5 Ways A Mindful Approach Helps You Heal Emotional Eating

 
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When you integrate mindfulness into your process of making peace with food, you approach healing your relationship with food in a whole different way. If you have been struggling with emotional eating, stress eating or are frustrated by the weight loss and regain that happens with the dieting roller coaster, this approach may be just what you are needing.

What would making peace with food look like within your life? For many of us, a peaceful relationship with food would offer the experience of releasing all the mental and emotional anguish surrounding food. If your relationship with food is anything but peaceful, it may feel as though your mind is constantly pulled towards distress, fear and frustration surrounding what to eat, what not to eat, calories, guilt and on and on…

Mindfulness offers a different way to approach shifting your relationship with food so that, well—food can be just food. How much mental and emotional space would open up for you if you no longer had food on the brain what feels like 24/7? Most likely A LOT! Mindfulness offers five super useful ways to begin to integrate as you approach making peace with food.

1.    Mindfulness Allows You to Live in the Present Moment—The Only Moment

Mindfulness is paying attention from moment to moment with a non-judgmental awareness. When you are fully engaged with the present moment, the worries about future stress related to food, such as what to eat, how many calories are in this or that food, fantasies about restricted foods all but slip away.

When you are fully engaged in the present moment, the worries about past stress related to food, such as, “I shouldn’t have eaten that, I overate on that, I already messed up my day” and so on, slip away. When you are truly engaged in the present moment, that is ALL that can exist, the here and the NOW. What are you doing right now? Can you focus on and just do that? Try allowing your thoughts/fears/reactive responses related to food no longer control your mind, your emotions and your inner world. Engaging fully and completely with the present moment may seem simple, but it is definitely not easy. This is a practice and requires time, effort and dedication to build as a practice. When you do, you will find your ability to create a sense of inner peace grow, which will transform your life for the positive in so many ways.

2.    Mindfulness Creates Emotional Awareness

When you are emotionally eating you are eating out of an unconscious—or maybe conscious—desire to escape emotions. While most often this escape happens subconsciously, before your conscious mind is even aware of it, mindfulness helps you become more consciously aware of your emotions, thoughts, feelings and actions. When you are being mindful, you are able to witness, explore and understand your emotions in a whole new way on a whole new level.

When you give yourself space to witness your emotions, you reduce your fears surrounding feeling uncomfortable. Giving yourself an opportunity to explore and understand your emotions allows you to know why your emotion has shown up in the first place—whether it is a comfortable or uncomfortable emotion. Emotions are valuable information about your experience of the present moment and are necessary to assess how to respond to the variety of circumstances you experience on a daily basis. When you are mindfully present with your emotions you are more likely to become aware of the why behind your emotions and no longer feel the unconscious pull towards food on such a deep level.

3.    Mindfulness Offers Less Emotional Over-Reaction

When you are experiencing an emotion over and over and it builds and builds and you do not directly attend to the needs of the emotion, at some point it will blow. You may find yourself unnecessarily irritable with loved ones or unnecessarily hard on yourself. When you eat your feelings without acknowledging and understanding them, they don’t just go away! When you eat to numb your emotions, you create a domino effect of uncomfortable emotions. Eating emotions is stuffing them. They will come up and come out at some point, no matter what. However, the more mindfully aware you become of your emotions, the more able you are to respond to them in a healthy and effective manner. When you are less reactive out of your emotions, you have a choice on how to respond to your emotions. This creates empowerment and reduces the need to soothe with food.

4.    Mindfulness Removes Judgement

When you are non-judgmental, you are not assigning any emotional response to your emotion, your food choices or yourself. When you create an experience of non-judgment you create true freedom. Think about being able to look at food and not assigning it as good or bad based on whether or not it is a “health” food. Think about food just being food.

What would it be like for you to no longer internalize the feelings of eating something you label as “bad” and that causing an uncomfortable feeling of guilt, of feeling as though you are a bad person? This is a powerful shift in perspective and in your ability to experience food, eating and yourself without added tension resulting from judgmental thoughts. Non-judgment opens you to being able to reduce stress surrounding your food choices, which ironically leads to less overeating and often more preference for nutrient dense foods.

