Are you sick of yo-yo dieting?
Do you weigh yourself more than once a week?
Do you spend more time thinking about food and diet then you spend thinking about your life?
For many women (and men, but especially women), making peace with food is a crucial step in getting on with their life and creating the life they want to live. Many successful, intelligent, highly talented people tell me that food/weight/diet is the one area of their life in which they feel incapable. Diets don't work–they just keep people dieting (and gaining and losing and binging and miserable). Making peace with food not only allows people to begin eating normally again, it really allows you to get on with your life, without food and weight and eating decisions swallowing way-too-much of your energy. Emotional eating is a term that is used to describe eating in response to our emotions or feelings vs. our physiological hunger.
Top 10 signs that you are eating emotionally:
- The hunger comes on suddenly and the need to eat feels urgent–physiological hunger comes on slowly and it's okay to delay eating.
- You keep eating even if you aren't hungry anymore or the hunger doesn't go away even though you are full.
- You eat to the point of physical discomfort.
- You don't know whether you were hungry or not when you ate.
- After you eat you realize you aren't really aware of how much you ate or how it tasted.
- You have feelings of shame, guilt or embarrassment after eating.
- You eat because you are bored, tired, lonely, excited.
- Hunger accompanies an unpleasant emotion–anger, hurt, fear, anxiety. Emotional eating begins in your mind–thinking about food–not in your stomach.
- You crave a specific food and won't feel content until you have that. If you are eating for physical hunger, any food will fill you up.
- You keep eating (or grazing, or nibbling) because you just can't figure out what you are hungry for. Nothing seems to hit the spot (physical hunger goes away no matter what food you choose to fill up on).
Mindful eating is a term used to describe a way of eating which uses internal cues about hunger, appetite and fullness to guide our relationship with food. It involves listening to your body to know what and when you need to eat. Dieting, restricting and counting calories or fat grams and focusing on weight are not components of mindful eating. Mindful eating requires learning what to do when what your body and mind need and want are not food.
If you struggle with emotional eating, here are 3 things you can do to begin to transform your relationship with food:
- Slow down
Learning and change don't occur when we are operating on auto-pilot. Slowing down allows us the space to make conscious observations and choices about our behavior. Slow the pace of your eating. Put the food on a plate. Don't multi-task while you are eating–give your food your complete attention.
- Pay attention to hunger Make it a practice to notice how hungry you are before you start to eat. If you don't feel physically hungry, notice that and begin to investigate what that's about. Notice when you choose to stop eating and how full and comfortable or uncomfortable you are at that time.
- Ask questions
One of the most powerful things you can do is to work at cultivating curiosity about your feelings and your behaviors. If you find yourself eating because you are stressed, tired, angry or bored, ask yourself what other coping strategies you have for dealing with these feelings. What choices do you have besides eating?
Is emotional over-eating an area you need to work on? Taking control of emotional eating is a process, but one that is well worth it. Taking the time to learn the tools to re-create your relationship with food and your eating allows you to move beyond the restrictive, self-critical diet mentality and get on with our life.
Starting with mindful eating creates a ripple effect–like throwing a pebble into a pond. When you learn to slow down and be mindful of your eating, learn to recognize and respond to your hunger cues and cravings (no small tasks!), you realize that most of the time when you are obsessing about food, you aren't really hungry. When you can figure out what to be mindful of and what to do instead of focusing on food, the ripples lead most people to lives where food takes up so much less time and energy and their minds are freed up to do much more powerful things.
I see people who tackle mindful eating grow and expand in so many different ways when they are no longer trapped in the food-diet craziness. It's so powerful that it's become a major area in which I work with people.