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Mindfulness and eating

When do you reach for all those foods that are bad for you, those lovely sweets or salty crisps ?

We all love to eat and enjoy food that sometimes isn't very good for us. But when is it a problem?

Many of us reach for those sweet or salty comforts when we are either bored or stressed. During this panademic many of us have been eating not because we are necessarily hungry but because we are emotionally fraught with fear; fear for the future and wondering when will we have a vaccination for this virus that has radically changed the landscape of our everyday life. Who would have ever thought of this happening same time last year.

Many of us often eat poorly when we are stressed; we are eating in the hope to alleviate our stress or worries or sadness. When we turn to food to deal with our stress it really means that we are only looking for a short term, quick fix for our problems. Our money or marriage problems will not disappear after eating an entire cake?! Its a catch 22 situation; we eat to feel momentarily better and then feel worst after eating whatever are choice of junk is.

Remember emotional hunger cannot be filled with food.

Are you an emotional eater? Ask yourself:

Do you reach for food when you are stressed and you eat more than usual?

Do you eat when you are not even hungry?

Do you eat to make yourself feel better? Perhaps you feel calmer (momentarily) after eating a chocolate bar?

Do you reward yourself with food? ( many of us were rewarded with food when we were kids).

Physical hunger is a gradual hunger and is open to different options. Real hunger stops when we have eaten sufficiently. Emotional hunger comes as a sudden almost uncontrollable urge; Our bodies scream that they must have that chocolate RIGHT NOW! Its the hunger that sends you out in the late hours looking for a place to buy yourself some sweets!

Emotional hunger can often be associated with feelings of guilt and shame. Its important to recognise and differentiate between the two types of hunger to be able to control them.

Common causes of emotional eating is stress. When we are stressed or aren't able to express our emotions we may turn to food for comfort.

Food and mood diary

The first step would be recognise when you reach for junk food? Whats happening with you emotionally? What are you really hungry for? Jot down in a journal some thoughts: writing down your feelings can help to recognise your eating pattern. For example you might note down that you had a terrible day at work and all you wanted to do was comfort eat yourself through a bar of chocolate or bag of sweeties. Recognise the feeling and acknowledge the emotions because this will help in making better decisions for your health.

One patient shared with me her journal entry : I had a crappy day at work today and all I wanted to do was to eat all of the cake in the fridge. I stopped myself, cause I kind of figured its not cake I want but just need to air my thoughts about the terrible boss of mine....

Its a simple exercise and your body will thank you for acknowledging those emotions that need to be aired, either through journal form or with a friend.

You will choose a soothing cup of herbal tea over a glass of wine and bowl of healthy snacks over bad snacks simply by being aware of how you are feeling.

A great idea is to write down when you ate junk and how you felt when eating and how you felt after you have eaten. You will be able to see a pattern.

Bad food affects our health.

It will show on our weight and our self esteem and our general health.

So I have jotted down a simple strategy to quit emotionally eating:

Having awareness and writing down your feelings before eating.

There is a mindfulness in looking after yourself and so be mindful of the food you put in your mouth.

Dont overeat.

If you are sad or lonely call a friend.

Go for a walk, just get outside in the fresh air.

if you are tired drink a cuppa tea or have a long warm shower.

And lastly stop judging yourself.

Be kind to yourself and your body.

Any form of self loathing will only lead to making bad choices and that extends itself to more than just food but the relationships we have and the choices we make for ourselves. Having a love and respect for yourself will ultimately build your self esteem!

So here is to more intuitive and mindful eating! Lets eat well so our bodies reward us with more energy and less pain!

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