across in these months it that well-being is not one moment, it is a journey of moments. On this mindfulness journey, there are countless articles and experts who say not to reward yourself with certain things. Food is one they recommend steering clear from as a reward.  In my opinion, there are many healthy ways to reward yourself and your team, including food and time.

The Gift of Time

Early in my career, I had a boss who would schedule one-hour meetings.  If we finished her agenda early, she would say, “I am gifting you time in your day.” The concept of “gifting” time is an interesting one. Time enables the moments that we must think, relax, rejuvenate, and focus on ourselves. It is a gift, and we all need. Take a moment to think about what you are doing with that time. Are you using it to do more work? Are you using that time to do household chores? Are taking advantage of the time that you gift yourself to take care of your body, mind, and spirit? If you’re not, there are a few ways to make a positive change. Additionally, are you gifting time to your team? 

Tips for Mindful Rewards

  1. Gift time- Like my former boss, give yourself and your team the gift of time back into your day. Cut out any non-essential tasks and use the time to help your mental, physical, or emotional needs. For physical needs, use the time to work out. Get up and walk around the house, the yard, or do some stretching exercises. For a more regimented approach, take a class, go to the local track or park, or swim a few laps. Basically, get up and move.
  2. Food as a reward- Food as a reward is controversial. As I mentioned, some experts say not to reward yourself with food because it can set a bad habit. Instead, think about using healthy food choices. I’ve found that by rewarding myself with healthyoptions, I lose weight and feel better. I make sure to stock my kitchen pantry with healthy vegetables, fruits, and other treats that are more helpful to my metabolism. Then, when I have achieved a good workout, or maybe I’ve just had a tough morning and need a break, I give myself a healthy treat. I feel good about myself in the choices I’m making, and it helps establish a firmer routine. A great option to incorporate this at work for yourself and your team is to use DoorDash DashPass for Work, Employee Gift Cards, or Expensed Meals. These enable you, or your employees, to have fresh, healthy food delivered when needed.  It is a great way to support a wellbeing journey.

    Picture of a home fitness center

    Fitness Center

  3. Set up space to reward healthy behaviors- I set up a workout area during the quarantine for my high schoolers and myself to lift weights, ride the bike, and use the rowing machine. I also used our built-in entertainment center as a place to add in yoga and Pilates equipment, jump rope, and healthy food rewards. The idea is that once you’ve had a healthy workout, give yourself a little treat. This can be done at home or in the workplace.
  4. Put your health first-How many times do you put household chores or work projects ahead of your personal health appointments? I noticed that I was better at scheduling oil changes for my car than I was at scheduling doctor appointments. As we age, we don’t always have the luxury of putting ourselves last when it comes to our health.  My tip is to make a list of all the appointments and checkups you need to feel good, then prioritize those over home projects, kids’ sports, and even work.
  5. Prioritize time with family-This one is simple. Just do it. Make a commitment to your family that includes priority time for each person. This means time where you will not checking your phone, email, or social media.  Encourage your team to do the same and lead by example.
  6. Prioritize work by what needs action-We all get bombarded with email. Instead of responding every time, think about who should own the response.  Often, emails are addressed to numerous people, then everyone weighs in.  Instead of jumping blindly into it, refocus your response time and only address those issues where you are the best person to reply.
  7. Introduce meditation-For years, I’ve incorporated meditation into my daily life.  I use an app mid-day to clear my head and gain focus for the rest of the day. One of my favorite apps is Take A Break.  Have you tried meditation? As your team members what apps they find helpful.  I’m certain you’ll find a few new ones you haven’t tried.
  8. Write it out-Everyone can be a writer because we all have thoughts worthy of writing.  The barrier is many people are afraid to write. For me, writing is therapeutic. It’s a nice way to ease the load and get it out of your head. Do you use writing to unwind and unravel your thoughts? Try incorporating a few minutes during a meeting for everyone to write what they are grateful for.  They don’t have to share it with the group, just the act of writing it for themselves will put them in a better mindset for the meeting.
  9. Spend time alone- For the past few years, I’ve taken a 2-day personal retreat.  During that time, I am alone with my thoughts.  It is a time to reflect, prioritize, and cleanse my mind.  The first time I did it, I remember sitting in my hotel room on the couch with no electronics on.  I was just sitting.  Alone.  In the quiet.  Just being.  After about two hours, I went for a walk along the beach.  I listened to the sounds of nature and my footsteps crunching in the sand.  It was glorious!  This year, I didn’t make that a priority, because of COVID-19, and I’m feeling the negative effects.  Whether you take a few hours, a day, or even a whole retreat, making time to just sit somewhere quietly and think is an amazing gift to give yourself.

A mindful, healthy life journey it’s not one where we penalize ourselves. It’s not one where we deprive ourselves. It is one where we give ourselves little treats and rewards along the way for a job well done. I hope you’ll take time today to gift yourself a more mindful, healthy life journey using these ideas as motivation.

* This post sponsored by DoorDash for Work. If you are a business leader, try DoorDash for Work options for your team.

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