In our culture of thigh-gap enthusiasts and celebrities who promote waist trainers and detox teas, eating well and developing a legitimately healthy/friendly/loving/peaceful relationship with food often doesn’t come naturally. It’s just not sexy like that juice cleanse that can help you lose 10 pounds in a week. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: It is everything.
You see, no diet or or device alone is going to get you where you need to be unless you’re simultaneously addressing what drives you to eat (and eat and eat) in the first place. The emotional component, if you will. Any sustainable change to your health or weight comes when you’ve developed the ability to eat and live mindfully.
How do I know this? Because after about 10 years of craziness — dieting, avoiding food one day and binging the next, consuming countless bags of Splenda, even an unsuccessful attempt at toothbrush-induced purging, telling myself that guys would eventually like me when I finally got skinny, calorie counting, and unhealthy amounts of running (so I could eat ice cream) — I realized, wow, this is exhausting.
Then, I got really sick with Lyme disease and that’s what prompted me to slow down and tune into my diet and emotions. That’s when I began to understand that food was my fuel and medicine, and I realized that while eating can and should be a pleasurable experience, it shouldn’t be used as a coping mechanism or reward.
I learned, though, that in order to make the shift to eating more mindfully, I really had to be ready and be prepared that it was going to take work. We often don’t want to face the demons, the stressors, the insecurities that are leading us to overeat in the first place…it’s uncomfortable, after all. But until you do, you’ll fall right back into your old habits (like, say, eating half a jar of peanut butter in a day…with chocolate chips sprinkled in #truestory).
These tips helped me adopt a more healthy, happy relationship with food. Hopefully, they can guide you in your daily efforts to eat more mindfully too.
1. When you eat, eat. Focus on your food and put down your phone. Really taste it, smell it, savor it, chew it. Swallow your first bite before you take your second, and take a moment to be grateful that you have food to eat in the first place.
2. Feel what you’re feeling. Don’t mask it with food. Need to cry? Let the tears flow. Need to scream? Do it. Allowing your body to express real emotion is cathartic, relieves stress, and is often the first step in getting over something. Someone wise once told me (after a particularly rough break up) that you can’t get over anything until you get through it. So grab a box of tissues and get through whatever it is.
3. Be nice to yourself. You are a person…and a pretty amazing one at that. Sure, you’re flawed and you make mistakes, but one of the most important things to realize is that you always have the ability to change. So support yourself throughout this process like you’d support a friend in need and cut yourself a break.
4. Tune into your triggers. You don’t just binge on donut holes by the dozen for fun. Something triggers you. It could be boredom, stress, anger, sadness, nervousness. Tune into your specific triggers throughout the day, identify them, and then…
5. Develop non-food rewards. After we’re triggered, our natural inclination can be to soothe ourselves with food. Take a moment and come up with a list of rewards (things that will make you smile, banish stress, calm you down) that don’t involve eating and strategically incorporate them into your day.
6. Remember to breathe. In through your nose, fill up your belly, hold it for a few seconds, let it out through your mouth. Ahhhhh. Sometimes just pausing during a stressful moment for a few deep breaths is all you need to short-circuit a binge.
7. Don’t stress about time. Worried that seeing the results of practicing mindfulness will take too long? Well, it might take a while, but whether you put in the work or not, time passes. So the choice is yours: In a year or two, you can be a more balanced, healthier, and probably slimmer you; or you can stay the same.
8. Think progress not perfection. Rome wasn’t built in a day, folks. This is an ongoing process, not a quick fix.
Peace, love, and peanut butter (in moderation),
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Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.