Summer is the time we often get off track when it comes to our wellness goals. There is a lot of socializing — barbeques, patio time, music festivals, beach days, and just glorious time spent outside. It truly is one of my favorite times of the year. But it’s also a season that many of my clients struggle with the most because it’s hard to stay true to healthy habits when everyone else is indulging.
That’s why I’m a big fan of mindful eating. It’s all about being aware of how your body reacts to the food and drink you’re consuming. Take coffee for example. It can be a lovely ritual that you enjoy in the morning. You savour the smell as you grind the beans. You wake up a bit with the anticipation of waiting for it to brew, and your head and heart both ease into the day as you sit down to enjoy that cup of goodness. Whether you brew for yourself or your family, I bet you enjoy that time of the day.
Finding joy in rituals
I’m all about finding joy in food and this type of ritual is right up my alley. In fact every morning at home you can usually find me making a tea latte and savouring the process. I love it and I’m a bit off kilter if I miss this part of my morning. I call it a warm hug. So if that morning coffee makes you feel good, as my client you’re good. However, if you’re drinking more coffee than usual this summer because of some late nights, or you drink that coffee and you get wretched heartburn, or your stomach does a big uh-oh, then I think we need to look at your morning ritual and see if you’re really being mindful about how coffee makes you feel.
Because food should make you feel good and it may sound cliche, but food really does fuel us. If that fuel is making your body react in a way that isn’t positive, then it’s probably time for a change. Even if it’s a change from a ritual that’s been part of your life for a long time.
It’s the same with alcohol, another summer staple that I also see increase in our diets over the summer. What used to be a bottle of wine that lasted the entire weekend, often morphs into a daily habit just because you’re having more friends over or you’re going out for drinks on a patio. It’s easy to forget to be mindful of your intake in the summer because everyone else is doing it. And, let’s be honest, the ritual enjoyment of a glass of wine or a beer is right up there with coffee.
But I bet if you’ve increased the amount of alcohol you’re consuming on a regular basis, you’re probably feeling the effects. Your energy is probably down, and you aren’t sleeping as soundly as you used to. It’s also not surprising if you’re drinking more that your overall health and wellness will drop. When you’re not aware of how much you are drinking on a regular basis, you’re not being mindful.
Don’t get me wrong. Just like that tea latte I have every morning, wine is also something I like to have on a regular basis. I’d actually put it in my top three indulgences and many studies have shown that coffee and wine can prolong life. I never judge clients who enjoy the ritual of drinking but just like the coffee, it’s important to take a step back to really see how it makes your body feel. If you have health goals around fitness, your energy level, or even just general wellness then it might be time to look at adjusting the amount of alcohol you’re consuming.
Making healthy swaps
This is where I like to work with my clients on problem solving and brainstorming how to approach the habits that are hampering their wellness goals. My natural approach is all about moderation. I’m a big fan of the book The Power of Habit, which recommends swapping your habit with something else, rather than just trying to remove it completely and go cold turkey. So instead of having that wine or coffee, have a sparkling water, or herbal tea, or fruit infused water. It might sound silly, but even put it in the wine glass or the coffee mug you use every day. Since it’s become a ritual, your mind will still enjoy the process and over time you likely won’t notice that you’ve replaced it with something else.
Research has shown that scientifically it’s easier for you to swap things out in your diet than just cut them out. I work with my clients to give this habit swap a try and then we look at how it makes their body feel. During this process my clients typically become more mindful in their approach to eating and drinking. The change that occurs as that old habit is replaced by something else really starts to sink in.
Being mindful every day
But here’s the thing, even if you successfully swap your habit for something new, the real work is preparing for those times when you go off track. Because everyone goes off track. It’s not if you’ll go off track, it’s when. And when that happens, rest assured it’s very normal.
The goal here it to be better in tune with your body and behaviours so that you catch the slip, and remember that you feel better when you’re eating and drinking more mindfully. And then you bring yourself back. Maybe it’s a gradual return, maybe it’s straight away. It doesn’t matter how you do it, it only matters that you recognize the slip, and course correct. I coach my clients to use their awareness of how these slips make them feel so that they’re able to return to healthy habits. If you can do this, I promise you’re winning the mindful eating approach and you can continue your summer of social happiness.