5 Strategies to Help Stop Mindless Eating so You Can Be More Purposeful

July 31st, 2014, No Comments »

stopmindlesseatingMuch of our life, we operate on automatic pilot. We do things reflexively, without giving them much thought. This can be a big problem when you are trying to change a behavior like mindless eating. Have you ever decided to start a new habit (eat less, not eat dessert, or avoid the snacks in the break room) and then gotten frustrated because you didn’t remember to DO the thing that you intended?

Sherrill shared a common situation recently:

Sometimes . . . I feel stressed about something in particular, and I just start to put food in my mouth . . . After it is over, I feel like “What was I thinking?” and “How did that just happen?” I didn’t even have the least bit of emotion or guilt until looking back on it afterwards. Very frustrating! . . . I need to know how to trigger my mind or decision making process BEFORE this happens, or soon enough to stop the process.

Jenna has made tons of progress with mindless eating. But she still finds that in certain situations, especially social occasions, she loses touch with how much she is eating and how hungry or full she feels. Afterwards she feels guilty and frustrated.

Stopping the mindless part of mindless eating is critical if your goal is to be purposeful and in charge of your actions.

The interesting part about changing mindless eating is that you can work on building your ability to be mindful both when you are actually in the difficult situation and at other times of day. Practicing techniques that help you tune in to yourself (your needs, feelings, and thoughts) at other times of day can actually help you be more aware and mindful in troublesome situations.

Here are my top strategies for becoming more aware, tuned in, and in charge of your behaviors, choices, and goals so that you can eliminate mindless eating:

  1. Practice meditation: Notice that I said “practice.” You don’t have to get it perfect, devote an hour every day, or become a Zen Master for meditation to work for you. Meditating is a structured way of getting quiet and focusing your mind or detaching from all the chaos in your head and instead simply noticing your thoughts. It’s a great practice for getting present which can be very helpful if you are stressed and busy and spend a lot of time either worrying about the past or looking ahead to “what needs to be done.”

    Practicing meditation can help you be more focused and mindful when you need to be. Personally, I’ve found that when I take even ten minutes to sit quietly and focus my attention on my breathing, it makes a huge difference in how purposeful and effective I feel in the rest of my day. There are a variety of different ways to practice meditation. I’ve found that when I’m most stressed, using an audio program that uses tones which are embedded in a soundtrack to make it easier for your brain to achieve a relaxed or meditative state can be very helpful. The program I like and use even has an option that allows you to try it out for free.

  2. Practice interrupting mindless behavior: If you are very busy, you may spend a great part of your day focused outside of yourself and not being tuned in to what’s going on with you. This is not an ideal situation if you are working on changing your eating – because you aren’t paying a lot of attention to your own priorities and needs. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time to practice tuning back in.

    Set a timer on your phone or computer to alert you every hour (here’s one that I use). When the timer goes off, use this as a cue to check in with yourself. Take inventory. This means taking a few seconds to notice how you are feeling, what you might need, and even something as basic as whether you are hungry or whether your shoulders are up around your ears. Tuning in to your needs and feelings allows you to respond to them directly (instead of turning to mindless responses like overeating). Tuning in regularly can also help you keep your new habits and intentions on your radar.

  3. Start your day with focus and clarity: Want to be more purposeful and focused on your goals? Then spend the first 10 minutes of your day reviewing them, planning your intentions, or getting clear on your priorities. Identify upcoming situations where mindless eating might be a problem for you and make a plan.

    Busy high-performers sometimes underestimate how effective a short, simple ritual like this can be. The Success Soundtrack™ is a set of ten minute audios that you can rotate through during the week. It’s an easy way to plug yourself into a new morning routine since all you have to do is push play and listen.

  4. Stop multitasking: A simple yet challenging way to tune up your purposeful, mindful behavior and tone down mindless eating is to stop multitasking. Multitasking actually divides your focus and makes autopilot reactions more likely because you aren’t as focused when you are doing more than one thing at once. The research is very clear that multitasking during eating leads to eating more and feeling less satisfied.

    I know what you are probably thinking, and no, you don’t have to go cold turkey with this behavior. Instead, if you are a dedicated multitasker, start inserting periods into your day when you commit to doing one thing at a time and giving it your full attention. If you want the most bang for your buck, start by eliminating multitasking during meals. In order to have more control over mindless behavior, you need to strengthen your “mindful muscle.” This practice will help.

