Sometimes, our behaviour may appear like a spur-of-the-moment when it comes to over-eating. However, research shows that the foundation is ascertained several hours in advance by our everyday routines, habits, mindset, and unconscious thoughts.
Many of us eat too fast, with too many distractions around us. We eat while we rush between activities or work obligations, or trying to multitask. The problem with this behaviour pattern is that when we eat too quickly or without full attention, we miss essential hunger cues. Over-eating is only the link in a long chain of an already established behaviour pattern. If you can break the first link, you have a better chance of not getting to the last loop.
One way to break the link is to develop an awareness of your eating patterns and consider what they have in common. Perhaps its the time of day, situation, type of food, another person, or even being alone, or a feeling – the list is endless.
Start by timing your meals. Time how long it takes you to eat a meal and record a baseline for a few meals. You can then use this newly found information to explore potential changes. Set a timer for your next meal and pace yourself. Or simply add 10 to 15 more minutes to your usual mealtime.
Counter self-sabotaging thoughts. Take a moment. Listen to the ways you talk to yourself. Are your thoughts negative or positive? What behaviour accompanies those thoughts? More often than you realise, the mean thoughts and behaviour are interlinked. If you tend to think self-sabotaging thoughts before eating, then find ways to counter those thoughts before they hit you.
Eat mindfully. Mindful eating is not a mystical concept, it’s bringing awareness to your eating pattern. Some of us pride ourselves on our fast-paced hard-working culture while we eat at our desk and in our car. Instead of unconsciously gulping your food down, try to savour of the food. Awaken your senses, tune in to the taste, flavour and texture of the food you’re eating. Do something between bites of food such as setting down your cutleries, taking a sip of water. Try paying attention to why you’re eating: are you eating out of boredom, loneliness, anger, or stress? Note how you feel before, during and after eating. What do you observe about your meal when you do this?
Recognise physical hunger and fullness cues. Do you eat when it’s a particular time, experience, emotional situation, or when reminded of food? Do you have any idea what physical fullness or hunger actually feels like? Do you eat when we’re not hungry, mostly because you’re wrapped up in work project, family commitment? Learn to tolerate the discomfort of light to moderate hunger. Eat when you’re physically hungry and stop when you feel physically full.
Eat without distractions. Turn off the TV, mobile phones/devices. Keep the newspaper and books at bay. This is a challenging task, but try eating one meal a day without distractions and observe what that feels like. Getting used to eating while doing other things like watching TV or working at the computer, triggers our brain to start telling us that we should eat while doing those things. Notice how your brain triggers you to devour an entire bucket of buttered popcorn and other cinema goodies before the movie even starts. You get the point!
Having an awareness of these factors helps to build an understanding of the process, find out what they have in common and use that information to limit those patterns. For example, if you tend to over-eat just before dinner, then figure out ways to deal with anxious situations in advance before dinner time. Break the link!
What steps are you take to develop an awareness of your eating patterns? Do share in the comment section.
Thanks a bunch for reading!