When you no longer assign food labels such as “good” or “bad” you can concentrate on just how the food makes you feel. You can focus on what this food has to offer you and whether or not that is in alignment with your own personal wellness goals. You can make a choice surrounding food without judging yourself or feeling as though there is something you have to do to make up for or justify your decision. You don’t have to feel morally superior or deprived if you choose a salad over pizza. Try viewing your food as simply food. Ask your food what it has to offer you. Try not to assign emotions to your choices and notice the powerful impact.

5.    Mindfulness Deepens the Mind-Body Connection

Lastly, the fifth way that mindfulness helps you to make peace with food, as well as with yourself, is that you create a deeper mind-body connection and awareness. When you are frustrated with your body, your weight, and your choices this can create an internal experience of disconnecting with your body. When you are not aware of your body you lose touch with your intuition.

When you have been stuffing emotions for along time, they can become unbearable to experience internally. This causes the disconnection between mind and body to grow and grow and you then struggle to assess your food-mood connection. You may no longer be able to accurately notice how different foods make you feel. Most importantly, when you disconnect from your body you disconnect from your hunger and full cues, you disconnect from the pleasure of eating as well and never feel truly satisfied.

When you are being mindful with the process of eating and when you are mindfully aware of your body, you can assess your feelings accurately on all levels. Ideally, we want to be hungry when we eat, we want to stop eating when we are full. We want to eat for nourishment and pleasure, not for self-soothing and avoidance or simply to become full. The mind-body connection is quite powerful and the more you practice mindfulness the more you will strengthen this powerful connection.

Has mindfulness made a big impact on your life for the better? I’d love to hear your story!

Progress, NOT Perfection

 
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Do you feel ready to make BIG changes in your life and yet you are waiting for the *perfect* time to implement those changes? Perfectionism is a plague. The need to feel, be or wait until everything is *perfect* only ends up creating excuse after excuse after excuse. If you really think that there will ever be the perfect timing, circumstances, or anything else to start along your personal wellness journey, no matter what your goals, hopes and dreams may be, then you will find that you will never make it happen. 

Perfectionism is loaded with fear. It is loaded with negative self-talk and feels safest and most in control when it is ruminating on the fantasy of change rather than on allowing yourself to take imperfect action towards change. Change is a process and requires many steps. The change process involves your emotions, mindset and an ability to shift your perceptions about what you want. Having a BIG vision is helpful, but when it comes to putting the change you want into action, it is most helpful to start with small, doable steps. When you consistently place your focus, effort and mindset into completing these small steps, you inevitably will create progress.

Perfectionism will tell you lies such as, “you will begin your personal wellness journey or work on your vision and goals after the trip, the wedding, the weekend, this or that holiday…” only to have something else that will trip up your ability to be *perfect* only causing a constant delay of just starting. It is imperative to change your mindset, change your focus and change your perspective to one of “try, one of today is the day, to one of imperfect action is still action.”

Here’s the cool thing about taking imperfect action, even if the outcome isn’t exactly what you want, there is still outcome. Even if your goal is not at 100% by your desired timeline, it’s way more likely to be some % closer than if you were waiting around for just the right time to begin. Let’s say your goal is to eat 7-10 vegetables and fruits per day or to exercise for 30 minutes 3-5 days/ week or to take a yoga class 2 x’s a week. Let’s say you reach the goal 60-80% of the time each week, how would that feel? How would it feel in comparison to not setting the goal, to not create and move towards your action plan and still be waiting for the *perfect* circumstances to begin your personal wellness journey? Yeah, that’s right, not so great! Whereas 60-80% is pretty great given that change is hard and life is busy and constantly distracting.

Let your new mantra become, TRY. Let your mantra be: what ONE thing can I do today to help move me in the direction of my goal? Let you mantra be: I can do it, I will do it, I have to do it no matter what. Today is the day to start. Today is the day to take any action, no matter how small. Today is the day to set out on the journey towards the change you want. Start with your vision, then set your goals, then create your actions steps, then create a plan and then do one thing every single day that moves you in the direction of the life that you want to live. I know sounds simple, but it’s definitely not easy. Perfectionism does not just go away without a fight… This process requires daily focus, review and action. This process requires dedication and pushing through many difficult emotions, thoughts and fears.

