Fight Emotional Eating with Mindfulness and Mindful Eating
Has it ever happened that you were so focused on dieting and WHAT you HAD to eat, that you totally forgot about the importance of HOW you eat? Or maybe, you realized you already know what works for you in terms of nutrition, but you kind of fell victim to destructive, emotional eating patterns and did not even try those healthy recipes? Or do you just find the whole dieting thing too stressful? The problem is that many diet and weight loss gurus only tell you what to eat, not HOW to eat, and it’s always the information that is pretty much the same. Come on, most adults already know what is healthy. Also, it’s not only about information. Information is useless if we don’t apply it. This is why discovering mindful eating can help. You will finally get to the root of the problem while improving your health, not only physically but also emotionally. Mindful eating will make you feel so much more relaxed! Read on to learn a few simple strategies to say good bye to mindless eating that only spoils your health efforts. If you’re ready for big changes that the holistic approach can offer, read on!
First, focus on how you eat. Embrace mindful eating and mindfulness.
Yes, as long as you keep your focus on HOW you eat, you will find it easier to make healthier choices. Accept the fact that you need to change your relationship with food. Don’t exaggerate with calorie counting. You see, we have been brainwashed into restriction. This is what most fad diets preach. Most people get excited about the promise of getting skinny in X days, and when the excitement vanishes, or a person has a bad day, it’s easy to get off track. There we go again: “I had a bad day. I deserve this ice cream!” Does it ring a bell? Then the story repeats itself. “I am going to go on a diet!” And again, bad day, bad emotions, and we stuff ourselves with foods that can even make us feel bad. Healthy eating is not only about weight loss.
Think about it—there is nothing wrong with having an occasional treat, but the thing is that we should be the ones that choose it, not the other way round. First, we need to create a healthy foundation and change our relationship with food. We need to drift away from the term “diet” and focus more on “lifestyle” instead. This is what I teach in my course, The Alkaline Diet Lifestyle in 7 Simple Steps. Changing your relationship with food should be always the number one step before you embark on any kind of health and nutrition journey.
It’s not only about information, right? If you have read my blog or picked up one of my books, at some point, you probably know I am like a broken record with that. This is why, even before we get to the point, I will kindly ask you to promise me that you will follow through. After reading this post, I want you to commit to a mindful eating challenge that will last for 7 days or more. I am sure that after 7 days, you will want it to last forever, and mindless eating will be nothing but a bad habit of the past.
Mindful eating- let’s dive into it.
Tip#1 Mindful eating is as important as healthy foods.
Whether it’s weight loss or overall health that you want to commit to, you need to understand that you will never achieve it if you keep sticking to mindless eating habits. You see, mindful eating concentrates on our conscious state while eating. We learn to listen and to follow our body’s cues of hunger and fullness. We also slowly learn to ignore emotional cues that cause us to eat unnecessarily.
Tip#2 I am not preaching, as I have also been guilty of this pattern:
Eating semiconsciously or almost unconsciously, just shoving foods in our mouths without giving it a second thought. Add to it- watching TV when eating. It’s actually a recipe for a disaster! Why? Because watching TV while eating is one of the leading causes of overindulgence, weight gain, as well as digestive problems. Multitasking is an outdated concept that does not work. Forget about it, both in your personal and professional life. Focus on one thing. Cut off everything else. The main benefit will be the peace of mind! One more thing- according to what I just said, avoid eating while driving (many people like to treat their meal as a quick snack instead of a body and mind, healing and nourishing experience) or eating in your office. Eating while working or doing something else will only add to mindless eating.
Tip#3 Mindful eating does not mean that you will have to live like a monk or survive on rice only.
It simply encourages you to develop your focus and mental awareness to the act of eating. You see, it can be a really relaxing experience for you. The truth is that you can have a healthy relationship with the enjoyment of eating while keeping it healthy and not overeating.
Just remember to be in the present while eating. Embrace those moments as if you were in a health spa….
Tip#3 Focus on flavor and texture.
We often develop a bad habit of gulping down our food with force and speed. What’s the point? We no longer have to hunt for our food. There is no starvation. We can get our food whenever we want. It will not evaporate or disappear. Our Western world is over saturated with food (not always a good thing, but this is topic for another day). Not controlling your speed of eating leads to overindulgence and weight gain. Besides, mindful eating is about enjoying our food. This is why we need to develop a habit of actually tasting it, right? Enjoy the act of eating. Observe the taste of spices, sauces and other ingredients. Is there any added flavor? Taste it carefully. Create a mental discussion with yourself, and think about the taste and texture of your food. This will keep you in the here and now!
