Tonight I want to invite you to a conversation about emotional eating and how we use the technique of mindful eating to deal with those emotions.
Emotional eating is when we use food to deal with feelings instead of using food to satisfy hunger. We’ve all been there, finishing a whole bag of potato chips out of boredom or downing cookie after cookie while watching our favorite television shows. But when done a lot — especially without realizing it — emotional eating can affect weight, health, and overall well-being.
Not many of us make the connection between eating and our feelings. But understanding what drives emotional eating can help people take steps to change it.
One of the biggest myths about emotional eating is that it’s prompted by negative feelings. Yes, people often turn to food when they’re stressed out, lonely, sad, anxious, or bored. But emotional eating can be linked to positive feelings too, like the celebration of a holiday feast or the romance of sharing dessert on Valentine’s Day.
Sometimes emotional eating is tied to major life events, like a death or a divorce. More often, though, it’s the countless little daily stresses that cause someone to seek comfort or distraction in food.
Emotional eating patterns can be learned: like a child given a cookie or candy for a job well done or to comfort a bruise or hurt.
It’s not easy to “unlearn” patterns of emotional eating but it is possible. And it all starts with the awareness.
How many of us can accurately describe with any accuracy what we have eaten within the last 24 hours? Often we’re on autopilot because we have done it enough that we don’t have to pay much attention to get the food into our bodies.
This is one reason it’s very important to keep our daily logs with us and accurately write down everything we put into our bodies.
So, with all this in mind we can take steps to practice Mindful Eating. Mindful Eating is a practice that has existed for centuries, but few practice it in our culture. How often have we seen someone walk into the kitchen, fill a plate with a few things, or grab a bag of snacks and begin eating before even sitting down at the table? It happens all too often. Being mindful when eating first means being aware that we are about to eat… being aware that food is before us and that we will soon be eating it.
In fact, we are rarely mindful at all when we eat. And that first step is to BECOME AWARE OF FOOD.
Be conscious that you are preparing to eat as you go to the kitchen or sit at the table . Be mindful of what has been prepared. Recognize how much is available of each food and be aware of how large your plate is.
It is always useful to enjoy our plates and silverware. Take the time to use decorative plates and cups, use attractive bowls. Put away the plastic ware!! Make your eating an event… the event of satisfying your hunger.
The benefit of doing this gives you a better idea of what you want from the food available after taking a full inventory of all that is around you. Identify your food (if you are alone, identify everything verbally, making the process more concrete). These simple steps can help to reduce anxiety around food.
Use your eyes: How do we eat with our eyes?
Take in the food’s shape. Is it flat, like a cracker? Roundish and bumpy like cauliflower? Or is it smooth, shiny, or dull?
Examine color. Notice variations in color on the skin of a piece of fruit, or the grill marks on steak or chicken. Do you find it appealing? Bright? Deep?
Notice spices on your food. Can you identify the pepper? Salt?
Great chefs go to great lengths to prepare food attractively because they know it can add excitement and satisfaction to the whole experience of dining. We eat in order to become satisfied and often to pursue pleasure. The more we pay attention to what our eyes tell us, the more satisfaction and pleasure are available.
As an exercise take the time to lean over your dish and take in the smells of the food intentionally. When is the last time you did this? Notice that children will instinctively do this. Sometimes when we are the food preparer we get ‘numb’ to the good smells and tend to ignore how pleasurable this sense of smell truly is…we miss out on the excitement. Breathe in slowly taking in all the scents of the food.
Our benefit in doing this is that our sense of smell is tied to our sense of taste. We get to begin our enjoyment of the food’s flavor without eating it. Being intentional here will give us a greater willingness to be intentional or mindful in later steps.
Most of us would say that the sense of hearing has nothing to do with eating. But the sounds of food and eating have a lot to tell us.
There is no mistaking the sound of a piece of silverware making contact with a plate, or a beverage being poured over ice. Biting into a crisp apple makes a different sound than biting into any other food.
Pay close attention to sounds prior to eating. And remember, when you begin to eat, the sounds continue. Tune into food sounds… like the crunch of celery. Recognize the sounds of your food being moistened in your mouth and hear yourself swallow.
Benefit: Eating, in its own way can please us through our sense of hearing, just as music can. As we hear what we are eating, we become more aware of our participation, which helps us to know how much we’ve eaten.
All these helpful guides put our eating experience into perspective; making us mindful and aware of what we are doing with food and how we are using food to satisfy our hunger.
Next time we will continue this discussion by progressing to sensual eating, outside the mouth, and inside the mouth. Sounds strange and interesting all at the same time.
Carlotta Robbins is a psychologist and hypnotherapist. She works primarily with weight problems and more importantly those emotions and thoughts that lead to weight gain. If you have any questions, she will be glad to answer them email@example.com or visit her contact us page at www.rejuvenation21now.com.
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