What crooked teeth taught me about Mindful Eating!

Some 15 years and 20 kilograms ago, I became a Health Coach to help inspire and motivate others to find and be their best selves. Throughout these “post lifestyle change” years, I have seen clients struggle with food, yo-yo dieting, restriction and staying stuck! I have been frustrated more than once to help a client change habits, lose weight only to discover soon after that he or she had gained it all back. How was I different? In my quest to answer this question and help people improve their relationship with food and their bodies sustainably, 2 years ago I discovered the concept of Mindful Eating and realized that I had gradually unknowingly adapted and “mastered” mindful eating into my life – or had I? Recently, my forever straight teeth started going crooked and my dentist suggested transparent braces to be worn all day over a few months and only removed at mealtime. Oh my. Here is what I learned:

To truly pause before eating or drinking anything! Though I encourage my clients to do this as a first step toward being mindful about when and what we eat, I found myself tending to still nibble mindlessly throughout the day. B.L.T.’s (Bites, Licks, Tastes) were innocently slipping in from my morning cereal through my lunch and dinner prep, not to mention that quick banana in the car to tide me over. Even coffee and tea became ground for awareness since they both stain invisible braces visibly, Yikes! All of these BLT’s became impossible without painstakingly removing my braces. I re-connected with true feelings of hunger we sometimes forget or ignore. I have literally stopped eating anything between meals unless truly hungry and worth the effort....

Eating with braces can be painful! I have been obliged to cut smaller pieces, eat slower and often adjust what I eat to accommodate my teeth and gums! I questioned every choice and though I love corn on the cobb, it was impossible to bite, so I needed to find other satisfying replacements. This inspired me to seek out new foods that I love and that I could truly enjoy. I re-discovered breads with less crust, soft rather than crunchy muesli and dark chocolate without nuts….

Wearing braces seems to wake up mouth sensitivity and taste buds and alters flavors. Since I was eating less often, and only at meal times, I truly privileged these moments. Every meal was like an adventure in how foods taste and feel… I re-discovered foods I loved – like homemade ice cream and vanilla yogurt – and had somehow forgotten or gotten out of the habit of enjoying. I found myself replacing foods that did not truly satisfy with more satisfying choices since it might be a long time until I would eat again…poor me…

I find it fascinating how sometimes when we feel in charge and something like braces intrudes, it can put us in a new space to observe and shift behaviour. I believe disruption is an essential part of growth and truly feel I have grown positively through my crooked teeth journey (and look, my teeth are straight)! As a Mindful Eating Coach, I feel I can now better help disrupt and challenge my clients to be their best selves and I believe, more than ever, that we human beings are always capable of change! Where do you think you might benefit from a little disruption right now? Are you stuck somewhere where coming out of your comfort zone might just stimulate something new and good? Let’s have that conversation!