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July 14, 2016

The Emotional Eater – Dublin City FM & East Coast FM emotional eating advice

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For more info & support with eating disorders please contact Irish Association of Eating Disorders

and psychotherapist Rachel Henderson

My name is Oliver McCabe and I’m an emotional eater.
Ok so some people may say, “He works in health & nutrition, how the hell could he be an emotional eater and struggle with his weight?”
“Practice what you preach!”…”Hypocrite”…etc…
Well yes I admit I do struggle with my weight, I’m only human.
Some people say there are no excuses to putting on weight but in my opinion there is and sometimes people should stop and think before they question someone’s weight or appearance because you don’t know what the background is.
Personally, I lost my Mum in late 2012 God rest her soul. She had a severe stroke in 2008. As I’m sure many of you have gone through with a loved one at some stage, when you are taking care of someone else you love realistically you don’t pay too much attention to yourself. So gradually I put on 3 stone due to emotional eating & drinking and lack of exercise. I was unhappy.
It wasn’t until early 2012 I was giving a talk at a school to parents on sports nutrition when one of the parents a few weeks after had said how difficult it was to believe the advice I was giving when I was obviously overweight myself. This was a huge blow to me. I lost my confidence and self-esteem.
Around the same time my friends introduced me to Zumba Dancing.
I loved it. I loved it so much I would try to attend 5 classes a week. I always loved dancing growing up. And this to me was nearly a reunion for me, back to what I loved. I overcame injuries through the 1st year, back, knee, etc…but I persevered and by July 2013 I had lost a stone. So it took me a year to lose a stone. That first stone was the toughest to shift.
Previous to Zumba I had tried boot camps, gyms, trainers, running etc. but I found it so boring and the weight was not shifting. And I was unhappy.
So Firstly, LOVE YOUR EXERCISE, you have to love your exercise if you are going to shift weight.
WHY? Boosting serotonin “happy cell” endorphins created from enjoyment of exercise and happiness.
This will prevent you from overeating, cravings and generally thinking about food.
Once you are on this path stay on it!!
So it’s so important to find an exercise that you genuinely love if it’s tennis, swimming, Pilates, cycling or zumba. So go out and find it!! If you are looking at a clock or watch when you are exercising, throw it in and find your exercise. Maybe it’s what you loved when you were young!! Find it!! It’s important to maintain your weight.
Secondly, I created easy and quick food combining recipes. We are all biochemically individual when
it comes to nutrition, although all of us have the same basic requirements when it comes to eating in
a way that promotes good health. Ideally, we should have three meals a day with two
snacks in between to keep us going throughout the day. Food combining is a
way of putting meals together so that they provide complex carbohydrates,
essential fats, protein and dietary fibre, with adequate water for hydration.
All the food-combining recipes I created during this time support the body with brain
function, energy production and optimum nutrition to help keep you focused
and fuelled all day long.
It worked for me because I was working 6 days a week 7am – 6pm. And I required healthy food on
the go little and often. I was pleasantly surprised that from September 2013 to April 2014 I shifted 2 stone in weight quite quickly with my recipes, potion control and extensive exercise which I loved. Over a period of 2 years I had lost 3 stone. As I said the first stone was the toughest but once you overcome this it seems to come off easier and quicker.
I have learnt once more that daily exercise and healthy eating portioned properly is key to losing weight and maintaining weight loss. The easier you take it off the quicker you can put it on again. SERIOUS!! More recently I now have the confidence, self-esteem and motivation to enter a gym environment once more. I balance my exercise 50/50 with cardio and weight exercises to keep me happy and maintained. Focused and fuelled for the day ahead.
I start my day with a glass of warm water with apple cyder vinegar and squeeze of fresh lemon juice. This would kick start my digestion gradually waking it up.
You’ve heard it a thousand times before but it’s true; breakfast is the most important meal of the day and needs to be wholesome and filling. Breakfast sets you up for the entire day, and can really affect your mood and productivity, so be sure put some time into preparing and eating it in a relaxed way, rather than rushing out the door with an unhealthy cereal bar in your mouth. You will enjoy the experience more this way and breakfast will become a regular meal. It’s vital for mental and physical health not just in times of stress but always.
A nutritious breakfast must be rich in nutrients and devoid of any refined or sugary foods. Refined sugar and caffeine may make you feel better temporarily, but your body soon ‘crashes’ from the high, leaving you exhausted or irritable. They can also deplete vital nutrients from your system. Skipping breakfast or just having a coffee or sugary pastry can lead to weight problems and irritability. When serotonin (the happy hormone) levels are low in the brain, cravings for carbohydrates such as cakes, sweets, chocolate and alcohol can result, as the body uses insulin to trigger serotonin release. Eliminate these sugary substances from your diet if you can over time or you may be faced with brain exhaustion, which will be a complete ‘crash down’. The sudden raised levels of blood sugar you get from eating refined carbohydrates also leads to sudden slumps, which may then lead to fatigue and poor concentration.

