This is the third post in a new series, where I discuss my top tips for quitting binging. These tips – or practices – have worked for me and many others in long-term recovery. In the first two posts, I talked about how important it is to eliminate food-related guilt (click here to read the first tip) and to put weight loss on the backburner (click here to read). In this third tip, I’m going to talk about mindful eating.
What is mindful eating? Simply put, it’s the practice of eating with mindfulness. Mindfulness involves being in the present moment and focusing your attention on the current internal and/or external sensations, feelings, thoughts, and observations of the world. Mindful eating is simply applying the idea of mindfulness to the act of eating. When you eat mindfully, it’s impossible to binge. Simple, right?
Well, not so simple actually. Most of us are constantly focused on the future or the past – we’re rarely in the present. Oftentimes this is a major cause of anxiety and even physical health problems. Yet, keeping your head stuck in the past or future is not an easy habit to break. Many people use meditation or yoga to learn how to be mindful, but this can be difficult for someone whose mind is used to going 100 miles per minute!
When we binge, we are never being mindful. Most of the time, we’re watching TV or reading or playing on the computer to distract us from our eating. Or, our brains are a million miles away from the food and our bodies. Or, we’re thinking about our next meal or the next bite … or how guilty we feel or how “bad” we are for eating this or that. Or, sometimes we’re even in a binge-induced trance where we have almost no awareness of anything!
So, how do we eat mindfully? The most important step is to eliminate or reduce distractions. When you eat, don’t do anything else. Just eat. No TV or phone or laptop. Just you and the food (and maybe your partner). Also try to reduce distracting thoughts. As your mind wanders, keep gently returning your focus to the food and the process of eating. Use all your senses in paying attention to the food, and focus on how the food feels in your mouth, in your stomach, etc. Listen to any feedback you get from your body. If your taste buds are telling you something doesn’t taste good, then don’t eat it. If your stomach is starting to gently remind you that you’re full, stop eating.
Theoretically, it seems so simple, but it’s much harder to put into practice, and it does take a lot of practice. Take baby steps. Try to remind yourself throughout the day to be present in the moment – to be mindful of your surroundings. And on a relatively drama-free day, try eating mindfully for just one meal. Don’t tell yourself “from now on, I’m eating mindfully all the time.” That seems too overwhelming. Just do it for one meal. And maybe another after that. You don’t have to do it for every meal or even every day. In my own experience, it feels a little weird at first (I was really, really attached to my TV and computer distracted eating rituals). But I soon began to enjoy my mindful eating time and even look forward to it. Crazy, right? The need to binge or overeat is never there when I’m truly being mindful, probably because it is MUCH easier to obtain satisfaction from your eating experience when you’re actually paying attention and savoring each bite! Suddenly, having just one or two cookies (instead of the entire box) becomes possible, because when you take the time to eat a cookie slowly and savor and truly appreciate it, there really is no desire to eat a hundred more!
But practicing mindfulness in my life is always a work in progress. I still have a ways to go in learning to direct my mind to the present moment more often, and I’m currently trying to work harder on that. So far, the payoff has been enormous. Just in the last two days since I started putting post-it reminders around my house (with cheesy sayings like “Be present” or “I’m fine RIGHT NOW”), I’m felt so much calmer and more peaceful, and it’s really kind of an amazing feeling. 🙂 I’m going to give myself a few weeks with this renewed effort and see how things progress, and I’ll write another blog post detailing my progress!
What are your experiences with mindful eating … or mindfulness in general? What is one mindfulness goal (even a tiny one) you can make for the next few weeks?
P.S. If you’re interested in joining a “Mindful Eating” online group event for support and tips in the month of May, message me below in the comments! 🙂