Motivation can be hard to come by so having a determined mindset is where you begin. Your journey is yours. It does not have to be *perfect*. If you are suffering from perfectionism, ask yourself why. What happened in your life that made you feel as though being *perfect* was the only way? Ask yourself what messages you received about being *perfect* that have led to feeling stuck, stagnant and the inaction that is happening in your life at this time as a result. Please be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that your perfectionism is not useful. When you try, even not knowing what the exact outcome will be, know that it will feel awkward and uncomfortable in the beginning. The concept of being *perfect* at all is a myth. No one is perfect. Offer yourself a moment to acknowledge this and then decide what imperfect action you will take TODAY! Let me know what action you do take and how it feels, I’d love to hear from you!

Healing Emotional Eating With Mindfulness

 
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Mindfulness is something of a buzzword these days. When concepts, words or disciplines become buzzwords they can lose their true meaning and power. Mindfulness is paying attention from moment to moment with a nonjudgmental awareness. When you are practicing mindfulness you do not judge the present moment, you experience it. When you are living mindfully, each moment of life as it is experienced just as it is unfolding in the here and the now. The ability to stay present invites you to experience your life in a meaningful way, where you are not simply responding to past experiences and stress or future worries. Engaging with the present moment is experiencing what is true right now.

When you are able to experience what is true right now you are able to acknowledge, feel and accept your emotions. The act of being mindful—of being completely engaged in the present moment—offers the opportunity to no longer act or respond to life out of your unconscious mental and emotional programming. When you step away from acting out of autopilot mode, you can begin to make conscious choices about how to live your life right now. When you are able to both be aware of your emotions and make a conscious choice, emotional eating becomes less overbearing and more within your conscious control.

While mindfulness may seem like a simple concept, it is definitely not an easy practice. While there are helpful apps, classes and books you can use to learn and practice mindfulness, having quiet time to be present and reflect on your experience of the present moment is where your power lies. The power is in the practice, not it in the learning about and studying the practice itself.

When you can experience your rich internal emotional world without hesitation or attempt to flee from any emotional distress or discomfort, your self-awareness grows. Through a consistent mindfulness practice, your ability to make a choice in the present moment is enhanced. When you practice mindfulness in a disciplined manner, over time, you free yourself from the binds of emotional eating. While this progression may sound simple, or too good to be true, remember that it requires these two elements that allow it to be integrated, over time, into your life: dedication and self-discipline.

When you bring the element of dedication to the practice of mindfulness you can offer yourself time daily to pause, reflect and release any emotions that are triggering your emotional eating. (You can read more about creating this personalized plan from a previous blog on this process here.) The importance of self-discipline is all about showing up for the practice, showing up for yourself and your emotions for the long-term. When you are fully conscious of your emotions, they become less uncomfortable and more of a message about your experience of your life. When you are more deeply connected to your internal emotional world, you can respond in an empowered way to your emotions and therefore not run from them, not attempt to escape them with food—or anything else that only serves to numb out your emotions.

To establish a mindfulness practice, it is best to start with one minute and then build from there. One minute of attempting to witness your emotions, thoughts, body sensations and external environment can feel like a really long time when you first begin the practice! After two to five days, increase to two minutes. Over time you may find that ten minutes feels really great! I recommend spending some time in reflection following the practice whether through journaling or simply acknowledging what the experience was like for you. I also recommend logging the minutes and making some simple notes about how you felt before and after the practice and any emotions or thoughts that arose, just to notice, not to judge.

As you apply this practice to food, eating, and further into your life, you will see how showing up for yourself in this way is empowering and freeing. You will see how allowing yourself to experience your emotions offers you valuable and deeply meaningful information about your experience of your life. Being mindful and emotionally aware allows you to make a choice about how to respond. Over time, food becomes less of a coping tool and more of a space where you can derive nourishment and pleasure. When you begin to integrate a consistent mindfulness practice into your life you open the opportunity to truly make peace with food.