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Mindful Eating and Hiking

June 21, 2015

A few weeks ago I wrote about how backpacking seems like a guaranteed way to lose weight, but what about more moderate hiking?

 

This is something I’ve struggled with over the years. The problem is that hiking a lot makes me hungrier, but unlike those who are hiking for days (or weeks or months) and have to carry all their own food, I have easy access to eat as much as I want. Plus, after all that exercise, it’s easy to feel like I should be eating more. Combined, these things can make it very difficult for me not to eat more than I need.

 

That’s why this year on my annual trip to Baxter State Park, I decided ahead of time to be particularly mindful, unlike last year when I simply didn’t stop eating.

 

Our first night was easy, since we hadn’t done any hiking yet, and my hunger levels weren’t out of the norm for me. But the next day was when the real challenge set in.

 

I got up early enough (4:15) to have a reasonable breakfast before we headed out at 5 a.m., since I knew I wanted something in my stomach before hiking. I also brought plenty of food with me: homemade energy bars, almonds, dark chocolate, sunflower seeds, grapes, cucumber, sugar snap peas, and pepperoni.

 

We hiked for two and a half hours up to Chimney Pond, by which point I felt some of that extra hunger coming on. That’s also when I discovered the pepperoni was not, in fact, in my backpack, but rather in the car. Sigh. Instead I had an energy bar, some chocolate, and some grapes, as well as some water.

 

That gave me enough to tide me over until 11, when one of my friends and I returned to our campsite (my other friend did more hiking). I finally got my pepperoni, as well as having the veggies, more chocolate, a few nuts, and finished the grapes. I stopped and started a few times, not sure how much was true hunger, especially because I knew I was dehydrated. When we went for a short walk, and I almost immediately got a headache, I wondered if I needed more food or liquid. I had a little of both when we returned, after which I felt much better. My headache disappeared, and I felt satisfied.

 

Then at dinner, I again tried to balance carefully. I wanted enough food, and I also wanted room for smores, with the giant marshmallows my friends brought. I therefore deliberately ate somewhat lightly, still slightly hungry at the end. That allowed me to truly enjoy the smores – the combination of super sweet marshmallows, chocolate, and less sweet graham crackers hit the spot. I had two and debated a third, deciding to add it when I realized I still felt a little empty. After that, I hit my sugar saturation and actually had some carrots to even it out. It was not a conventional after-dessert snack, but for me it worked perfectly, leaving me comfortable and content.

 

All in all, I was very pleased with how this year went, especially because by paying attention I never got to the point of feeling like I had something leaden in my stomach, only feeling light and energized. And when hiking, I’ll take that over an upset or overfull stomach any day.

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