24 Mar Mindful Eating
Have you ever enjoyed your meal so much that you end up undoing that top button just so you can breathe a little more? If you have not, you are in the minority. We all have eaten to excess, whether at parties or dinner dates. Those occasions are not the problem, so long as they stay the seldom occasion. The big issue comes down to consistently overeating. This leads to unwanted weight gain and detrimental habits. Let us look at a few reasons why you might be overeating:
- Emotional Fulfilment
- Environmental Triggers
You probably spotted this one a mile away. That is right friends, screen-time is not a recommended activity when enjoying your meal. Why? Because while you are eating you are not consciously enjoying your food. Your mind is thinking about what is in front of your face and not about the texture and smells of the thing you are consuming. The reason this is a problem is because you will not feel ever satisfied with what you just ate because it never really registered that you just ate. Your hunger might have been quenched, but your mind never had the chance to get its fill. Being present at mealtimes is more than filling a seat and shoveling food into your mouth, it is thinking about what you are eating, enjoying the smells and texture, and savoring each bite.
Food can be a source of comfort, but if you are consistently turning to food to solve your problems you will only end up with an even bigger issue. The occasional sobbing-into-ice cream is not something anyone would blame you for. But I can guarantee finishing that entire tub of cheese balls will only add your grief. Instead of turning to food to relieve your anxiety, stress, loneliness, grief, etc. turn to intentional actions. There are several ways to do this and we will cover this in just a bit, so keep reading!
Placing self-imposed limitations on certain foods and social situations will not be enough to stave off the desire for those no-noes. In fact, you are more likely going to think more about the foods you are not “allowed” to eat when they do pop-up then if you had not set them upon the untouchable pedestal. Limitations can also lead to overcompensating. On a psychological level you have withheld something from yourself and so you may compensate by eating more of something else or cave and binge on the thing you tried to avoid.
Environmental Triggers are the areas in your daily surroundings that induce an urge to snack. This could be in your living room where you sit and snack in front or the television or that one coworker’s desk you always pass that always has a treat for you. Movie theaters and shopping centers are great examples of places that makes your brain rumble when your stomach is silent.
Now that we have covered the main triggers for overeating, we’ll talk about what you can do to combat them. First, we need to discuss the habit loop. Habit loops are created when we consistently respond in a particular way until the response becomes a habit. Then we end up in a cycle where we have a trigger that produces a reaction and then a result. For example, someone’s habit loop may start with loneliness, then lead to gorging on cake, resulting in a surge of dopamine that would satiate the brains desire to feel good. Here is what that process looked like:
To fix this habit loop, one would first have to recognize the cue, then they would have to set an appropriate response to the cue to receive a satisfying reward. Instead of eating their lonely feelings, they could instead call a friend to relieve their loneliness. By eating the feeling, the emotion is not honored and is set aside to be dealt with later.
It is also important to understand your body’s hunger cues. If you can separate the difference between mind hunger and actual hunger you will be better equipped to react in a positive way. One of the best tools to help you to understand your body is through a food journal. This journal will help you track your eating habits and your cravings throughout the day and if you are using your journal correctly you will be able to spot the differences between nutritional eating and excess eating. Another important way to keep from overeating is by sticking to a consistent meal schedule. Letting yourself graze doesn’t allow for you to reach a satisfying point. By having a set mealtime, you are consciously eating and fulfilling your psychological and physiological hunger. You should never have to reach the point where your too hungry to make good eating choices if you stick to a schedule.