A kick in the butt to mindful eating

Since my move to Chicagoland and the ensuing chaos of settling into a new place, I became lax in my attention to the beautiful act of eating with its benefits of optimal digestion, keener metabolism, and sheer pleasure. I knew that I had not been consistently practicing one of the most important principles of my work and life: mindful eating. This caused me to feel bloated and my waistline to expand. Not a great feeling!

Unfortunately, LIFE stepped in and pushed me back into the habit of slowing down and paying attention to myself as an eater. Two weeks ago, I was eating a piece of toast with almond butter while walking around looking for something. Clearly not focused on the act of eating, I bit down inside my mouth in a huge way! It brought exquisite pain and some blood too – it was really awful. My mouth was swollen and raw for over a week. During this time, I had no choice but to eat and drink slowly and carefully. At first, I was incredulous that this happened, and I was angry at myself. (It helped to find out that others in my life had done this too!) But after the first couple of days, I began to enjoy the act of chewing and simply enjoying my food. I spent more time eating, but I consumed less while still feeling very satisfied. I also avoided salty foods (rice chips being my favorite salty snack) that would sting and discovered that my taste for salt diminished. As I continue my mindful eating, I feel better all around; my digestion is great, and I am enjoying my food again. And I’m not overeating because my brain knows that I’m full!

Based off of my experience, I hope you will become more aware of yourself as an eater and slow down! I promise that you will feel better all around, both physically and mentally. Do what it takes to remind yourself to slow down in the early weeks, and then a positive habit will be in place.

To get back into the habit of mindful eating, here’s what you can do.

Designate a certain amount of time that you will spend eating a meal or snack, such as 10 minutes for a small meal or snack and 20 minutes for dinner.

Don’t engage in screen time when eating. Focus on your food and the experience.

Count the number of times you chew your food before swallowing.

Food is your friend!

Too Much Information!

We are constantly bombarded with information about food, nutrition, and weight loss. The volume is too much to absorb and ultimately, not necessarily helpful in achieving a life of wellbeing. There’s just SO MUCH info out there – it’s a “high fact” diet, for sure! (attributed to Marc David, founder of The Institute for the Psychology of Eating)

Many sources provide us with info about foods and dietary systems. This can be confusing and overwhelming because each of us is an individual, which means that works for one person often doesn’t work for another. Think about how many people have written books or articles about what has worked for them….so many possible ways to eat for health and weight loss! Brain overload!

Some people adhere to a dietary system, such as vegetarianism, for ethical reasons. Some know that certain foods don’t make them feel well physically. And many of us know we have “trigger” foods that can make us overeat. My trigger foods are salty chips and dips! It’s great that many of us have figured out what foods we will choose from – that can make the business of eating simpler. Personally, I am a fan of eating a wide variety of food. It’s easier to get proper nutrition and avoid boredom by having a relatively broad range of choices.

Here are four ways to free yourself of TMI and enhance your relationship with food.

Mindfully consider your food repertoire. Eat foods that appeal to you – consider taste and texture. Remember there are no bad foods (unless you have specific allergies or health conditions), so give yourself permission to eat both favorite healthy foods AND some fun ones too. When you’re truly eating from a place of enjoyment, you will naturally be satisfied with smaller amounts of the not-as-healthy foods.

Decide what’s reasonable to buy and prepare and eat those foods. Think about your schedule and location when choosing food. When will you be close to your preferred grocery store? Create a schedule around when you have more time to prepare food and the times you need to grab something quick from the fridge. Having a basic food plan that works for you eliminates much of the stress of being an eater!

Expand your knowledge of food prep – Google some favorite healthy foods and see what you find. You will likely discover some great new ways to prepare and eat foods and will likely enjoy them more.

Schedule in times when you will leave your guilt at home while eating out. Are there days or times each week when you could conveniently grab a favorite dish or snack at a restaurant? If you travel for work or transport kids to activities, you can enjoy time at a café with internet, but it’s best to actually do the eating part distraction-free!

Spend a little time pondering YOUR palette – not the diet book authors – and I promise your pleasure around food will increase, creating better digestion and weight loss.

3 Tips to Lose Weight Without Altering What You Eat or Drink

IMG_0563 copySummer is soon! That means warmer weather and lighter clothes. If you’re feeling consumed with the sudden desire to lose weight, I get it! These three ways to lose weight without altering what you eat or drink helped me and my clients:

Tip #1: SLOW DOWN.

Most of us are fast eaters. Slowing down the eating process connects you to your food and enhances digestion and metabolism. You also become more aware of how we feel physically while eating. This level of awareness will likely help you gravitate toward more nutrient-dense food.

Tip #2: PLAN.

My second suggestion is to set aside a time to eat and drink. Many of us eat on the run, while standing up, or while driving! Planning when and where you eat is important. Doing so draws your full attention to the eating experience (even if it’s just 5 minutes) and it tells your brain that you are relaxed so you can savor the food. This is powerful if you’d like to optimize your metabolism.


Creating a calm, visually pleasing (or at least visually neutral) space while eating works wonders in the brain. Create a calmer environment by moving papers and clutter away from your eating spot. Hold off on checking devices or talking on the phone for that brief mealtime. To quote author Mark David, “We need to slow down and enjoy (our food) and then we’ll get the results we’ve been looking for – and sooner than we expect.”