Tip#4 Eat slowly.
Even though the fast-paced modern world preaches otherwise (go faster, do more, be more “falsely-productive” or keep busy, work more, make more money, don’t waste time on healthy eating, do it faster, turn into a machine, become a robot of fast life, and bla blaaa). Just eat your meals slower. Observe each bite you consume. You can even count them! Take a body and mind approach and use your intuition. This will allow your stomach and mind to synchronize with each other and recognize the signals of real hunger or feeling full. Enough is enough. Learn to stop eating when the moment is right. Not too early, not too late.
Tip#5 Develop a habit of preparing your food yourself.
I have recently written a detailed article on how you can do it, even on a busy schedule, so no excuses. You see, realizing the intricacies of how food is made available for our eventual consumption will make us more self-aware of its value. It will also make us appreciate it more. If eating out, don’t be afraid to ask questions about food you want to order. Also, remember that many restaurants will custom design dishes for you. As a customer, you have every right to ask about how the meals are prepared. If you don’t like a given place (I am not talking about food only but also the general vibe of a restaurant), don’t eat there. You are mindful now, and you follow your own decisions.
Tip#6 How do you present your food?
You don’t need to be artistically gifted to organize your plate, as well as your eating surroundings in a peaceful, mindful way. It’s hard to embrace the here and now if you eat in a mess. Keep it organized and clean. You see, our conscious mind is actually controlled by signals from the subconscious. Our conscious mind is a reactor to whatever the subconscious feeds it. So when you see some kind of a mess in your physical surroundings, it does send signals to your conscious mind. Hence, you also eat in a mess, and your thoughts are mess. Motivation and inspiration can evaporate so carefully. Treat your surroundings with love and respect, and they will pay you back with the same!
Tip#7 Now about your plate- experiment with different shapes and colors.
Observe your emotions. Personally, I love green and blue plates. They make me feel peaceful. I may add more color from time to time. It’s called subconscious programming. Again, choose what works for you. I like to use small plates and small bowls of different colors. They are great for my healthy salads and dips. In the winter, I like healing warm soups and herbal infusions. I usually choose warm bowl colors like red and orange. What about you? Post a comment below and let me know.
Tip#8 Use the Pistachio Effect Strategy.
It’s very simple- mindful eaters recognize that there should be some kind of effort involved with every meal. Imagine you have 2 cups of pistachios, one with shells and the other one without shells. Which one would make you feel more mindful by asking you to put in more effort? Well, probably the first one (with shells). The same would apply to fruit- peeled or unpeeled? For example, peeling an orange and gradually embracing its smell can be a very mindful experience. Now this strategy does not mean you should survive on nuts that require removing shells or fruits that need peeling. It’s just a metaphor. It doesn’t mean you should go back to your Paleolithic roots and gather or hunt for your food for days (those guys were really real Paleo people BTW). You can use the Pistachio Effect Strategy simply by eating with chop sticks or using all kinds of utensils (for example, eat with a fork and knife, not just a fork). Finally, focus on the way you use your utensil, don’t just scoop. Stab your food with a fork. Scooping leads more to speedy eating, and so the act of mindlessly shoving the food into your mouth is created again. Avoid it. Stab your food and be mindful and intuitive in securing the food between each bite.
Tip#9 Close your eyes, yes, take the first bite with your eyes closed!
Yes, it can help you invoke the mental focus and awareness. The first bite is really important, because it is the very first signal to the brain that you are consuming your food. In other words- it helps to increase the mindful attention to each bite thereafter.
Tip#10 Eat with your non-dominant hand- this is something I am trying to apply now, and it’s actually fun.
Sometimes, I feel like a little kid. Again, it’s the same concept we talked about in “Pistachio Effect” strategy. You will eat more slowly, paying more attention to each and every bite. You will be more focused on the act. Your conscious mind will more easily receive signals from the stomach that you are actually full. Additionally, you could add to it a little challenge- it could be chewing at least 20 times before swallowing. Try it!
Tip#11 Combine proactivity with mindfulness.
Aim to always have some healthy snacks on you and get committed to batch-cooking to make sure you always have some healthy food to take with you to work (even if you work from home, like I do, it helps as you get more time and focus to enjoy your meal and do other things. It also helps automate the healthy lifestyle process creation). Aside from emotions that trigger mindless eating, there are also other factors like: lack of preparation (there is no healthy food in your fridge, or maybe there is, but you are too tired to cook. and so you order a pizza and just devour it quickly in front of TV, and there we go again; the vicious cycle goes on). Sometimes, we even get stressed out about the mere fact that we should be healthy, should do this and that and we don’t have time and energy to do it. Again, mindful approach and preparation can help. It’s not about being perfect. Just move forward. It’s normal to get off track sometimes. We all do. All you need to do is accept it and focus on solutions. As soon as you know your why, you will know your how!
