A client expressed concern about how much she was eating. She wanted to learn how to limit her portions in the absence of willpower. One of the questions I like to ask when discussing overeating is, ”Do you eat fast?” This client’s response was, “Hell, ya!” I suggested slowing down and eating mindfully might be appropriate.
But slowing down is easier said than done, isn’t it? Sometimes you just want to feel better – fast. Or maybe you want to feel worse, to punish yourself, to feel full, or feel anything other than the experience of eating the food in front of you. You want to tune out and food is your salve. It’s how you cope.
Trying to white-knuckle any goal with willpower alone can be stressful and hard to do consistently. So how about starting by calming down first? You can usually shift your nervous system to relaxation in a few minutes. Then you will be able to work at eating slowly and mindfully with greater ease.
The intent of eating mindfully is that you will notice you’ve had enough before you overeat. You will feel satisfied and actually enjoy your food more. You just might manage your weight too, whereas overeating leaves you feeling bad physically and emotionally, and potentially overweight.
1. Start by getting calm
This is achieved by getting out of your mind where all your stress and struggle originates and into your body. There are a number of ways of achieving this. The easiest?
• Breathe. I know. You might be tired of hearing that. It’s repeated because it works. Just notice that you are breathing. Say to yourself, “I’m breathing in. I’m breathing out.” You can also just focus on the rise and fall of your belly and/or your chest.
• Tap on the EFT points, or just hold the point and breathe. If that doesn’t work you can try the whole protocol.
• Do any, or all of the following PQ reps, as they are called by Shirzad Chamine of Positive Intelligence fame.
– Rub your fingers together with such attention that you can feel the ridges in both fingers.
– Look at your hands like you’ve never seen them before. Examine all the colors, shapes and textures very closely. Look at how your fingers move.
– Feel the weight of your body in your chair, or your feet on the floor. Notice all the contact points where your body touches. Just focus.
– Wiggle your toes. Try to put attention on each individual toe. Can you wiggle it?
– Listen for sounds in your environment. First listen for the furthest away sounds, then the closest sounds. You might even notice the sound of your breathing.
You’re simply tuning into your senses. How long do you need to do this? Just long enough that you feel calm and relaxed. When well practiced you can get there in seconds.
2. Now you’re ready to eat – mindfully.
You’re going to tune into your senses with regard to the food. Imagine you are experiencing this food for the very first time. You are filled with wonder.
• How does it look in size, colour and shape?
• Does it have a smell?
• How does it feel to your fingers?
• Is it heavy or light weight?
• How do you feel about eating it?
• Start to eat by taking very small bites and chewing them VERY thoroughly. Stay present.
• Does it make a sound when you bite into it, or when you chew?
• How does it feel in your mouth, between your teeth and on your tongue?
• Does it taste like you thought it would?
• Take another very small bite and chew very slowly and mindfully. Chew much slower and more frequently than you think is necessary.
• Continue to have moment to moment awareness.
• Notice when you’ve had enough and how good it feels to ask that question – to be in control.
FYI, that should take a lot longer to actually do than to read. Mindful eating isn’t the only way to eat less, but it’s an important and effective way.
We all forget our best intentions. To help you create awareness and remind you to be attentive you might want to use some sort of token placed near where you typically eat. You could choose something symbolic to you, or something that wouldn’t typically be there. When you see that thing you will think, “I’m going to settle down now and eat slowly and mindfully. Hell, ya!”
“Music is the space between the notes.” – Claude Debussy