Healthy habits and daily rituals are two ways to help overcome emotional/mindless/stress eating. Unfortunately the term ‘healthy’ has even become an eating disordered term on some occasions. Foods are not inherently good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, etc. Healthy habits however (say that ten times really quickly) are helpful. Here are a list of multiple things you can implement into your daily rituals:
- Eat at the table. It is very tempting to sit on the couch in front of the television but this is known to promote mindless eating which is very problematic with eating concerns. If we eat at the table, we are paying attention to the event of eating a meal.
- Eat without distractions — don’t play on your phone, watch T.V./Netflix, work on your laptop, etc. Pay attention to the actual act of eating your meal.
- Taste the food! Notice what you are eating — taste it, eat it slowly rather than stuffing it/gulping it down.
- Put your fork down. Make a point of pacing yourself while you eat your meal. If you live with someone else, it’s a great time to visit and catch up on how your day went.
- Eat actual meals rather than grazing throughout the day. Grazing and eating lots of snacks but no meals can make a person feel like they are eating all the time. It also leaves you prone to over eat and not be aware of your hunger/fullness cues.
With regard to emotional/mindless eating in the evenings, here are a few more ideas. Evening snacking is one of the most common forms of emotional eating. Often a person is overly tired, potentially overwhelmed and/or overly hungry — these are all risk factors that make a person more vulnerable to emotional eating.
- Keep short accounts with yourself about what you are feeling. If you stuff your emotions you will likely stuff your food.
- If you are really tired, go to bed! Grabbing food to keep yourself awake is always a bad idea and tends to lead to a binge or over eating.
- If you are overwhelmed, acknowledge it and see if you can pinpoint some of the factors that had led to the overwhelm. Just affirming it can help reduce the level of distress.
- What else will give you comfort or soothe you? Think of other things that typically give you comfort — a cozy blanket, a comfy sweatshirt, cuddling up with a loved one or a pet, soak in the tub with candles or music, putting on some nice hand cream and noticing how nice it feels and smells, etc. Affirm your need for comfort.
- If you are going to have a snack, take a portion size in a bowl rather than dragging the Costco sized bag of goodies into the family room. Don’t restrict yourself to not having anything but do be mindful about how much you have — it’s not ‘all or nothing.’
Take account of your thoughts. What are you thinking about? What are you telling yourself? Read something inspiring or positive. CBT is a great way to work on changing up your thinking. (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy). Brain plasticity allows us to actually change the way we think. There are some great books and resources available, along with counselling of course. ‘Rewire Your Anxious Brain’ is a good one for taking charge of anxiety driven thoughts (by Catherine Pittman). 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food by Susan Albers is also a good resource. You can check out our website under the Resource page for more book recommendations.