If you’re like me, this happens all to often. On minute you are thinking you will just have a bite, the next the entire meal is gone and you are filled with guilt.
This happens even more frequently when your body is under stress, either from an overactive schedule, unyielding responsibilities, or facing health concerns. Your mind will look for anything to alleviate the pressure from it all and food is an easy answer.
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I spent much of my time looking for comfort in the brownie section of the grocery store. Although all that chocolaty goodness gave me momentary relief from my fear and pain (just like Crack does to a junkie), it ended up causing more physical harm than good (again, just like Crack).
According to expert Dr. Barry Sears, eating or drinking 100 grams of sugar, the equivalent of about two cans of soda or large slice of cake, can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs and bacteria by 40 percent. The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes after ingestion and may last for up to six hours. He also says that sugar also sours behavior, attention, and learning.
By choosing an unhealthy diet, you are taxing your already stressed body and stretching it beyond its capabilities. As an added bonus, it also creates more anxiety, guilt and shame to your emotional state (which, in my case, was already pretty freaked out).
As I always say, “You can’t always control what is happening to you, but you can control how you handle it and how you honor your body in the process.”
How do we stop sliding down the sugary slope into uncontrolled eating hell?
Instead of heading to the fridge when your mind is overloaded, take a deep breathe and calm down (literally). Clearing your mind and doing something different (anything different) is a start to breaking the toxic bond with food. Go for a walk, close your eyes and take five deep inhales, play with the kids or dog, do something that gets you out of your head.
Changing old patterns also starts by eating more mindfully.
By mindfully eating, you learn to pay attention to your food while setting an intention for its use in your body. You can then notice and enjoy what you’ve ingested instead of shoving food in your mouth for speed or comfort (have you ever seen someone driving on the freeway shoveling a burger in his mouth? Not much attention there).
Mindful eating encompasses the entire meal process:
• You become aware of your physical and emotional cues
• Recognize your non-hunger triggers
• Learn processing skills to meet your emotional needs without food
• Determine when you are full and stop
• Develop a healthier, happier relationship with food
In Psychology Today, Jan Chozen Bays says that, “Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. We notice the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds. We also pay attention to the experience of the body. Where in the body do we feel hunger? Where do we feel satisfaction? What does half-full feel like, or three quarters full? And we look at what is happening in the mind. While avoiding judgement or criticism, we notice how eating affects our mood and how our emotions like anxiety influence our eating. Gradually we regain the sense of ease and freedom with eating.”
Eating more mindfully isn’t hard, but remember, we have had our eating habits most of our life. Like anything, change takes a little time so start slow with consistency.
Lean in to mindful eating by experimenting with a couple of these ideas:
1. Try taking the first sips of a cup of hot tea or coffee with full attention.
2. Talk to your family about how your food got to the table, where it came from and who made it possible for you to eat it.
3. Ask everyone at the table to eat in silence for a couple of minutes, then talk about what the food taste like (just don’t get offended if they don’t like it), and the smells, texture, emotions you feel while eating.
4. Start by eating one meal a week alone in silence. Think about what you are eating and how it affects you.
Most Importantly, Enjoy Your Meal! Food Is a Pleasure and a Gift. Honor It and Your Body.
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