Using Mindfulness to stop Distracted and Emotional eating

Raise your hand if you eat in the car. Do you tend to overeat when out with friends? Are there times you find yourself eating when you aren’t even hungry? Do you read or watch TV while you eat? Do you tend to overeat when you are around your family?

So many of us have a distorted, unhealthy relationship with food. I’ve had issues with food since I was a young child. So, getting over emotional eating was a part of my path to healing and ultimately re-creating my relationship with food.

The real gateway for me was what Geneen Roth (author of the fabulous book, “Women, Food, and God”) calls the ‘presencing practice’ also known as ‘mindfulness’.

In a nutshell, mindfulness is simply being totally aware in the present moment.

How do we apply this to eating?

Here are some things to try:

For one meal a day, do nothing. Just sit and eat your food. And, be present. Notice how it tastes, the textures, the smells, the colors. If you had to describe this food to someone who has no clue what it tastes like, what would you say? Also notice your feelings? Does eating without distraction bring up anxiety? Or other uncomfortable feelings?

The first thing that happens when you do this, is you slow down your eating. And if you are eating to stuff down your emotions I guarantee you are eating too fast.

The other thing that happens is your body is now free to tell you how it’s feeling and more importantly, when it’s had enough to eat. The cue to stop eating is usually subtle. And if you were raised to “finish everything on your plate”, then your natural experience of feeling full is likely skewed.

For me, if I’m paying attention, my breathing changes when my body has had enough. It’s subtle, but eating beyond that moment would be overeating.

I promise you if I’m out with friends I will often miss that cue! But, if I remember to eat just one meal a day, totally present without distraction, I will be more likely to notice when my body really has had enough.

Some of us eat so unconsciously that we’ve forgotten how it feels to feel hungry. So, that is another thing to try to do once a day…

Don’t eat until you feel actual hunger. Our natural feelings of hunger are also subtle.

I’m not saying to starve yourself! When you’ve gone too long without food, that’s when “I’m hangry” kicks in. And that’s when you are more likely to choose something with too much sugar in it. There are countless commercials preying on that very impulse telling you things like “you’re not yourself until you have a snickers bar”. So no starving!

Just choose a meal that you can eat when you are hungry, rather then at a designated time (lunch break, etc). Practicing this once a day will also help if you have a fear of getting hungry. That is quite common. Feeling panicked that you won’t have food, can lead you to eat before you are truly hungry. Which leads to overeating because your body wasn’t ready to eat in the first place. Thus, your body’s signal to stop eating likely won’t happen. If going hungry is a fear of yours, have food with you. I have nuts with me all the time so if I’m worried about getting hungry later, I know I’m covered.

Try those two exercises for a few weeks and see what changes in your behavior around food. Again, just one meal a day, totally present. And for one meal a day, wait until you’re actually hungry before you eat.

I’m here to help if you are ready to tackle this and need extra support.
Having said that, if you know you have an eating disorder, PLEASE get medical help. Do not wait or think you can handle it alone. Contact your Doctor immediately.

We all deserve to have a healthy relationship with food. And we can. But for some of us, we have to slow down and get present first.

If this resonated for you…forward it, retweet it, repost it.

And let me know how these practices went for you.

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