When I begin working with a client, I often hear some version of, “I just love food so much that it has power over me — that’s why I overeat.”
I used to have that same thought.
But there is good news. It’s a process called mindful eating and it can create substantial shifts in eating habits. For many, it begins working the very first time they try it.
Think about the last time you overate. Do you remember how each bite tasted? Did all of the bites of food taste the same, or different? How did the food smell? How did its texture feel in your mouth? How did the food feel in your body? What was your favorite part of it?
If it was truly all about the enjoyment of food, wouldn’t you remember many of these details? Wouldn’t you savor every single bite?
The truth is, most of us remember very little from the times we overeat.
The Forgettable Blur of Overeating
Usually it goes something like this:
“I sat down in front of the TV to have a snack. Before I knew it, the box/bag/carton was empty.”
The practice of overeating is more about zoning out than about love for food. It’s what happens when we desire a feeling, and instead of processing and honoring that desired feeling, we attempt to fill the need with food instead. When food fails to give us the feeling we desire, we ultimately zone out. Here’s an example:
Mary moves to a new town and misses her friends. Sitting home on Friday night, she craves her favorite snack food. It’s only been 45 minutes since dinner, and she’s not physically hungry — but decides she can’t resist it. So she opens the snack food and settles in to watch a movie. Deep down, she’s lonely in the new town and wants to feel a connection. She eats faster and faster. Soon the bag is empty. Now she feels even worse.
When we overeat, our truest desires can easily go unheard.
Mindful eating opens the door to hearing our true desires. It does this by keeping us present, not only with food, but also with our body, spirit and thoughts. Therefore, our desires can finally be heard and honored. Zoning out is no longer necessary.
That’s why it’s tough to eat mindfully and overeat at the same time. <– Click to Tweet this!
Ready to give it a shot?
Choose a food you really enjoy and then follow the steps below.
9 Steps to Mindful Eating:
1. Get present with the food, your body and your thoughts. That means eliminate distractions and give the food your full attention. Turn off the television and leave the phone in another room. If possible, create a beautiful setting that helps you focus on the meal. Observe how your body feels before you begin eating. Observe your thoughts. Vow to love yourself through this process, noticing your thoughts and actions without judgement.
2. Sight: Before taking your first bite, observe the food. Note its color and texture. Is it visually appealing? What else do you observe?
3. Smell: Slowly inhale. Note the scent of the food. Any other observations? Does the smell of the food trigger anything, like causing your mouth to water, etc…?
4. Taste: Take your first bite. What is the initial flavor as the food hits your mouth? Does it change over time?
5. Touch: How does the food feel in your mouth?Chew slowly and thoroughly. If using utensils, place them on the table between bites. Take your time.
6. Sound: As you’re biting and chewing — do you observe any sounds? (Example: The crunch of an apple.)
7. Repeat the above steps for each bite. As you slowly take additional bites, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is eating what I truly want in this moment?
- Is my enjoyment of this food increasing or decreasing?
- Is the flavor of this food changing with subsequent bites? If so, how?
- How does my stomach feel?
- How does this food feel in my body?
- What thoughts am I having during this process?
8. If at any point your enjoyment of the food decreases, or you begin questioning if you want to continue — allow yourself time to decide if you want to go on or not. Ask yourself the following:
- Have I had enough?
- What is my body fullness/satisfaction level?
- Does my body need more food, or does my mind want more food?
- Is food what I truly want in this moment or is it something else? If so, what?
- What is the feeling I’m really desiring right now? What action can give me that feeling?
9. If you decide to continue — the only rule is to stay 100% present and stick to the above steps until the last bite.
Don’t be surprised if you eat a lot less than usual. Staying present will do that.
Sending lots of love.
Photo courtesy of Alex Thomson.