It is so easy, and so common, for us to eat mindlessly.  I may come home and begin eating whatever is available without thoughts about hunger, need and the quality of food I’m eating at the moment.

This is especially obvious when we snack in front of the TV.  We snack automatically, distracted by whatever we are watching and end up eating far too much without regard for the consequences of weight gain or impact on our metabolic health.

Eating mindfully takes a willingness to sit and slow down; to become aware of the emotions inside of us.  We must do this without judgement.  If you are tense or angry from the day’s events, take a moment to take 3, deep breaths, and try to be with the emotions rather than avoiding them. Try to focus, then, on whether you are truly hungry or simply have a desire to eat to suppress the frustration inside.  All of us must slow down; we eat too much, too fast and truly never wait for the satiety signal to tell us, “enough.”  Learn to be aware of when you are satisfied and when you are full.  We should never leave a meal feeling “over full.”  If we do, we have likely eaten more than our body requires.

Eating has become disconnected from nourishment and instead has become an automatic reaction to negative emotions, misunderstood physical sensations and mental stress that have little to do with being hungry.  During the pandemic, these emotions, reactions and sensations have been heightened to a level we’ve never experienced before. The effect of all this on our mental and physical bodies has, for many people, been profoundly challenging.  

Snacks are almost always used as an emotion-management tool; a way to cope with or escape from the stress or reality of life events. Try to pause in those moments and reflect on what the driving forces may be, and then reassess the desire to eat.  A pause could be: having a mug of tea or broth before assessing the need to snack again; it could be going outside for 5 minutes and taking deep breaths before going back to reassess; go somewhere in the house and focus on one chore for 5 minutes, then go back and reassess. 

Learn mindful eating.  Slow down. Enjoy each bite.  Avoid eating in front of the TV.  Learn to eat to satisfaction and not fullness.

In our society, and especially during the pandemic when we have very few outlets and feelings of purpose, with readily available snacks, big portions and never-ending screen time, we have created the habit of putting too many nutritionally-empty foods into our bodies than are necessary for daily functioning.  Focus on the moment, take pause, and then reassess the need to snack.  Also, I recently read a great perspective from a psychologist on the subject of self-sabotage.  She said self-sabotage stemmed from 5 issues: procrastination, avoiding our feelings, acting out, fear of failure, and negative self-talk.  If you notice yourself sabotaging your healthy efforts, pay attention to whether any of those 5 issues might be coming up.  

Be mindful.  Keep pushing forward and get back on track.  You can do it – never give up trying!

Dr. Doug