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Are You an Emotional Eater?

Six Steps to Gain Control of Unwanted Food Habits

“She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.”

~Terri St. Cloud

Emotional eating plays a large role in the epidemic of obesity in our country. We eat mindlessly most of the time. In addition to contributing to missing out on one of life’s most enjoyable pleasures, mindless eating can lead to many health problems. Nearly two thirds of Americans are overweight and one third of Americans fall into the category of obesity. Although diets and weight loss plans are easy to come by, obesity is still on the rise. It is imperative that we look more deeply into this alarming health concern in our country.

Mindfulness practice offers an alternative. When we bring mindful attention to the process of eating, we tend to notice experiences that otherwise pass undetected. We are able to see relationships between thoughts, feelings and eating. We might find ourselves eating more rapidly when something upsets us and slowing down our eating when we are more at peace. We become able to recognize and tolerate emotions rather than automatically turning to food to soothe or distract. We may even be able to cultivate eating as an opportunity to appreciate our connection to the world outside ourselves, honoring the efforts that go into producing, transporting and preparing the food. We may even discover an awareness of the how the energy of the sun has been transformed in to what appears on our plates.

In learning to eat mindfully, there are 6 steps to think about and to integrate into daily life. Remember: change takes time and commitment. If you are true to your vision of better health through mindful eating, then it could be said “the longer the journey, the more certain is lifetime healing.” Ready to change? Here are 6 points to remember along the way:

1. There are honorable and respectable reasons why you eat emotionally. What might some of these reasons be? Bring awareness to why and when you eat, as well as what you eat, and make an awareness list…to learn from. Began to notice…non-judgmentally.
2. The primary symptoms are not the primary problem. Take a few minutes each day to be still and ask yourself: “what might be underneath all of this?” Add any insights to your awareness list…again, non-judgmentally.
3. Change and transformation do not come from will power or sheer determination. This only invites defeat and discouragement. Instead: become aware, take full responsibility, commit to change (self-correct and continue to commit), and keep your vision in mind at all times. Choose long term success over momentary pleasure.
4. Honor your obstacles: your most difficult area is your doorway to learning and healing. Adopt an attitude of gratitude and begin to see obstacles as gifts…teachers…leading you to your true self.
5. Heal the beliefs that created your emotional eating. How did this begin? What beliefs are outdated and unskillful in terms of healthy living and eating? Notice and be aware. Add what you discover to your awareness list.
6. Remember: there are no instant cures and there are no magic buttons. Transformation is a journey. Trust the process and let patience and compassion be your guides. Stay committed to your well-being.

The following is an informal eating meditation to assist you in cultivating awareness and presence:

Informal Eating Practice

Take a few minutes to settle yourself in a chair and place what you plan to eat in front of you. Turn off the TV and put down any reading material. Notice your breath without changing anything. Notice sensations in the body. Observe any tension and see if hunger is present or absent. Are you experiencing any cravings? Are any emotions present? See if you can observe thoughts that might be arising without criticizing them. Can you describe your reason for eating right now: is it hunger? Boredom? Craving? Or a need to eat because of your schedule or because of the time of day or evening? Simply be aware, non-judgmentally, of your motivation to eat.

Now allow yourself to take a bite. Notice if you are truly tasting your food: what does it feel like in the mouth? What is the texture of the food? Are you feeling compelled to chew and swallow? Continue eating, paying attention to each bite. Notice both hunger and satiety: the sense that your belly is full and that you’ve had enough to eat. How do you feel after eating? Were you able to choose the appropriate amount of food for you at this time? If not, what occurred?

Learning to eat mindfully is a skill and a tool that can support you in building a life of health and wellness. It’s never too late to be as healthy as possible! Begin with awareness…cultivating presence in the moment…and gradually create a life of wellness and well-being. As best, don’t fret about past habits and behaviors. Instead, move forward, trusting in your wholeness and your ability to choose wisely and with compassion and love.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of eating mindfully and how to incorporate mindful practices into daily life, I’ve hand-selected some resources to get you started. Materials include videos, a downloadable ebook and handouts. This is my gift to you, I am here to support you on your journey. Simply fill in your name and email address and you’ll be taken to a page loaded with free goodies.

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