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How To Overcome Mindless And Emotional Eating

We all have different eating behaviors that impact our relationship with food, most of us aren’t even aware of these behaviors. Why does it matter? Your relationship with food can directly influence your digestion, mood, mental and physical well-being.

Mindless Eating

Almost all of us eat too fast, with so many distractions around us, it’s hard not to. When we eat too quickly, we miss important hunger and fullness cues, as well as body cues about how certain foods make us feel physically. Furthermore, if we consistently eat with a distraction such as having the TV on, you are conditioning yourself to feel like you should eat whenever the TV is on.

Becoming A Mindful Eater

We want to find ways to slow down and pay more attention to our food, here’s some ideas how:

  • Write about how you feel after a meal; Do you have heartburn, bloating or indigestion? How long does it take before you feel hungry again? Are you stuffed or satisfied?
  • Time how long it takes you to finish your meal, you can use this as a baseline for subsequent meals and try and take longer.
  • Do something between bites: set down your utensils, take a breath, sip water, focus on table conversation.
  • Savour your food by noticing the smell, taste and texture of each bite.
  • Reduce distractions; put your phone in another room, turn of the TV, take a break from your work.

Emotional Eating

Many people eat for comfort and to manage their emotions or unwanted physical feelings, such as stress or anxiety. There’s no shame in this! We know that food stimulates pleasure pathways in the brain, has emotional associations for many of us, and connects us to others. This type of eating only becomes problematic when: we do it to excess; we feel out of control; we can’t stop when we’re satisfied; we don’t have any other way of creating comfort or managing our feelings.

Overcoming Emotional Eating

  • Keep a journal where you can write down thoughts and feelings you have at meal time; you can use this to work through the feelings that give you the urge to eat or for the feelings you have after eating.
  • When the urge to eat emotionally comes on, pause (or HALT) and ask yourself if you are Hungry, Anxious/Angry, Lonely, or Tired.
  • Challenge yourself to sit with the uncomfortable feelings for 5 minutes before you give into the urge to eat, over time this can teach you to self-regulate and self-soothe.
  • Come up with alternatives when you feel the urge to eat overcome you: go for a walk, go to the gym, call a friend, send an email, have a shower or bath, paint your nails, journal, meditate, do laundry or clean a room in the house… anything to distract you for a bit.

Go Easy On Yourself, Be Patient

If you struggle with mindless or emotional eating I encourage you to try at least one of these strategies this week! Don’t try and do all of them at once! Work through the list and identify which strategy works best for you. It takes time, patience, and repeated effort to form new habits so be gentle with yourself and acknowledge the courage it takes to make change. You got this!!