It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon. You need something sweet so you head to the donut shop and drool as you smack away in chocolate covered heaven. Now, it’s 9:30pm, you’re in your 3rd hour of T.V. After fighting this endlessly nagging voice to grab a bowl of ice cream – or cereal – or chips and dip, whatever it is that calls to you in the night – you just do it.
We all have our own personal motivations and incentives for holding on to mindless eating. We deserve this donut. We rationalize the ice cream before bed is because we ate less at dinner, so we have cause to eat more. Even though deep down, we know it isn’t the healthiest or best choice for us physically and for our self-esteem, there is something about the process that we need. There are some positives to us in mindless eating that we are very reluctant to lose.
Simply put, it is ‘pleasure’ among a host of other emotions. There is joy and contentment, even fun, in having ‘forbidden’ foods that taste yummy, tickle our tongues and please our palettes. And often, mindless eating soothes our emotions – stress, anxiety, depression, sadness – when nothing else seems to. We’re bored, angry, trying to be perfect (and losing that game), or in social situations. Psychological as well as physiological needs surface when choosing foods at various times of the day, and even during varying times in our life.
In order to stop mindless eating, it’s critical that we figure out why we do it; after all, we know it’s no good for us. We need to understand the feelings we have that help us determine when and what to eat – we also need to develop a keen sense of what exactly is the function of our mindless eating and what we can substitute for it once we get that figured out!
One way to begin the conversion of mindless to mindful eating is to create a list of the good and not so good things about mindless eating. In other words, the pro’s, or positive aspects of eating mindlessly as well as the con’s, or negative aspects. Take a few moments and honestly think about what you would miss if you didn’t have mindless eating. Make a list of the reasons you enjoy mindless eating. An example could be, “Mindless eating helps me unwind after a long and stressful day.” Or, “Mindless eating lets me eat foods that are no-no’s.” A con might be, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing – I feel so fat,” or “I am so ashamed of myself for pigging out senselessly.”
Reflect truthfully upon your answers – in yoga or meditation, or quiet reflection/journaling, or while taking a leisurely walk, and you might be surprised at the answers you find. After this portion of the exercise, you may be in a better position to understand the cues your feelings give you – and begin to make some changes that leave you in a better state of mind.