Eggcado with avocado and chives
This is derived from a recipe my mum made us on Sunday
Morning. It’s tasty, filling and light. High in protein, dietary
fibre and essential fats. Low GL.
Serves 1
Vegetarian, sugar & nut free, contains gluten and eggs
2 eggs
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Himalayan fine rock salt and pepper
1 medium, ripe avocado, peeled and stoned
1 slice of spelt bread
Pinch of minced fresh chives
Bring plenty of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Put
the eggs into the hot water, reduce the heat to a simmer
and cook for about 8 minutes, until they are hard-boiled.
Place the boiled eggs in a sieve and rinse under cold running
water, and then peel the eggs quickly.
Mash the peeled, boiled egg with the olive oil and some salt
and pepper in a small bowl. Add the avocado and mash until
it’s quite smooth but still has a slightly chunky texture.
Toast the spelt bread and slice into soldiers. Serve the
mashed egg in a small cup and sprinkle the chopped chives
on top. Set the cup on a plate and serve the toast soldiers

Fresh Bircher Muesli with Mixed Berries and Flaxseed
This recipe is a perfect example of food combining: in this
meal you get essential fats from the flaxseed, complex
carbohydrates and fibre from the oat flakes and protein
from the natural yoghurt. This provides fuel for your body to
give you more energy over a longer period of time until your
next meal.
High in protein, dietary fibre,
essential fats and vitamin C. Low GL.
Serves 5
Vegetarian, sugar and nut free, contains milk and gluten
450g oat flakes (use brown
rice, quinoa or millet flakes if
you prefer gluten-free grains)
600ml freshly juiced apple
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
260g grated pear
260g grated apple
260g natural yoghurt
Juice of 1½ lemons
300g mixed berries
(strawberries, raspberries and
3 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons ground flaxseed
Place the oat flakes in a large bowl or airtight container. Mix
in the apple juice and cinnamon. Add the grated pear, apple,
yoghurt and lemon juice and mix well, until all the oats are
saturated and there is no dryness left. Cover the bowl with
cling film or seal the airtight container. Soak overnight in the
The next morning, spoon into serving bowls. Top with mixed
berries, drizzle with honey and add a scattering of ground
flaxseed on top.
This will keep for three days in the refrigerator in an airtight

Fast and Fabulous Green Smoothie
High in vitamin C, essential
fats, dietary fibre, plant protein, bromelain and magnesium.
Low GL.
Serves 1
Vegan, Sugar, gluten, dairy or nut free, contains celery
3 sticks of celery
2 small apples
1 cucumber, peeled
Handful of fresh spinach
½ lime, peeled
½ avocado, peeled and stoned
2 tablespoons fresh pineapple, peeled and diced
A pinch of spirulina
Juice the celery, apples, cucumber, spinach and lime. Add
the juice to a blender with the avocado, pineapple and
spirulina. Blend for 20 seconds and pour into a glass, bottle
or flask.
Keep refrigerated for up to three days and shake well before

Emotional Eating 5 Reasons You Can’t Stop
Take control of your joy and pain to take away the power of food
Why are you eating? Knowing the answer can help you stop.
Most people think emotional eating is due to lack of self-control. However, in my extensive work with eating disorders and disordered eating, I would say that is rarely the case. If emotional eating were a simple issue of discipline, we could easily find this discipline without torturing ourselves over meal plans, paying money for special diets, and constantly obsessing about who is eating what and when. And, of course, no eating disorders
What I have to say on this subject matter is not original, however sometimes a reiteration of the information can serve as a helpful reminder. Over and over again I see the following 5 things that contribute to emotional eating.
1. Unawareness
Emotional eating can be a direct result of not being conscious of what or why you’re eating. Therapists call this unconscious eating. Unconscious eating is when you’re done with your meal and you continue to pick at it, slowly eating the remaining portion that you intended to leave behind. It can also be putting peanuts or crackers or any other food in your mouth, just because it’s in front of you.
The solution? Try to remain mindful of what and when you are eating. I know it can be tedious to focus completely on your eating, especially at first! Try to start slowly and avoid self-judgment as you try out a new way of being. For more on mindful eating, see THIS article.

