Few things can be as frustrating as trying to change overeating habits and a busy lifestyle, multitasking, and being distracted can really get in the way. Food is always available and it’s so easy to reach for food or to overeat without even really knowing why. Every dieter knows how easy it is to start the day with good intentions about portion sizes and food choices only to find yourself having eaten more than you wanted, binged on junk food, or picked away at a plate of cookies that someone brought into the office.
Emotional eating–eating when you are stressed or overtired or even bored can be an automatic response that happens before you are even fully aware that you are doing it. Before you add unhelpful guilt to your list of triggers for overeating or ditching your weight loss plan, know that there is a much more enjoyable alternative. This is part 2 in this series about ways to stop stressing, stop doing too much, and create some inner peace.
Today’s tip for creating less stress and breaking old patterns with food and overeating: eat a mindful meal. It amazes me how many people multitask when they eat. When is the last time that you were fully present with the meal that you were eating? Fully present means that the TV wasn’t on and you didn’t have a book or a computer in front of you. You weren’t working or making lists of things to do. You weren’t driving somewhere or talking on your cell phone. When is the last time that you were fully aware—with all your senses—of each bite that you put into your mouth? When you truly savored every last morsel? When you were one hundred percent aware of what you were feeling and what you were experiencing while you ate?
For many reading this, I know it’s been a long time. Guess what? Mindful eating can be the key to breaking old habits with food and creating new ones. And you can get started almost instantly—as soon as you sit down to your next meal.
How to eat a mindful meal
Take a deep breath or two and allow yourself to really be in your body. Notice how your mind and your body are feeling. Really notice. You may have gone hours without paying attention. What’s on your mind? What emotions are you experiencing? How does your body feel? Are you tense or relaxed? How hungry are you? Where do you feel it in your body?
Put your food on a plate and sit down somewhere where you can enjoy your food without being distracted. Take a few more deep breaths before you do anything.
The goal of mindful eating is to fully experience every molecule of this meal. Savor it. Use all your senses. Slow down. Notice your food before you put it into your mouth. Smell it. Think about the experience you anticipate before your taste buds encounter what you are eating. Take a small bite. Feel it in your mouth. Really taste it. Stop and consider what you taste. Move the food around in your mouth.
How does it feel? Appreciate the flavor, the texture, the smell. Chew it well or let it melt in your mouth. Take your time.
Another goal of mindful eating is to fully experience yourself eating this meal. This might be a very new experience.
Be aware of how it feels to slow down and savor. You might be surprised at emotions that come up. Some women learn that they’ve developed a pattern of eating mindlessly so they won’t be aware of their thoughts and feelings or so they can overeat without really thinking about it. Obviously, that’s not helpful. As you eat, after each bite, ask yourself if you’d like another. Notice how your hunger changes. Notice when you stop savoring. Notice if you start to feel impatient with mindful eating.
As you practice mindful eating, you are likely to notice things about your eating and your relationship with food that aren’t really about the food at all. You may also find that you need some new tools or strategies to replace overeating so that you can be successful in the long term. It’s not necessary to practice mindful eating every single time you eat (although it can be helpful), but it can be very worthwhile to practice eating mindfully at least once a day. Some clients find it very helpful to identify the periods of eating that are the least mindful for them and use mindful eating techniques specifically during those times.
If you would like more help taking control of emotional eating or overeating or focusing on mindful eating tools and strategies, the Emotional Eating Toolbox™ 28 Day Program can be a very helpful resource.
Take good care,
Photo credited to Flikr.com/SimonGötz