Tip#12 Create a peaceful atmosphere when eating and always change it for new sensations.
Personally, I like to play some relaxing music while eating. It helps me get rid of negative emotions that trigger overeating and emotional eating. It also helps me slow down. Some people prefer to eat in silence. Choose whatever works for you. If you ask me, I believe that listening to relaxation music while eating is awesome. You may even have different playlists, especially for eating, so that your brain associates it with eating time and makes you feel more focused on your food. Sometimes, I also like to burn essential oils using a vaporizer or a diffuser (mint, chamomile and some citric scents work great for me, but of course, don’t take my word for it, experiment!). I recently got a really awesome diffuser from Loris. You can get it from Amazon.
Tip#13 How you cook is how you eat.
If you start mindlessly snacking in the process of cooking, you will find it hard to relax during your meal. This is something I have been guilty of so many times, lol! Now, I just try to focus on the process of preparation first. I enjoy the color and the smell and sensation of creating new nutritious meals.
Tip#14 Do small pauses when eating.
Close your eyes and breathe. Be grateful for your meal. Not only will it help you with digestion and controlling how much you eat naturally, but you will also feel more relaxed. You can thank me later. Most people say they don’t have time to practice mindfulness and meditation. Well, how about turning your meals into the most incredible mindfulness experience? Come on, it’s not about spending endless hours on your yoga mat or spending a fortune on expensive retreats with spiritual gurus. You can be happy, mindful, and rejuvenated right here and now. It’s up to you.
Tip#15 Relaxation before eating does matter.
Think about it- what can happen if you start eating while feeling extremely stressed out? Do you treat your food as a reward after a stressful day? Is it like a mindless escape plan that helps you get rid of stress? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many natural therapies that can help you de-stress in just a few minutes. Aromatherapy is one of them, and I talk about it in my book, Essential Oils for Weight Loss. If you feel stressed out after a long day of work, consider treating yourself to an aromatherapy bath, followed by an aromatherapy self-massage. Check out my natural therapy spa section for more details or grab one of my aromatherapy books.
Tip#16 Consume your food from a plate or a bowl; don’t eat out of a bag or a can.
This is how you can control the speed and quality of the eating process. Again, don’t eat on the go. This is not to say you should spend hours on each and every meal. That would be unpractical. But, instead of devouring your snacks from a bag or can (let’s say it’s some healthy nuts), put them in a bowl, sit down for a couple of minutes, and enjoy your healthy snack. Again- you will feel more relaxed.
Tip#17 Mindfulness mindset and guilt are not compatible.
So even if you get off track of your mindful eating routine, instead of blaming yourself, use it as a learning experience. Accept it. Maybe you can start noticing certain patterns that make you go for unhealthy choices and habits?
Additional mindful eating tip- try it now!
Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation– place a raison on your tongue. Just hold it there and see how long you can do it while experiencing its texture as well as taste.
Mindfulness Full Body Awareness Technique- gently bring your thoughts to your present awareness. Now feel all the sensations in your fingers, toes, legs and arms. If you find your thoughts wandering, gently bring them back to full body observation. The best way to embrace the here and now is to try to focus your thoughts on your body for a couple of minutes. This is how you can connect with your subconscious and avoid mindless thinking and getting too distracted.
Remember, mindful eating is not a fad. It doesn’t matter what dietary preferences you have; you can always develop a habit of mindful eating and reap even more health benefits in the long run. You already know more than enough to get started. Do an experiment and embark on a 7 day mindful eating challenge!
You will reignite your conscious awareness of eating.
Now, it’s time to enjoy your food and see it as a healthy ritual, not a guilty escape.
Interested in mindfulness?
Check out my book: “Mindfulness for Busy People”. It’s available in kindle and paperback (all Amazon stores)
To your health,
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Marta Tuchowska is a passionate holistic wellness coach and author on a mission. She wants to help you create a healthy body, mind and spirit through a balanced lifestyle. Marta has a strong background in healing and health (certified in massage therapy, holistic nutrition, aromatherapy and Reiki), and she infuses her natural therapy knowledge with motivational and life coaching to help you create a life full of energy, health and happiness. Marta wants to make it easy, doable and fun. She calls it holistic lifestyle design for modern, 21st-century, busy folks! Check out Marta's work on Amazon, iTunes and YouTube. Join the exciting journey of total body and mind transformation!Read More > >