Getting Your Mind Right

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Getting Your Mind Right

Sugar Addiction: A Mindful Experiment

By: Nathan Miller, NSCA-CSCS

Hello, my name is Nathan and I am addicted to sugar. But I am not alone, chances are that you’re addicted to sugar too. The average American consumes over 130lbs. of sugar annually. Just to put that in perspective; in 1822 that number was 9lbs. And yea, there is a cherry on top; according to endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig, sugar is as addictive as cocaine!!

But I am exploring a way to address the problem: mindful eating. While I am by no means a physician or a psychologist, but I want to share my personal experiments with mindful eating and encourage giving it a shot. Besides, what do you have to lose but a sugar addiction?

First, let’s clarify what mindfulness and mindful eating is. I define it as: “enjoying food more”, or “taking time to be thankful for the food that you have”. In the most concrete sense, it is eating and enjoying food that you are eating now, not watching T.V. and eating or getting lost in stressful thoughts, but just enjoying a meal. Sounds simple right? It is, but it sure isn’t easy.

When trying to eat mindfully, I have found a couple different techniques work for me. The first is asking myself, with brutal honesty: “Why am I eating?” When I started this technique I thought that most of the time that I would be saying that I was hungry. However, I found this was not the case. I was eating because of ritual (a bad habit of watching T.V. with meals), to comfort myself, to fulfill social obligations, because it tastes good and many more reasons that had nothing to do with the food. While all of these are good reasons at times, it troubled me how little I was eating to make myself healthy. Eating for health should be one of the most common reasons to eat a meal.

Naturally, this led me to my second technique: ask “Is this food making me healthier or sick?” I know that the two options sound drastic, but it is honest. They are mutually exclusive. There are reasons to eat food that make you more sick, but the health driven meals should far outweigh the others. I like to think of my eating as a road to either of the two extremes: health or sickness. I aim to take the vast majority of steps in the healthy direction, not the other way around.

The final step in my experiment is to pay attention to what I am eating. This is by no means easy; especially because of the aforementioned T.V. habit. I have found that I enjoy the food more and eat less when I just pay attention to what I am eating. Besides, I absolutely love food. So why am I ignoring the food that I love by getting lost in some silly television show?

I also know that social eating is a huge deal. But there is nothing saying that you cannot still enjoy your food. You know those silences during the meal when everyone “was hungry?” Take that time and enjoy the food; acknowledge that you are doing something healthy and kind for yourself.

(As a side note: a University of Surrey study, in the UK, found that eating while watching television was correlated with more food consumption than that of mindful eating, social eating, and eating while driving. The causes are unknown but the study confirms prior research.)

Try my experiment for a few days:

  1. Why am I eating?
  2. Is this food making me healthier or sick?
  3. Pay attention to and enjoy your food!


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