Here’s How to Incorporate Mindfulness into Your Diet and Exercise Routine

Diet and exercise…the elusive pillars of well-being. These notoriously difficult to study topics generate snowball fights between various approaches. Keto, intermittent fasting, calorie counting. Zumba, Cross-fit, Peloton… 

 

What experts do agree on? When it comes to diet and exercise, we have a problem. According to a study by the University of Michigan, 90% of people who lose a lot of weight, generally regain (almost) all of it. Pair that sobering statistic with another dismal number: Only 23.2% of adults meet the Physical Activity Guidelines as promoted by the U.S. Center for Disease Control. 

 

It’s no mystery why these problems exist. The vast majority of us work desk jobs that limit options for movement, commute long hours, and don’t get nearly enough time outdoors.  That’s bad enough but, at the same time, everywhere we go, high calorie, low nourishment food is waiting to tempt us — Pastries in the break room. Portion inflation at restaurants. A vending machine lurking around every corner. — We can be as “virtuous” as we please, but it takes significant bandwidth to resist the advertising geared towards harnessing our evolutionary desire to pack on pounds. 

It’s a far cry from the lifestyle of our ancestors who spent their days expending the calories they consumed by securing the food they needed to keep themselves alive. They tilled the field, ate the eggs hatched by their chickens, and literally never heard the verb “supersize.” 

There’s no escaping the fact that we have hard choices to make about how we fuel and move our body. We’ve got to account for it every minute of every day. So let’s embrace our privilege as living, breathing humans, and try these mindfulness techniques to find an approach that works with what we know about the mind.

Track it.

Mindfulness might conjure up images of robed monks in a silent retreat, but all it really is, is being in the moment. If you can be present with your body, it becomes easier to decide what to eat and how to move, by tapping into what feels good — a lasting good, not just that momentary hit of pleasure when you down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

Bring technology on your side. There are countless tracking apps for nutrition and exercise that essentially ask you to be mindful. When you input your food, you’re aware of exactly what goes in your body — and then you can see how it makes you feel when you eat three balanced meals versus an entire carton of Lucky Charms. Movement trackers can also help you remember that you have a body that wants to live beyond your desk chair. It’s so easy to get sucked into the internet vortex. A gentle reminder can get you walking around, every hour or so.

Schedule it.

When you’re building new habits, it can help to be super uptight about them — until they become second nature and you can go on autopilot. Feelings of hunger are tied to hormones, and we can train our hormones when to expect our meals. If you eat on a schedule, it becomes easier to avoid a case of the snackies. 

With movement, having a set time to lace up those sneaks means you don’t have to agonize over “should I? Shouldn’t I?” (Spoiler alert: once you start debating with yourself about going out for a run, the couch usually wins.) Pick a time of day that works for you and then chisel it in stone into your calendar. Invite a friend to join for extra bonus points.

Aim high medium.

If you’re coming from a place where you’re unhappy with your body — how it looks, how it moves, how it feels, or all of the above — don’t shoot for the stars. We aren’t going for “cover model/Olympian” and we aren’t trying to win the “I love myself the most” contest (sincerely hope that’s not a thing…). Body positivity gets buzz, but body neutrality is where it’s at. It just means accepting where you are right now. If right now a ten minute walk is what you’ve got, or taking home half your restaurant dinner rather than finishing it all, fabulous. That’s a win. Accept it, and move on to the next moment.

 

Enjoy.

Just because you’re working to improve your wellness, doesn’t mean you’ve got to put on your suffering suit. In fact, it’s the opposite. If you want to stick with something, it has to fit with your values and your interests. If you love cooking, use that passion to tinker with healthier meals. Hate cooking? Find some simple, healthy foods, rinse and repeat. 

 

Same goes with movement: Are you an uncoordinated loaner (no judgement)? Maybe don’t force yourself into the front row of advanced Zumba. Are you a hypersocial competitor? Why not try pickup soccer? 

 

Do you.

Movement and diet don’t look the same for everyone, every day. When you stay mindful, you also stay open to finding what works for you in the moment. That means challenging yourself to keep making progress when you’ve got the juice, and giving yourself room to recharge when you’re running on empty.

 

Bottom line? Do you. Find people who are supportive of your goals, explore what works, do your thing, and then keep doing it.