  5. Make mindfulness hard to forget: Use your ten minutes of morning time to get clear on the challenges you may face in the day ahead. Then, approach them with a strategy for staying present (that’s the only way you will remember to DO your new habit). If you don’t want to eat the snacks at the meeting, try arriving with a bright new pen in hand that catches your attention and reminds you, ever time it does, that your goal is to avoid the snacks. Write yourself notes and reminders and put them where you’ll see them. Put a picture on your phone that brings your new habit to mind. Be creative in designing strategies to keep yourself aware.

Take good care,

5 Things Anyone who Struggles with Overeating Needs to Know about Emotional Eating (Part Five)

July 23rd, 2014, No Comments »

In this series, 5 Things Anyone who Struggles with Overeating Needs to Know about Emotional Eating, I’m covering critical information – and case studies – about emotional eating and what you need to know (and do) to break free.

The series so far:
In part one I shared how emotional eating can operate outside your awareness and shared what to do if you can’t stop eating. Part two covered the toll that emotional eating can take – even if you are not overweight. In part three you learned why willpower is not the best strategy for getting results, how it can even make struggles with food worse, and what you can start doing instead. In part four I told you about one thing you can do that will make a huge difference – and you don’t have to worry about getting it just right or perfect.

The fifth thing you need to know about emotional eating
(and one simple change to make today)

emotional eating fiveIf you haven’t figured out how to end your struggles with emotional eating, it’s NOT because you are lazy and you need to be harder on yourself.

I get it. You are a smart woman and you are used to creating results in your life. You are probably someone who is talented at making things happen. You’re used to being effective – except in this one area. Odds are that you are pretty frustrated and you may be blaming yourself.

Smart, busy high achievers often make the mistake of blaming their overeating on laziness.

“I’m just lazy.”

“I know if I’d just ___________, I’d lose the weight. I’m just not trying hard enough.”

This is what Kate (not her real name) said to me when we started to work together. Not only was she feeling out of control with her eating and her weight, she was frustrated with herself and embarrassed by her “laziness” and “lack of discipline.” The guilt and shame she carried took a toll on her confidence, added to her stress, and often even made the stress eating and comfort eating worse.

She knew what she needed to do to change her eating, she just couldn’t do it. And this, Kate had decided, was because she was lazy.

Things shifted for Kate when we started working together and she realized that what she was telling herself wasn’t true. She wasn’t lazy. Just taking a look at her calendar confirmed this easily. Kate was busy, over-extended at times, stressed, and exhausted.

Emotional eating is an attempt to cope.
Healing it calls for better coping strategies. (Click to tweet)

Kate started to create lasting peace with food when she stopped believing she was a lazy person who needed to work harder and accepted that she used food to help her cope with her emotions, the demands she felt from others, and her exhaustion.

When she was able to stop calling herself names and instead look at the situation with self-compassion, she saw things differently. Using my Peace with Food approach, she was able to get clear on why food was so important to her and new strategies that she could use to replace food. She quickly saw what a toll the self-blame had taken.

Every time I thought about how lazy I was, I felt like a big, fat failure. I felt more stuck and what I needed to do felt even more impossible. I was so mad at myself that all I wanted to do was go to the refrigerator and shovel in food. When I was blaming my eating on laziness, the only solution was for me to work harder. I see now how that was never going to work. I was actually eating to try to deal with how exhausted I already was!

You aren’t lazy and you don’t need more willpower to take control of emotional eating. What works is taking care of the reasons you overeat.

Breaking cycles of self-blame and starting to approach emotional eating with compassion can be difficult to do on your own – especially if this is a pattern that’s been operating in your life for years. This is one of the critical pieces I’ll help you with in Peace with Food Plus and it’s one of the places where the live group coaching piece of the program is most helpful.

Making peace with food requires breaking free of vicious cycles that aren’t working for you (and are probably making things worse). Sometimes it’s hard to see what you are doing that’s keeping you stuck. Having the support of a program that helps you identify your blind spots and shows you how to address them with compassion can make all the difference.

Kate was adamant that she was lazy when we started to work together. When I was able to hold up a mirror and show her what an over-performing, high achiever she really was, she practically laughed out loud. This was the first step to very big changes. Having someone give her a fresh perspective made all the difference.

Do you know the stories you tell about yourself that keep you stuck or make you feel bad? Are you ready to let go of them?

Peace with Food Plus is my signature program for taking control of emotional eating and creating a relationship with food and eating that you want to continue for the rest of your life.

Enrollment is now open. Go here to reserve your spot.

Take good care,