Eating serves many purposes, from supplying our bodies with nutrients to simply being a comfort tool. The ongoing global pandemic continues to disrupt everyday life, causing daily stressors which can lead to emotional eating. It is more important than ever to be mindful of our actions, and mindful eating is just one way to remain present and focus our thoughts and intentions.
Mindful eating is a technique that helps you gain control over your eating habits. Food is both a means to fuel us and a source of comfort, and ultimately affects the way we feel. Fostering a healthy and mindful relationship with food is extremely important. Our Colorado Spirit team explains why it is important to avoid emotional eating and how you can practice mindful eating in your daily routine.
Food gives us sustenance and the energy to live, but it also gives us dopamine (the feel good chemical). This is what makes us enjoy eating and helped us develop evolutionarily. This dopamine helps us feel better, so when we are stressed, eating helps to temporarily relieve that. This can lead to “emotional eating”, which is a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions like stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness, or loneliness. Daily stressors and major life events that trigger negative emotions can also lead to emotional eating.
This gives us a lot of control over our food intake, for better and for worse. We can find ourselves eating more to cope with negative emotions, or not eating at all. Ultimately, we can control our eating, and ensure we’re eating the right amount for our bodies by using other coping strategies to deal with stress.
HOW TO AVOID EMOTIONAL EATING
Pay attention to your triggers. There may not always be a clear cause and effect, but this is something you can take note of and start to track. What are some of the things that lead up to you finding yourself in the kitchen? Is it specific emotions? Certain situations? Try keeping a journal or another means of logging to try and understand what causes this.
Check in with your feelings daily. By being more aware of your feelings on a daily basis you can try and understand what to look out for that may be a stressor that day. If things become overwhelming you can talk to someone about your feelings. Whether that is a therapist, peer, or loved one, having a support network can be a helpful coping mechanism.
Remove stressors from your life. This looks different for everyone. While there are some stressors that we have no control over, like the effects of COVID-19, there are certain things you can control in your life to help limit stress. Whether it is keeping your house clean and clutter free or dedicating “alone time” every day, find what it is in your life that helps make you feel more at peace.
Practice healthy eating habits. Setting designated meal time and space is a great way to be intentional about your eating. Stepping away from screens and having distraction free eating time is also a great way to practice mindful eating.
TIPS FOR MINDFUL EATING
Mindfulness is known as the psychological state of awareness, the practices that promote awareness, and a mode of processing information. In simpler terms, mindfulness is about being fully present and aware of our surroundings in the current moment. It means having a moment-to-moment awareness of your experiences without judgment.
Mindfulness can be applied to nearly every aspect of life, including eating and our relationship with food. Practicing mindful eating will not only help create healthy eating habits, but will help foster greater overall well-being by strengthening your everyday mindfulness. Here are just some of the ways to be intentional about your mindful eating.
Slow down. It takes 15 minutes for your food to reach the stomach and for the brain to send a signal that it is sufficiently full. Put your fork & knife down between bites. Sip and savor your drink, don’t gulp. Lastly, make sure you’re sufficiently and fully chewing your food before you swallow!
Focus on your 5 senses as you eat. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to color, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew your food, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings and focus on the following:
- What you taste
- What you smell
- What you see
- What you feel & the various sensations in your mouth as you eat
- What you hear (i.e. noises as you drink or environmental sounds)
Don’t multitask. Always sit at the table (or your designated eating area), avoid screen times, and put work aside while you eat. We too often find ourselves distracted while we eat, which can lead to eating too fast or overeating.
Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.
Everyone’s relationship with food is different, and it is important to be kind and non-judgmental to yourself. If you feel like you or someone you know may be struggling, Jefferson Center’s Colorado Spirit team is here for you. Offering free and confidential support, we can help you with counseling tips and strategies to cope successfully and referrals to additional mental health resources. Call 720-731-4689 if you need to talk or visit cospirit.org to learn more.
If you or someone you know is in a crisis, please call 1-844-492-8255 or visit our 24/7 crisis walk-in center at 4643 Wadsworth Blvd, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033.