How to be mindful and present - and not use food as a mood regulator.
Most of my clients have been using food to cope with anxiety, stress or boredom for many years or even decades. During the first moments of snacking or munching, they experience a sense of calmness and a reduction of stressful symptoms. Therefore the eating ritual has become a powerful and reliable coping strategy, often resulting in unwanted weight gain and a sense of failure.
If you feel the need to snack when you are not physically hungry, gently ask yourself: "Am I celebrating or self-medicating?" It is crucial to have compassion for the part of you that needs to take the edge off and self-soothe.
Rather than beating yourself up for it, gently acknowledge that you are going through a difficult time and that you are experiencing a moment of emotional pain. We all do. Instead of eating to make that yucky feeling go away, allow yourself a moment to explore what is going on as if you were asking a child or loved one in need of soothing and comforting.
Below are five simple tips for being mindful and practicing to be present with your food as well as your physical and emotional needs.
Tip #1 - Slow down and take a few deep breaths.
Pause and be present to your sensations in the body. Where are you feeling the anxiety? Are your shoulders tense, is your posture contracted, is your heart racing? Take at least seven deep breaths in and out. Put both feet firmly on the ground and notice your surroundings. Become present with what's around you and what you are seeing. Ground yourself. Place your hands over your heart and wish yourself well.
Tip #2 - Show yourself loving-kindness.
Silently say to yourself: "This is a very difficult moment. I am not alone. Others have felt like this before. I'll be okay." Treat yourself the same way you would comfort and soothe a child or someone you love. It is important that we show ourselves warmth and compassion in a moment of emotional distress.
"It's not just about losing weight - it's about creating a lighter existence, both physically and emotionally."
Tip #3 - Breathe into your heart space and wish yourself well.
Imagine a beautiful healing light surrounding your heart, protecting you from harm. Gently place your hands over your heart and fill your heart space with a sense of safety, encouragement, self-empathy and self-kindness.
Tip #4 - Give yourself permission to end dieting.
Restrictive dieting tends to leave a person more frustrated and hopeless than before. It is my belief that we don't need more discipline - we need more nurturing. Therefore, let go of years and years of struggling with calorie counting and weighing - and invite in new self-soothing and self-nurturing rituals.
Tip #5 - Set an intention for the day.
Instead of overthinking what and when to eat, I propose you set a daily intention in the morning, such as: "I look forward to nourishing myself well and cooking a beautiful meal." Make sure you have beautiful, healthy and yummy choices at home (in your fridge) so it becomes easier to prepare nutritious meals and snacks for yourself.
When we focus on our overall self-care (emotional, spiritual, physical) and keep our inner self-love reservoir full, the need for emotional eating is going to diminish over time.
Check out my upcoming in-person workshops in Santa Barbara:
Saturday, May 20. 10am-2pm @ Family Therapy Institute
I support clients via Zoom nationwide and in-person in Santa Barbara, California. I look forward to being your guide on your mindful nourishment and emotional self-care journey!
If you'd like to set up an initial complimentary consultation below, click on this calendar link.