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Nutrition

Judy Foreman: Collin McShirley Brings Mindfulness to Food Matters

Holiday festivities can take a toll through food, but these simple tips will keep you in a merry mood

Running into the adult children of my peers both astounds and delights me. 

It seems not so long ago that my own children were running the halls and playgrounds of Montecito Union, Santa Barbara Middle and Santa Barbara High schools, but they, too, are now on the other side of twenty-something. My eldest even has two children of her own. Yikes!

With each encounter at a restaurant, farmers market or concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl, I always enjoy chatting with these young adults about their journey from childhood to college, careers, marriage and, for some, now parenthood. 

Recently, a beautiful young woman approached me at a nonprofit event and reintroduced herself.

The woman, Collin McShirley, had attended the same schools as my children but I had not seen her in more than a decade and did not immediately recognize her.

With the holidays upon us, Collin McShirley has some advice to keep your diet under control, as well as your peace of mind. “Mindfulness helps us break free from the overeating than can occur during the holidays ... simply by helping us pay closer attention to the thoughts and feelings that affect how and why we eat,” she says. (collinmcshirley.com photo)
With the holidays upon us, Collin McShirley has some advice to keep your diet under control, as well as your peace of mind. “Mindfulness helps us break free from the overeating than can occur during the holidays ... simply by helping us pay closer attention to the thoughts and feelings that affect how and why we eat,” she says. (collinmcshirley.com photo)

All grown up and strikingly attractive, she lives in Santa Barbara and has a master’s in clinical psychology. She’s now a therapist specializing in emotional eating, mindful body image and self esteem.

McShirley provides private coaching services to help her clients break free from emotional eating, develop mindful eating practices, positive body image and self-esteem.

Having struggled with and recovered from emotional eating herself, she not only knows what it feels like but also what works when it comes to changing negative patterns around food into positive patterns.

With her master’s degree from Antioch University Santa Barbara, McShirley is a columnist for Noozhawk and writes about mindful eating for national publications.

A recent article, which appeared on FoodMatters.tv, went viral with more than 3.5 million readers overnight, attesting to the number of people — of all ages — who struggle with issues around body image and food.

“I realized when I began this journey how hard it would be to change, simply because eating filled so many emotional needs for myself,” McShirley said.

“After years of eating to socialize, self soothe, and satisfy cravings and reduce stress, I was constantly resorting to the same routines without thought to their consequences on both my body and mind.”

She said the concept of mindful eating traces its roots to Zen philosophy and other forms of Buddhism.

“It has been adapted in a more physical sense to teachings of mind connectedness in  activities such as yoga practices and just leaning to breathe,” McShirley said.

“Mindfulness has been proven to help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve sleep habits and give a more positive outlook on life.”

With the holidays upon us, and festive dining so much a part of our seasonal traditions and challenges to the waistline, I asked McShirley if she had some helpful hints for our readers:

Tune In, Not Out

Break free of autopilot eating. Pay attention to what you are actually eating at that family feast of holiday party.

We tend to get lost in everything that is going on around us and eat mindlessly, slipping into autopilot mode. This leads to overeating and, of course, the emotional and physical hangover that comes from that.

Check In with Yourself

Take mindful bites. Have you ever eaten an entire plate of Christmas cookies and not tasted a single bite?

Bring all your senses to the meal at hand. Before you dive into that delicious Christmas ham and Hanukkah potato pancakes, take a moment to pause and really engage your senses. Experience each bite from start to finish.

Not only will this slow down the pace of our eating, but you will enjoy your food on a much deeper level.

Be Aware

Notice how hungry  you are on a scale of one to 10. By gauging your hunger level and communicating with yourself, you will develop a better understanding of whether you are physically hungry or emotionally hungry, and also when you are actually full.

Aim to eat until you’re satisfied, leaving yourself neither stuffed nor starving.

Healthy Self-Talk

So often during the holidays people will overindulge, and it’s typically socially acceptable to gain extra weight, like a bear in hibernation in the winter. This naturally leads to diet talk, self-criticism and bruises to our self-esteem.

Keep in mind how words might affect someone struggling with food issues, but also remember to keep a positive balance in how you talk to yourself.

Gratitude Affects Our Attitude

I love the holidays. It is such a wonderful time to be truly present in the moment, and feel love and comfort not only of food, but of the time with family and friends.

When you dip into your mindful toolbox for the holidays, try to be aware of your surroundings and everything you are thankful for. This will help you slow down a bit and appreciate the moment you are in.

It also will help you make better choices about what you are eating. Expressing gratitude in any from is a powerful way to turn up the love around you, especially during the holidays.

Final Thoughts

Be fully present in the moment without any judgment or expectation. Mindfulness helps us tune into our body’s natural cues so we are more aware if we are truly hungry and full.

The holidays can be particularly challenging, as we have so many more social and environmental factors that get in the way of being able to clearly interpret our body’s feedback. Family members visiting from out of town, shopping for presents, decorations and meal preparations can distract from healthy awareness, resulting in the tendency to tune out, and not in, when it comes to eating.

Mindfulness helps us break free from the overeating than can occur during the holidays — and all year long — simply by helping us pay closer attention to the thoughts and feelings that affect how and why we eat.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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