Getting Out Of Your Head When It Comes To Eating

I’ve gotten a few comments in emails this past week about distractions, stress and complexity as it relates to eating:

“I spent 6 weeks in Ecuador this past winter. Food there is not processed…… it is in the same form that our great grandparents ate. Meat, vegetables, fruit, fresh in the market, no packaged stuff, nothing instant or microwaveable. Bought in the local farmer’s market, it’s cheap and good. I cooked every day and walked around the city in the mountains. Everything was up and down hill. It was a boring city but I felt great! And I lost about 10 pounds, but mostly inches.”

“Now I’m back home, stressed at work, facing odd sleep hours, ravenous, and I gained all the weight back. I want a simpler life and to feel better and look better.”

“I know about being mindful while eating, I get it. But I find it REALLY challenging to be able to focus after a few minutes because it seems like there’s always multiple distractions…either I’m in public and people are talking around me, or I’m at work on lunch break, or I’m home with my kids and it’s chaotic as usual. I end up eating fast and then, shortly afterward, wanting to eat again. So I start picking around for other things. Or I try to eat other things to avoid eating dessert, because once I go for the sweets…there’s no stopping. I watch myself doing this over and over and it frustrates the hell out of me.

“You know, I can be ‘fine’ with food for a period. Then life will start to get busy, or something will stress me, or I start worrying or doubting myself about something, and I lose my ‘center’ or my balance. Then I’ll eat mindlessly, either socially or at home, when I’m alone…and I don’t CARE in the moment. I feel like it takes too much energy to try to analyze why I want to eat. I just want to eat. Then I feel like shit about 5 minutes afterward. How do I keep from spiraling like that?”

 

I can relate to each of the experiences these people are vulnerably sharing. More than ever before, we’re in a society that thrives on distraction. You’d have to live in a box in the middle of the desert to not be exposed to some form of media, message or input on a daily basis that can throw you “off center.”

Being able to notice your urges to eat and allow them to be there, noticing them without reacting mindlessly,  requires a gigantic amount of effort in the moment. You’re going against the grain. Your mind is telling you to eat or keep eating, and you’re trying to notice that and not do what your mind is telling you to do. That can be really difficult.Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 12.19.12 PM

It’s even more difficult if you’re rushed, perplexed, worried, critical or upset.

Or if you’re responding to a deeply-ingrained habit that you’ve gotten used to.

To make this even more complicated, what about those times when you authentically want to indulge? Maybe you’re longing for a cold, creamy ice cream on a hot Sunday afternoon. You might feel your craving for it, then start trying to not react to the craving, then wrap up all your energy in trying not to react. You end up putting more effort in trying to avoid eating it than if you’d just eaten it, indulged whole-heartedly and went on about your day.

All of this that I’m describing is an experience taking place in your head.

This is all before or after you’ve eaten, and what you make of your experience comes from your thoughts.

“Geez, I ate that so fast. I still  want something. What can I eat? …Why do I eat so fast? If I could just slow down I wouldn’t’ be such a vacuum…”

“I want something sweet SO BAD right now. It’s probably because I had a long day. Ok, how can I stop thinking about it? …I have that chocolate bar in the freezer I bought last week…maybe just a bit. No, no. I need to just go to bed. Well, I’ll just have half…”

“I totally just ate that whole banana split! I wasn’t planning on getting a large one. But, gosh, it was good. Ugh, I can’t believe I can eat so much. And I know I’ll probably be ready to eat dinner in a couple hours, too…”

So, if all of this is taking place in your head, it means that you’re way up there instead of being grounded, in the present, noticing what’s going on and checking in with yourself. When you’re up in your head, you’re not in your heart or your body.

What if you were to pause in these moments?

A gentle pause, a quiet noticing of what’s going on. You can even do it right now: pause for a moment, feel yourself breathe. No need to force yourself to be any certain way, just noticing what’s going on. Can you check in with your mind, noticing your thoughts?

What about your body? Can you notice sensations of tightness, heaviness, lightness, or maybe nothing at all? Can you feel the bottoms of your feet and palms of your hands?

Finally, what about your emotions? What’s your emotional state as you’re reading these words?

Pausing to notice what’s going on mentally, physically and emotionally grounds you. When you’re grounded, you can check in with yourself. Do you really want that chocolate? You’ll be able to notice a subtle “yes” or “no.” You might physically feel yourself opening up as a “yes,” or tightening, as a “no.”

If it’s a “yes” – super, then go for it. Enjoy it completely. If it’s a “no” – you’ll probably still feel like you want it on the surface, but underneath that layer, it won’t make sense to you or feel completely “right”.

When you practice pausing and checking in, you soon begin to trust yourself.

Hence, I am of the opinion that there’s not one “right” food or way to eat, exercise, dress,  etc…there’s only what’s right for you. The more you practice pausing, the more intuitive it becomes to trust yourself in this way.

Does this resonate with you? What’s your experience with checking in with yourself?

 

If you want to learn how to break through your habit of overeating or binge eating, my Binge Eating Breakthrough ebook is for you. You'll learn powerful tools and distinctions to be able to understand and overcome your urges to eat more than you want. You'll also learn step-by-step strategies for managing your cravings and feeling control with food. If you want to check things out first, sign up for my free Binge Eating Breakthrough video course in the right sidebar.

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