2. Food as Your Only Pleasure
I’ve often asked people what they would have to feel if they did not binge or overeat and the common answer is, “I would have nothing to look forward to.” And at the end of a long and hectic day, a big bowl of ice cream can be especially effective in temporarily soothing our exhausted, hard-working selves. Why? According to many sources (e.g. HERE), eating sugars and fats releases opioids in our brains. Opioids are the active ingredients in cocaine, heroin and many other narcotics. So the calming, soothing effects you feel when you eat ice cream and BBQ potato chips are real. And breaking these habits can be like kicking a drug habit.
The solution? Find other ways to reward and soothe yourself besides food (and other self-destructive behaviours.) Will these other ways be as effective at soothing you as food? Absolutely not! The things you come up with will help somewhat, But. In order to truly give up emotional eating, you are also going to have to practice tolerating difficult feelings. Which leads us to No.3
3. Inability to Tolerate Difficult Feelings
In our culture, we learn from a young age to avoid things that feel bad. Unfortunately, the ways we have found to distract ourselves from difficult feelings are not always in our best interest. Without the ability to tolerate experiencing life’s inevitable yucky feelings, you’re susceptible to emotional eating.
The solution? Practice letting yourself experience difficult feelings. I know! Much easier said than done! I know you don’t like feeling mad, sad, rejected, and bored. And people often ask me, “What’s the point in feeling mad? It doesn’t change anything.” Well, it may not change the source of your anger, but it will prevent you from having to blunt your feelings with behaviours you’d like to stop – like eating.
4. Body Hate
It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s true: hating your body is one of the biggest factors in emotional eating. Negativity, shame and hatred rarely inspire people to make long-lasting great changes, especially when it comes to our bodies or our sense of self. Many people tell me they will stop hating their body after they reach their goal weight. I say you have to stop hating your body before you can stop the emotional eating cycle.
The solution? Unfortunately, this one is multi-layered, complicated and unique for each person. To truly make permanent progress in this area requires beyond what is possible for me speak about in a blog post. Sorry, friends!
5. Physiology
Letting you get too hungry or too tired is the best way to leave yourself vulnerable to emotional eating. When your body is hungry or tired, it not only sends strong messages to your brain that signal it to eat, but when we’re hungry and tired we’re not on our A game. This leaves us less equipped to fight off cravings or urges.
Solution? You guessed it! Get plenty of sleep and eat several small meals during the day. (I’m a genius, right?) I know you’re going to tell me that you don’t have time, but if your goal is to stop emotional eating, you’re going to have to make those two things a priority. There is no way around it.
Emotional eating is a powerful and effective way to find temporary relief from many of life’s challenges. If it didn’t work so well, no one would do it. In order to stop this cycle of emotional eating, you have to make a commitment to reach deep inside yourself to find a place of grit and strength and hopefully the above reminders can assist you in your journey.

Emotional eating facts
• Emotional eating is responding to stress by eating high-carbohydrate, high-calorie foods with low nutritional value.
• The quantity of food that is consumed is the primary difference between emotional eating and binge eating.
• Like most emotional symptoms, emotional eating is thought to result from a number of factors rather than a single cause.
• There are a number of potential warning signs for emotional eating.
• Health professionals assess emotional eating by screening for physical and mental-health issues.
• Overcoming emotional eating involves teaching the individual healthier ways to view food and develop better eating habits, recognize their triggers for engaging in this behaviour, and develop other more appropriate ways to prevent and alleviate stress.
• When untreated, emotional overeating can cause obesity, problems with weight loss, and even lead to food addiction.
• Reducing stress, using food as sustenance rather than as a way to solve problems, and using constructive ways to handle emotions can help to prevent emotional eating.
What is emotional eating?
Emotional eating is the tendency of its sufferers to respond to stress by eating, even when not hungry, often high-calorie or high-carbohydrate foods that have minimal nutritional value. The foods that emotional eaters crave are often referred to as comfort foods, like ice cream, cookies, chocolate, chips, French fries, and pizza. About 40% of people tend to eat more when stressed, while about 40% eat less and 20% experience no change in the amount of food they eat when exposed to stress.
While emotional eating can be a symptom of what mental-health professionals call atypical depression, many people who do not have clinical depression or any other mental-health issue engage in this behaviour in response to momentary or chronic stress. This behaviour is highly common and is significant since it can interfere with maintaining a healthy diet and contribute to obesity. Continue Reading

