A New Relationship With Mealtimes; Breaking the Compulsive Eating Cycle.

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When you hear the term ‘comfort food’ – what comes to mind?

There’s at least one dish—no matter your culture, race, ethnicity, country you live in or where you call home—that each of us can think of; a holiday meal you hold close to your heart, or a baked good that brings back memories you love.

Experiencing those moments of comfort through food can, at times and over time, turn into habits – where we turn to food for comfort, and find ourselves compulsively eating in an attempt to find some sense of peace.

Compulsive eating is complex – and at its root is often some unmet—or unaddressed—emotional needs. To break the cycle of compulsive eating, it’s important and imperative to understand why we reach for food, so we can start to consider new ways of satiating the feelings inside.

If you have a sense that there’s a compulsive pattern to your eating or snacking, here are some gentle steps to start breaking through to a more mindful relationship with food:

Eat when you’re hungry. Listen to your body, watch for cues of true hunger, and let it tell you when it’s ready to eat. When you do sit down to enjoy a meal, do your best to not be restrictive.

Eat sitting down in a calm environment. Set aside time to eat, have a meal seated at a table, and enjoy what you consume with a side of great conversation (if you can) and limited distractions.

Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, and intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.

Eat what your body wants. Your body’s got a lot of information about what it wants and needs to feel fueled. Choose foods that serve your body and fuel it thoughtfully.

Eat until you are satisfied. Pay attention to the cues your body gives you. Eat slowly. Take frequent pauses to tune into how you feel. Evaluate how you feel before getting more food at a meal; wait 10-15 minutes between servings so you don’t over-indulge.

Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others. Creating a new relationship with food means choosing to eat and consume from an empowered place of visibility with yourself and others.

Eat with enjoyment and pleasure. Eat from a place of enjoyment and not shame. When you are in control of your cravings and eating food to fuel your body it brings a sense of pleasure to your eating experience.

Start today.

While some of the skills listed above can take time to cultivate, here are a couple things to try out this week that can kick start a new relationship with how, when, and what you eat:

  1. Have a fridge stocked full of healthy, accessible snacks and meals to help you make choices that support your body’s wellbeing.
  2. Meal plan and make extras (for easy, healthy leftover meals) so you aren’t scrambling to find something to eat last minute.
  3. Do your best to not skip meals; it can lead to overeating when you do sit down to eat.

When you go to eat, do so slowly; try not to inhale your meal. Eating is an experience to be savored and enjoyed; take your time as you eat to taste the flavors and textures in every bite. Chew fully (it supports your digestion AND makes it easier to slow down as you eat).

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