What Is Mindfulness and Mindful Eating?
Mindfulness is an ancient practice characterized by continually being present, giving attention to our thoughts, and emotions with an open, non-judgmental approach.
Mindfulness has been used in a variety of therapeutic settings because it can help us process emotions and reduce stress. In recent years, the practice of mindfulness has been translated to the world of nutrition, named the mindful eating, to help people increase awareness while eating and establish nourishing eating patterns.
Mindful eating is a simple yet impactful tool to help you overcome emotional eating, gain control over your eating habits by listening to your physical sensations and being more aware of your overall eating experience.
How to Know If I am am Emotiona Eater?
It often leads to eating too much, especially too much of high-calorie, sweet and fatty foods. The good news is that if you’re prone to emotional eating, you can take steps to regain control of your eating habits and get back on track with your goals.
There’s some questions that you can ask to yourself, which will help you to know if you are considered as an emotional eater, like:
- Do you feel the urgent need to eat?
- Do you eat to feel better, when you are sad, angry, bored, anxious?
- Do you crave specific unhealthy comfort foods?
- Do you feel powerless, and lack self-control?
- Do you leave yourself with feelings of guilt, shame or negative self-talk after eating?
- Do you regularly eat until you’ve stuffed yourself?
- Do you reward yourself with food?
What Is the Difference Between Emotional Hunger and Physical Hunger?
We do not always eat to satisfy our physical hunger. Many of us also turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or to reward ourselves. And when we do, we tend to reach for junk food, sweets, and other comforting but unhealthy foods. When you’re bored or lonely, you might reach for a pint of ice cream or order a pizza. Emotional eating is using food to make yourself feel better, to fill emotional needs, rather than your stomach.
You must first learn to differentiate between emotional and physical hunger. Because emotional hunger can be so strong, it’s easy to confuse it with physical hunger. However, there are some clear signs that can help you tell them apart:
- Emotional hunger strikes suddenly. It comes at you fast and feels overwhelming and urgent. Physical hunger, on the other hand, develops over time.
- Emotional hunger causes a craving for specific comfort foods, like junk food or sugary snacks that provide instant rush.
- When you’re physically hungry, almost anything tastes good, including healthy foods like vegetables.
- Emotional hunger frequently results in mindless eating. Before you know it, you’ve consumed an entire bag of chips without paying attention or fully enjoying them.
- Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full. You keep wanting more and more, often eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed.
- Emotional hunger usually results in regret, guilt, or shame. If you feel guilty after eating, it’s probably because you know deep down that you’re not eating for nutrition reasons.
Does Emotional Eating Become a Habit?
Yes, it’s called the emotional eating cycle.
When eating becomes your primary emotional coping mechanism, when your first impulse is to open the refrigerator whenever you’re stressed, upset, angry, lonely, exhausted, or bored, you get stuck in an unhealthy cycle in which the true emotion or problem is never addressed. This becomes a habit.
But, no matter how powerless you feel over food and your emotions, you can make a positive change. You can learn better ways to deal with your emotions, avoid triggers, overcome cravings, and finally put an end to emotional eating.
How Can I Overcome My Emotional Eating?
By practicing mindful eating.
How to do that?
- Take a moment by Pausing for 5 minutes when cravings hit and check in with yourself. Clear your head, ask yourself why you want to eat, shift your attention to something else, so you give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision.
- Keep a food record: Write down what, how much, why and when did you eat, how you’re feeling when you eat and how hungry you are. Overtime, you will see a pattern emerge that reveal the connection between mood and food.
- Take small bites, eat slowly, chew thoroughly and set down the fork. Usually you tend to eat so fast you miss out on the different tastes and textures of your food, as well as your body’s cues that you’re full and no longer hungry. It takes around 20 minutes for the body’s fullness signal to reach your brain, but by slowing down, you’ll not only enjoy your food and the experience of eating, you’ll also be likely to avoid overeating.
- Stop eating when you are 80% full.
- Start with a small portion size of food by using smaller plates.
- Remove distractions: such as watching TV, playing with your phone or other, since your mind is elsewhere, you may continue eating even though you’re no longer hungry.
- Focus on your senses, by noticing the smells, tastes and texture of your food.
- Rate your hunger on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being “you’re so hungry”.
- When you go food shopping, go shop on full empty stomach, prepare your shopping list before going, avoid buying multiple bags of your comfort food because if you do not have them at your fingertips, you can’t eat the whole bag.
How Mindful Eating Improves My Relationship with Food?
Mindful eating is all about awareness while eating.
It creates a positive mindset around food, help reduce overeating and help you distinguish between physical hunger and satisfactions cues. It is a way to develop healthier eating habits, which can be a key to overall emotional wellness.
Your body is a reflection of your lifestyle, this is why our main focus must be to build Wellness rather than treat disease. By integrating mindfulness into our eating habits, committing to strategies, techniques to overcome emotional eating, gain control over those eating habits, shift our perspective, and begin to make appropriate health-conscious decisions.
Make appropriate health-conscious decisions. By restoring wellness to our body and mind, mindful practices can be used effectively in our daily lives. We must learn to trust our bodies and their cues in order to eliminate food cravings, manage weight, and improve our relationship with food.