Enjoy your food and the great weather ahead! If I can ever support your health goals, click here to contact me.

Enjoy What You Eat – No Regrets

My clothes are feeling tight lately and I hate it. A small bulge has appeared over the waist of my jeans—not comfortable! That said, I wouldn’t trade the events of the past few months or the delicious food and drink that I consumed for anything!

My daughter’s college graduation, an annual long weekend with my two best friends from high school, and a 25th anniversary trip with my husband to the Pacific Northwest gave me many special opportunities to eat for enjoyment and try new foods. Unfortunately, when you eat muffin tops, you get a muffin top.

Growing up, I was fortunate to have a mother who provided nutritious food and an environment that wasn’t toxic to a healthy body image; despite all that, our culture sure did a number on me and I’m sure you can relate to that experience. I believe that our current problem with high obesity rates is partially due to the self-hate that so many of us take on.

When we compare ourselves to what the media considers to be ‘beautiful’, it causes stress; and STRESS, as it relates to a healthy weight, is detrimental! The only way I have found to manage the societal pressure to “look a certain way” is to be mindful that I HAVE to eat for nourishment. So, I should enjoy doing it every day.

So when my clothes start feeling a bit too snug, I remind myself that it is a marker of happy celebrations and the highlights of my life. Delicious food is an important part of that.

So when your jeans feel tight, reach in the closet for a more comfortable outfit!

2 Tips for Relaxed Eating: The Benefits are Worth the Challenge!

Relaxed EatingEating in a relaxed environment is key to properly digesting our food and drink. When our body and mind are stressed, chemicals in our brain, such as cortisol and insulin, surge and create an environment that doesn’t support a healthy metabolism—in this scenario, even eating healthy food can result in weight gain. When you consider the very act of meal prep alone (cooking can oftentimes be a stressor), it’s a challenge to actually eat under stress-free conditions.

To create an optimal eating environment, I start inside my head.

Tip #1:

Envision a relaxed scenario. Even if my time is pressed and circumstances seem contradictory, I create a vision of what is ideal. With this positive mental picture, I can then put forth the necessary efforts to make it a reality. For example, I get up early to prepare food for my family. I have a routine that consists of just 6 or 7 minutes where I eat my breakfast served on an attractive plate or in a pretty bowl with a cloth napkin in an uncluttered space in my kitchen. (Yes, I really do this.)

Even if you don’t have cloth napkins, you’ll notice a difference by simply dedicating a small, defined, area in your kitchen where you can eat peacefully. What I actually eat varies, but the environment is always an attractive place. When I eat in this way, I actually notice and enjoy my food, rather than shoving it down my throat and giving myself indigestion.

When you keep your stomach happy, it reflects in your overall body and mood.

Tip #2:

Another example is thinking about food prep in advance of the time I actually need to start cooking. When I’m able to chop or dice ahead of time—like in the morning, or when my daughter is in the kitchen after-school—I can prepare a meal knowing that I don’t have a million and one things to do to have dinner ready at 6 pm. This reduces my stress about dinner prep, making dinner itself a more relaxing experience.

As I finish up this post, I recall a story about a friend who is a beautifully relaxed eater and works hard to maintain this good habit. When he’s on the golf course and approaching the 18th hole, he phones the restaurant at his course and orders lunch. When he and his friends arrive at the restaurant, his lunch is waiting for him and he can start eating right away. This way, he doesn’t feel rushed to eat at the same pace as his buddies, and can actually enjoy his food—good thinking! I believe we can all afford to take a page from my friend’s book so that we may all experience the benefits of relaxed eating.

What do you do to eat in a relaxed environment? Leave me a tip in the comments!

What is Wellness to You?

Amy Larson, Health Coach - Photo of me and my mom.

Me and my mom!

As I work to launch this website, I’m pondering the overarching theme of optimal wellness and what that means for me and for my varied clients.  What comes up for me regularly this past year is:  do the best you can in your current and sometimes immediate circumstances.  This would apply to many aspects of health, including exercise, relaxation, service to others and of course, food.

Most of the time I can control my food environment and eat healthful foods.  Usually I am home or close enough so I can pack food from home.  Those times when I didn’t have total control used to make me uncomfortable and sometimes truly anxious – and that’s not helpful to anyone’s overall health!

Specifically I recall a fun and meaningful trip last summer with my mother and daughter to east Tennessee to the area where my mother was born and raised.  Being a northeasterner and a healthful eater, I was alarmed at the constant presence of deep fried foods of all kinds, fatty meats (even in beans) and sugar laced tea and fruit.  After a minor freak out and the realization that this food was everywhere – in restaurants and home cooking alike – I turned a mental switch and decided to relax and enjoy myself and simply do the best I could with the food choices available.  And a lot of the food was pretty delicious!   But the most significant part of this was the fact that I could actually enjoy myself and the people I was with, and know that I would be okay eating less than  healthful choices for those few days.

I still think about that wonderful trip and don’t regret eating those hushpuppies one bit!