What is the difference between emotional eating and binge eating?
The primary difference between emotional eating and binge eating involves the amount of food that is consumed. While both may involve a sense of trouble controlling a craving for food, emotional eating may involve consuming from moderate to great amounts of food and may be the only symptom that a person has or be part of an emotional illness like depression, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. Binge eating disorder is a distinctive mental illness that is characterized by recurrent episodes of compulsive overeating, in that affected people uncontrollably eat an amount of food that is significantly larger than that which most people eat in a distinct period of time (for example, over two hours), even when they are not hungry. The person with binge eating disorder may eat each much faster than normal, conceal the amount they eat out of shame, and may feel disgusted by their eating after doing so. In order to qualify for this diagnosis, the binges must occur an average of once per week over three months.
What are causes, triggers, or risk factors for emotional eating?
Like most emotional symptoms, emotional eating is thought to be the result of a number of factors rather than one single cause. Some research is consistent with girls and women being at higher risk for eating disorders, showing they are at higher risk for emotional eating. However, other research indicates that in some populations, men are more likely to eat in response to depression or anger, and women were more likely to eat excessively in response to failing a diet.
It is thought that the increase in the hormone cortisol that is one of the body’s responses to stress is similar to the medication prednisone in its effects. Specifically, both tend to trigger the body’s stress (fight or flight) response, including increased heart and breathing rate, blood flow to muscles, and visual acuity. Part of the stress response often includes increased appetite to supply the body with the fuel it needs to fight or flee, resulting in cravings for so-called comfort foods. People who have been subjected to chronic rather than momentary stress (like job, school, or family stress, exposure to crime or abuse) are at risk for having chronically high levels of cortisol in their bodies, contributing to developing chronic emotional-eating patterns.
Psychologically, people who tend to connect food with comfort, power, or for any other reasons than providing fuel to their body can be prone to emotional eating. They may eat to fill an emotional void, when physically full, and engage in mindless eating. Some people whose emotions cause them to eat may have been raised to connect food with feelings instead of sustenance, particularly if food was scarce or often used a reward or punishment, or as a substitute for emotional intimacy.

What are warning signs of emotional eating?
Warning signs for emotional eating include a tendency to feel hunger intensely and all of a sudden, rather than gradually as occurs with a true physical need to eat that is caused by an empty stomach. Emotional eaters tend to crave junk foods rather than seeking to eat balanced meals and the urge to eat is usually preceded by stress or an uncomfortable emotion of some kind, like boredom, sadness, anger, guilt, or frustration. Other hallmarks of emotional eating are that the sufferer may feel a lack of control while eating and often feels guilty for what they have eaten.
What kinds of specialists treat emotional eating?
A number of different health-care professionals evaluate and treat emotional eating. As this symptom can occur at nearly anytime across the life span, everyone from paediatricians, family practitioners, and other primary-care physicians may address this problem. Nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants may be involved in caring for emotional-eating sufferers. Mental-health professionals who are often involved in assessing and treating this issue include psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, social workers, and licensed counsellors. While any one of these practitioners may care for people who engage in emotional eating, more than one may work together to help the person overcome this symptom.

