If you're a woman struggling with emotional eating, you probably often feel like you have no control around food. Because you've probably used food for so long to medicate your emotions, it's become second nature. You don't have an accurate picture of it anymore. This is why you probably swear that you can't live without M & Ms, your favorite cheesy puffs or Mom's homemade lasagna. But it's not the food that's hitting your happy spots, it's the connection to those memories. Right now you're linking extreme pleasure to eating the food and the consequence of that is that you can't seem to ever get enough. The truth is you can't get enough of it, because it's not what you really want. You're really seeking the opportunity to re-experience the positive memories that come with eating the food. However in order to extract those feel good feelings, you don't have to overeat the food.
The following method is to be used in conjunction with a permission based eating approach to food called Intuitive Eating. If you are dieting or restricting the foods you eat, you will have a much harder time with this exercise. This is because as a dieter, you will always want what you think you can't have. If you believe that you can't or shouldn't eat chocolate, then it will be extremely difficult for you to feel the level of safety intended in this exercise that comes with knowing that you can eat what you want whenever you get hungry.
in order to fully overcome emotional eating, it is essential that you find resourceful ways of dealing with the often uncomfortable emotions that drive you to eat. It is also important to be able to neutralize these emotions and deal with them so that they do not trigger the desire to overeat. For this, I heartily recommend the use of doing whatever you have to do to cope aggressively with the stress in your life. I teach my clients a variety of techniques listed under the umbrella category of energy psychology tools or energy therapy. They function to eliminate painful emotional and physical blockages in the body. One of my favorite processes is based on the science of acupuncture. It's called Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT.
I've created the following exercise for my Say Goodbye to Dieting Program. I recommend that you use this Mindful and Gentle Eating Exercise to become more conscious of your eating, slow yourself down and refocus on how the food makes you feel and notice how it feels in your body in the moment and over time.
The intention of the exercise is to begin to reawaken your sense of how to eat more mindfully, in full conscious awareness of your thoughts and feelings as you eat. If you're inclined to be a fast eater like me, I know how hard it is for you to consider eating more slowly. Eating fast is a sign of compulsion, that stems from fear of lack. Many non diet weight loss programs only advocate eating slowly as a means of breaking the habit of compulsion that drives the speed eating. I don't agree with that. As a gal who has always eaten very fast, I resented it when anyone told me to eat slowly. The resistance you feel is that little survival part of you that refuses to be made to feel unsafe ever again. I promise I won't ever take anything away from you. My only desire is to add to what you already have.
As a Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming, I encourage you to learn by giving you the opportunity to enjoy contrast. I believe that choices are essential to being happy and in order to create new habits effortlessly, you have to feel really good about what you choose. You'll notice in this exercise, I'll ask you to eat slowly and then I'll encourage you to eat at your normal pace, whatever that may be and then alternate between the two speeds. That is done so that your brain can reorganize itself and find an intermediate speed that will become a new comfort level for you. To prepare you to do the exercise, please do the following 5 intermediary steps, AE.
You may choose to eat anything that you want. The choice is up to you. This exercise is done to consciously slow you down. You may find it a challenge at first, later it will become a great joy.
A. Find five emotional food connections in your life that have in the past compelled you to eat when you were not hungry.
B. What has that food meant to you?
C. What memories rise to the surface when you think about it?
D. Go out and get one of those foods or all of them, bring it home or prepare it. (For best results, you'll practice this exercise each time with each of the individual foods you've chosen)
E. Before you are ready to sit down and eat your chosen food, set your place with the appropriate silverware and a napkin (even if you are eating a pint of ice cream, make sure that you have a napkin) You don't have to serve it in a bowl unless you choose to do so. Now you're ready to begin.
Mindful and Gentle Eating Process
1. Bring your journal to the table
2. Have your silverware and optional plate or bowl ready along with your napkin
3. Place the food on the table
4. Sit down facing it
5. Look at it
6. Smell it
7. Be present with your feelings as they surface
8. Notice those feelings
9. Sit for a few moments and write down your observations of the food and your feelings connected to it
10. Close your journal
11. Pause and think for a moment, offering thanks for this food
12. Pick up your utensil
13. Take a small bite or spoonful.
14. Place the food in your mouth and allow it to rest on the tip of your tongue.
15. Swirl it around in your mouth for about 3 to 7 seconds
16. Notice the sensations that come up for you
17. Slowly chew it or allow it to gently glide down your throat.
18. Put down your fork or spoon and resist picking it up for a moment. If you have to sit on your hands, then do it
19. Just sit with those feelings for about 10 -15 seconds
20. Repeat the process from stage 12-19 until you are satisfied. Notice the degree of that satisfaction. Do this at least 3 times during the week. The rest of the times eat at your normal pace. See what you discover.