In our culture of thigh-gap enthusiasts and clueless celebs who promote waist trainers and detox teas, eating well and developing a legitimately healthy/ friendly/ loving/ peaceful relationship with food often doesn't come naturally. It's just not sexy like that juice cleanse that can help you lose, like, 10 pounds (and $200-dollars) in a week. But I'll let you in on a little secret: It is everything. And all that superficial shit is just expensive noise.
You see, no diet or or device alone is going to get your where you need to be unless you're simultaneously addressing what drives you to eat (and eat and eat) in the first place. The emotional component, if you will. Any sustainable change to health or weight comes when you've developed the ability to eat and live mindfully.
How do I know this? Well, because after about 10 years of craziness--dieting, trying to avoid food altogether one day, binging the next, consuming countless bags of Splenda, one attempt at toothbrush-induced bulimia (don't worry, mom, I was unsuccessful), telling myself that guys would eventually like me when I finally got skinny, calorie counting, and unhealthy amounts of running (so I could eat Coldstone)--I realized, shit, this is exhausting. It actually took getting really sick with Lyme disease to slow down, tune into my diet and emotions, understand that food was my fuel and medicine, and realize that while eating can and should be a pleasurable experience, it shouldn't be used as a coping mechanism or reward.
So, how do you do you make the shift? Well, you have to be ready, and it takes WORK. We often don't want to face the demons, the stressors, the insecurities that are leading us to overeat in the first place...it's uncomfortable, after all. But until you do, you'll fall right back into your old habits (like, say, eating half a jar of peanut butter in a day...with chocolate chips sprinkled in #truestory). Here's a little something to get you started:
- When you eat, eat. Focus on your food and put down your phone. Really taste it, smell it, savor it, and CHEW it. Swallow your first bite before you take your second, and take a moment to be grateful that you have food to eat in the first place.
- Feel what you're feeling. Don't mask it with food. Need to cry? Fucking cry! Need to scream? Do it. Allowing your body to express real emotion is cathartic, relieves stress, and is often the first step in getting over something. Someone wise once told me (after a particularly rough break up) that you can't get over anything until you get through it. So grab a box of tissues and get through that shit.
- Be nice to yourself. You are a fucking person....and a pretty amazing one at that. Sure, you're flawed and you make mistakes, but one of the most important things to realize is that you always have the ability to change. So support yourself throughout this process like you'd support a friend in need...and cut yourself a break.
- Tune into your triggers. You don't just eat donut holes by the dozen for fun. Something triggers you. It could be boredom, stress, anger, sadness, nervousness, or anything--tune into your specific triggers throughout the day, ID them, and then...
- Develop non-food rewards. After we're triggered, our natural inclination can be to soothe ourselves with food. Take a moment and come up with a list of rewards (i.e. things that will make you smile, banish stress, calm you down) that don't involve eating and strategically incorporate them into your day. Some great ideas here: 23 Ways To Treat Yo'Self Without Buying Or Eating Anything.
- Remember to breathe. In through your nose, fill up your belly, hold it for a few seconds, let it out through your mouth. Ahhhhh. Sometimes just pausing during a stressful moment for a few deep breathes is all you need to get re-centered and short-circuit a binge.
- Don't stress about time. Worried that using mindfulness strategies to change your habits and physical appearance will take too long? Well, it might take a while, but in the words of another wise friend, "time will pass anyway." Meaning, whether you put in the work or not, time goes on. So the choice is yours: In a year or two, you can be a more balanced, healthier, and probably slimmer you; or you can stay the same.
- Think progress not perfection. Rome wasn't built in a day, folks. This is an ongoing process, not a quick fix.
That concludes my random Tuesday night rant. If you want to talk more about this topic or work with me to develop more mindful eating habits, holler at me! I love talking about this stuff :) email@example.com
Peace, love, and peanut butter (in moderation),