Emotional Eating vs. Mindful Eating
Tips to Help You Fight Food Cravings and Satisfy Your Needs with Mindful Eating
Emotional eating is turning to food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward rather than to satisfy hunger. Most emotional eaters feel powerless over their food cravings. When the urge to eat hits, it’s all you can think about.
Mindful eating is a practice that develops your awareness of eating habits and allows you to pause between your triggers and your actions. You can then change the emotional habits that have sabotaged your diet in the past.
Understanding emotional eating
If you’ve ever made room for dessert even though you’re already full or dove into a pint of ice cream when you’re feeling down, you’ve experienced emotional eating. Emotional eating is using food to make yourself feel better—eating to fill emotional needs, rather than to fill your stomach.
Using food from time to time as a pick me up, a reward, or to celebrate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when eating is your primary emotional coping mechanism—when your first impulse is to open the refrigerator whenever you’re upset, angry, lonely, stressed, exhausted, or bored—you get stuck in an unhealthy cycle where the real feeling or problem is never addressed.
Emotional hunger can’t be filled with food. Eating may feel good in the moment, but the feelings that triggered the eating are still there. And you often feel worse than you did before because of the unnecessary calories you consumed. You feel guilty for messing up and not having more willpower. Compounding the problem, you stop learning healthier ways to deal with your emotions, you have a harder and harder time controlling your weight, and you feel increasingly powerless over both food and your feelings.
Are you an emotional eater?
• Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
• Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?
• Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
• Do you reward yourself with food?
• Do you regularly eat until you’ve stuffed yourself?
• Does food make you feel safe? Do you feel like food is a friend?
• Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?
The difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger
Emotional hunger can be powerful. As a result, it’s easy to mistake it for physical hunger. But there are clues you can look for that can help you tell physical and emotional hunger apart.
• Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. It hits you in an instant and feels overwhelming and urgent. Physical hunger, on the other hand, comes on more gradually. The urge to eat doesn’t feel as dire or demand instant satisfaction (unless you haven’t eaten for a very long time).
• Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods. When you’re physically hungry, almost anything sounds good—including healthy stuff like vegetables. But emotional hunger craves fatty foods or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush. You feel like you need cheesecake or pizza, and nothing else will do.
• Emotional hunger often leads to mindless eating. Before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole bag of chips or an entire pint of ice cream without really paying attention or fully enjoying it. When you’re eating in response to physical hunger, you’re typically more aware of what you’re doing.
• Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full. You keep wanting more and more, often eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed. Physical hunger, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be stuffed. You feel satisfied when your stomach is full.
• Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach. Rather than a growling belly or a pang in your stomach, you feel your hunger as a craving you can’t get out of your head. You’re focused on specific textures, tastes, and smells.
• Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame. When you eat to satisfy physical hunger, you’re unlikely to feel guilty or ashamed because you’re simply giving your body what it needs. If you feel guilty after you eat, it’s likely because you know deep down that you’re not eating for nutritional reasons.
Stop emotional eating tip 1: Identify your triggers
What situations, places, or feelings make you reach for the comfort of food? Most emotional eating is linked to unpleasant feelings, but it can also be triggered by positive emotions, such as rewarding yourself for achieving a goal or celebrating a holiday or happy event. Here are some common causes of emotional eating:
• Stress – Ever notice how stress makes you hungry? It’s not just in your mind. When stress is chronic, as it so often is in our chaotic, fast-paced world, it leads to high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol triggers cravings for salty, sweet, and high-fat foods—foods that give you a burst of energy and pleasure. The more uncontrolled stress in your life, the more likely you are to turn to food for emotional relief.
• Stuffing emotions – Eating can be a way to temporarily silence or “stuff down” uncomfortable emotions, including anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, resentment, and shame. While you’re numbing yourself with food, you can avoid the emotions you’d rather not feel.
• Boredom or feelings of emptiness – Do you ever eat simply to give yourself something to do, to relieve boredom, or as a way to fill a void in your life? You feel unfulfilled and empty, and food is a way to occupy your mouth and your time. In the moment, it fills you up and distracts you from underlying feelings of purposelessness and dissatisfaction with your life.
• Childhood habits – Think back to your childhood memories of food. Did your parents reward good behaviour with ice cream, take you out for pizza when you got a good report card, or serve you sweets when you were feeling sad? These emotionally based childhood eating habits often carry over into adulthood. Or perhaps some of your eating is driven by nostalgia—for cherishes memories of grilling burgers in the backyard with your dad, baking and eating cookies with your mom, or gathering around the table with your extended family for a home-cooked pasta dinner.
• Social influences – Getting together with other people for a meal is a great way to relieve stress, but it can also lead to overeating. It’s easy to overindulge simply because the food is there or because everyone else is eating. You may also overeat in social situations out of nervousness. Or perhaps your family or circle of friends encourages you to overeat, and it’s easier to go along with the group.
