What Polar Bears and Jigsaw Puzzles can Teach us about Mindful Eating

Listen on the go!


This morning as I was doing my daily walking meditation with the dogs (with an amazing podcast called the Daily Meditation Podcast), the little intro the episode started with was talking about two great behavioral studies that can teach you a lot of about having your mind in constant overdrive and multitasking like we were back in the 90's.

This is a topic that really gets my attention because you wouldn't believe the hundreds of things I have on my plate every single day. I'm constantly on turbo, then I come crashing down, so I'm always on the hunt for great tools to help me keep things in balance. I know you're not an exception to this either. You're so busy and have so much on your plate that it's hard to be able to enjoy anything sometimes.

Guess what else gets the short end of the stick when it comes to being on overdrive and doing a million things at once. You guessed it! Our food choices and exercise habits. We might be on that treadmill thinking about so many things that we aren´t even aware of our own bodies. We might be sitting down to eat and suddenly realize we've gobbled up an entire plate of food without even noticing its flavors or the fact that we were already full and we kept going. Keeping your mind calm and focused on the present moment is so important for creating healthy habits and actually learning from the choices you make.

What do polar bears and jigsaw puzzles have to do with this?

You've probably heard about the polar bear thought study before. They told one group of participants NOT to think about a polar bear. They then told another group of participants to really focus and think about a polar bear for a few minutes, and then for the next few minutes, to avoid thinking about it. The result? The second group, which was told to think about the polar bear first and then avoid thinking about it, had more incoming thoughts of polar bears during that "don't think about them" moment than when they were asked to focus on them intently, and even more than the first group who had the classic "don't think about x" scenario. This ties into the second research study.

For this one, participants were again divided into two groups, one was given a jigsaw puzzle and was asked to finish it. The second group was given the same puzzle but as they were trying to complete it, they were interrupted and asked to perform other tasks every once in a while. Can you guess what happened? The first group completed the puzzle and went on their merry way. The second could not stop thinking about the initial jigsaw puzzle even as they were trying to complete other tasks.

What do these two studies tell us? Our brains will hold on for dear life to things that are not complete or for which we didn't give our full attention and got closure on. Closure is such an important concept. Carlos always fights with me on this because he just doesn't get that I really need to finish a blog post before we can go for a long walk with the dogs. I need to close something up, as much as is possible (sometimes things are out of our control), in order to fully be present and enjoy the next one.

I loved what these two studies taught me about multitasking, productivity and especially FOOD! Yup! it all comes back to the food since it's something we do 3 or up to 5 times a day. I want you to try, as much as is possible, to be present with everything you're doing. Break big tasks into smaller ones so that you get a sense of closure and you can feel great about what you've accomplished and completely indulge in the next task. Whether that be exercising and being really into it, or eating and being completely mindful about your body's signals and the lovely tastes and textures. Let's all try it this week.

Speaking of food, you know what day it is! It's Monday, and that means you get an inside look into our favorite vegan eats and treats from this past week to give you some meal inspiration for the week ahead. Here we go!

Our favorite breakfasts

My favorite oats this week were cooked in a mixture of water and coconut milk and topped with strawberries, pineapple (my favorite!) and banana. So good!

Yes, you can have greens for breakfast in something other than a smoothie! I had some whole grain artisanal bread with peanut butter and berry jam, and if you love the savory-sweet combo like me (remember it's that amazing ayurvedic principle that will help you tame that sweet tooth!), I love a simple sauté of kale, mushrooms and a little soy sauce. I also had some darjeeling tea on the side. Before you judge and think half of this isn't breakfast food, think that around the world, many cultures would think that eating pancakes with syrup or eggs and bacon would be the most bizarre thing ever (in a "when do these people eat their sauerkraut?" kind of way). Be innovative and listen to your body.

Our favorite lunches

This was a simple bowl with lots of greens, tomatoes and strawberries next to a simple sauté of quinoa, parsley, cauliflower and broccoli florets. I love including a dish like this so you realize how simple, yet fully nutritious you can eat. This also took 5 minutes to assemble because I always keep cooked grains in the fridge.

This was a little experiment because I had some of last week's fondue sauce left over. I sautéed some mushrooms, garlic, leeks and broccoli, added a bit of that sauce and tossed everything with some whole wheat spaghetti and black pepper. It was so good! Always keep leftovers around is all I'm saying!

Our favorite dinners

This one might not seem like a complete dinner to you but it was always a tradition in my family growing up to have artichokes and hollandaise sauce for dipping the leaves. The eating of the artichoke heart was such a ceremonious moment, that Carlos laughs at me saying I cut the heart into 500 pieces just to make it last longer. Artichokes are actually incredibly filling, and this sauce (which I'll teach you how to make soon), had lots of nutritional yeast, veggie broth, lemon and tastes exactly like traditional hollandaise without the eggs or cholesterol!

I wish I could take credit for this amazing recipe, but it's by the amazing Spork sisters. A vegetable and lemon casserole bake  (yup! you get to roast lemon slices!) with crispy tofu on top. The veggies were fennel, carrots, leeks, spring onions and I added some roasted garlic in their too. Plus a ton of oregano sprinkled on everything.

I usually leave it at just two favorite dinners but we had a packed week! We went with our dear friend Ileana to have vegan burgers and celebrate the fact that she's pregnant with her first baby! Send her some love and healthy vibes please! She also told us right then and there that it's a boy and that she's thinking of naming him Carlos, a great name if you ask me (wink wink!).

We had delicious mushroom and vegan blue cheese burgers with all the trimmings at the amazing Viva Burger in Madrid.

On Sunday night we went out to celebrate Mother's Day and have some pizza with tons of vegan cheesy goodness. My mom isn't with us anymore and Carlos's mom lives far away, but I celebrated the fact that I had the best mom on this planet even if it was just for a short while (you can find out more about her in my personal story here), as well as the fact that I'm the proud mama of these two cuties. Yes, I do believe we are mothers in many ways on this Earth, even if we haven't had the human kind ourselves. 

This week's "oh so sweet" treat

This is a little tribute to Carlos's mom who makes the best Venezuelan bread pudding EVER! I veganized it yesterday and it was exactly like hers which is a tall order. I added a little toffee caramel on top to make it even more festive. 

I left all you beautiful mamas a special video message in our facebook page so go watch it! Mamas, you rock, with everything you do for your loved ones, and all the love you give. Happy Mother's Day!

Before you go, don't forget to share! Share this with anyone who is juggling too many things at once and has put healthy eating on the back burner. Don't forget about finishing that jigsaw puzzle and I'll see you in our next post!