Posts Tagged ‘How to stop mindless eating’

It’s not affirmations. It’s not guided journeys. It’s not cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s not binging, or nude meditation, or sewing, or EFT, or NLP, or scream therapy.

It may be all of those things and none of those things, but the bottom line is I’m changing the way I think, and it’s changing my life.

Beating myself up for EVERY.SINGLE.DECISION. was killing me. I was using food just to ease the pain of self-criticism. This is important to know, because when I am not self-critical, I’m not binging.

Then I faced a conflict. Part of me wants to be thin, and part of me wants to stay with binge eating and being fat, which are the devils I know. When I’m fat, I understand my world. There are no questions about “will they reject me,” of course they will, because I’m fat. Painful, yes, but in a convoluted way, that’s comforting.

Part of me wants to be thin and free of compulsive eating, but there’s a lot of unknown space out there. What do I do with my life? How will I accept that some people won’t like me even if I am thin?  How do I handle things when the answer is not always, “It’s my own fault.”

My choice is: comfort plus the known pain of being fat, or more physical comfort of being thin, but with many unknowns and risks, which might be even more painful than being fat.

Once I realized I had that conflict, I reduced it to this choice:

Do I want to continue with the self-criticism that drives me to food, or do I prefer the uncertainty that billions of people successfully cope with every day?

I prefer the second one, and am giving up the pain of self-criticism.


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This is working really well for me right now. When I am eating and can’t stop, or when I’m thinking about getting food and I know I’m not hungry, I follow these steps.

  1. Stop what I’m doing. Even if I’m bringing food to my mouth.
  2. Breathe deeply, sometimes several times.
  3. Close my eyes and sense all of my body parts, from toe to head.
  4. Ask myself, “What am I doing that I don’t want to be doing?” The first answer is always about food.
  5. Ask myself, “Why am I drawn to food at this moment? What thoughts am I avoiding?” It’s always not about food.
  6. Choose an action to take to fix the second question.

Sometimes the action also includes eating the food anyway, but with love and positive intent for myself.

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I’m getting the hang of the next phase of intuitive eating. Not only do I feed myself what I want, but I manage my portion size better.

What I notice now is that when I recognize that I’ve eaten a “normal” portion, I start feeling my stomach. If it feels like there’s a big space at the top of my stomach, I keep eating. If it feels more neutral I start telling myself that it’s ok to stop whenever I want. Plus, I remind myself that hunger isn’t a bad feeling. Instead, it’s simply part of the feeling of good self-care, because when I am a little more hungry, I enjoy my next meal more, and I burn up some of the excess energy around my hips. That’s pretty good self-care.

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See also my post on How to stop eating when you’re not hungry

Whenever you eat mindlessly or when you are not hungry, the root cause is simple: you are responding to your mind’s needs rather than your physical needs. This might be emotional eating, or habit eating, or whatever. The fact remains, it’s not what your body needs. But maybe eating is the right thing to do even if you’re not hungry.

You are in charge of what you put into your body and into your mind. You choose the balance you will make between the two. You have to balance them, because if you don’t nurture your emotional side, it will rebound on you and give you a whopper of a binge (not advertising hamburgers here, although they do make a good binge food).

What I’ve noticed recently is that I will turn off my brain and eat when I am not hungry in the following situations:

  • When I don’t want to stop doing something, like watching TV or playing computer games or surfing the internet
  • When I go too long without drinking something
  • When I’m standing right next to the food at an event
  • When I don’t feel like I’ve balanced emotional and physical sides
  • When I haven’t done something I think I should have done

Now I’m doing ok on drinking water, and generally if I find that I’m eating something and I recognize that I am not really hungry, it’s easy to check if I’m on track for my daily 2+ liters of water.

For the rest, the key to stopping is to connect the emotional and the physical sides. The next time you find yourself eating, and you believe you’re not hungry, use the following process:

  1. Check in with your normal hunger signals. If you’re are actually hungry, go eat whatever you want to eat. If no, continue.
  2. Have I had water lately? Drink some if you need some.
  3. Ask, “Why do I want to keep eating?” Be honest – you don’t have to tell anyone.
  4. If you identify the reason, take action if you can.
  5. If you can’t identify the reason, or can’t take action, choose one of the following things to do:
    1. Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself of your goals
    2. Go ahead and eat, but put half or more away
    3. Choose something else to eat, maybe even something healthy
    4. Put it all away for 5 minutes. Get it out again if you need to.
    5. Go to another place and do a stress-relieving activity, like pounding a pillow or giving your best primal scream. (Hint: your second-best primal scream is probably better when you’re at work)

Always always always remember, you can eat the whole damn thing any time you want to. Just make sure that eating the whole damn thing is really what you want, compared to your other goals.

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