Stop emotional eating tip 2: Find other ways to feed your feelings
If you don’t know how to manage your emotions in a way that doesn’t involve food, you won’t be able to control your eating habits for very long. Diets so often fail because they offer logical nutritional advice, as if the only thing keeping you from eating right is knowledge. But that kind of advice only works if you have conscious control over your eating habits. It doesn’t work when emotions hijack the process, demanding an immediate payoff with food.
In order to stop emotional eating, you have to find other ways to fulfil yourself emotionally. It’s not enough to understand the cycle of emotional eating or even to understand your triggers, although that’s a huge first step. You need alternatives to food that you can turn to for emotional fulfilment.
Alternatives to emotional eating
• If you’re depressed or lonely, call someone who always makes you feel better, play with your dog or cat, or look at a favourite photo or cherished memento.
• If you’re anxious, expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favourite song, squeezing a stress ball, or taking a brisk walk.
• If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
• If you’re bored, read a good book, watch a comedy show, explore the outdoors, or turn to an activity you enjoy (woodworking, playing the guitar, shooting hoops, scrapbooking, etc.).
Learn to practice mindful eating
Mindful eating is a practice that develops your awareness of eating habits and allows you to pause between your triggers and your actions.
• Awareness of your physical and emotional cues
• Awareness of your non-hunger triggers for eating
• Awareness on how you buy, prepare and eat your food
• Choosing foods that give you both enjoyment and nourishment
• Learning to meet your emotional needs in ways other than eating
Mindful eating tip: Pause when cravings hit
Most emotional eaters feel powerless over their food cravings. When the urge to eat hits, it’s all you can think about. You feel an almost unbearable tension that demands to be fed, right now! Because you’ve tried to resist in the past and failed, you believe that your willpower just isn’t up to snuff. But the truth is that you have more power over your cravings than you think.
Take 5 before you give in to a craving
Emotional eating tends to be automatic and virtually mindless. Before you even realize what you’re doing, you’ve reached for a tub of ice cream and polished off half of it. But if you can take a moment to pause and reflect when you’re hit with a craving, you give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision.
Can you put off eating for five minutes, or just start with one minute. Don’t tell yourself you can’t give in to the craving; remember, the forbidden is extremely tempting. Just tell yourself to wait. While you’re waiting, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What’s going on emotionally? Even if you end up eating, you’ll have a better understanding of why you did it. This can help you set yourself up for a different response next time.
Learn to accept your feelings—even the bad ones
While it may seem that the core problem is that you’re powerless over food, emotional eating actually stems from feeling powerless over your emotions. You don’t feel capable of dealing with your feelings head on, so you avoid them with food.
Allowing you to feel uncomfortable emotions can be scary. You may fear that, like Pandora’s Box, once you open the door you won’t be able to shut it. But the truth is that when we don’t obsess over or suppress our emotions, even the most painful and difficult feelings subside relatively quickly and lose their power to control our attention. To do this you need to become mindful and learn how to stay connected to your moment-to-moment emotional experience. This can enable you to rein in stress and repair emotional problems that often trigger emotional eating.
8 steps to mindful eating
This ancient practice can transform the way you think about food and set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating.
Like most of us, you’ve probably eaten something in the past few hours. And, like many of us, you may not be able to recall everything you ate, let alone the sensation of eating it. Because we’re working, driving, reading, watching television, or fiddling with an electronic device, we’re not fully aware of what we’re eating.
By truly paying attention to the food you eat, you may indulge in foods like a cheeseburger and fries less often. In essence, mindful eating means being fully attentive to your food—as you buy, prepare, serve, and consume it. In the book Savour: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, Dr. Lillian Cheung and her co-author, Buddhist spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh, suggest several practices that can help you get there, including those listed below.
1. Begin with your shopping list. Consider the health value of every item you add to your list and stick to it to avoid impulse buying when you’re shopping. Fill most of your cart in the produce section and avoid the centre aisles—which are heavy with processed foods—and the chips and candy at the check-out counter.
2. Come to the table with an appetite—but not when ravenously hungry. If you skip meals, you may be so eager to get anything in your stomach that your first priority is filling the void instead of enjoying your food.
3. Start with a small portion. It may be helpful to limit the size of your plate to nine inches or less.
4. Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.
5. Bring all your senses to the meal. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to colour, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew your food, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings.
6. Take small bites. It’s easier to taste food completely when your mouth isn’t full. Put down your utensil between bites.
7. Chew thoroughly. Chew well until you can taste the essence of the food. (You may have to chew each mouthful 20 to 40 times, depending on the food.) You may be surprised at all the flavours that are released.
8. Eat slowly. If you follow the advice above, you won’t bolt your food down. Devote at least five minutes to mindful eating before you chat with your tablemates.