Everyone eats with their mind instead of their body at some time, the problems happen when we start to do it every day. Using food to feel better is something we learn, not something we are born doing. For some, eating is survival against uncomfortable emotion. When we feel any emotion we want to get rid of, it is easy to reach for what we know will take away that pain. The pain goes away and we feel better, but we never fix the underlying cause. This could be because we don’t know how to, we can’t change the circumstances, or we just feel powerless to do something different. So, the cycle of emotion, food and release begins. It is only by interrupting that cycle and questioning our choices can we change them.
By asking yourself 3 questions every time you want to eat, you can begin to become more aware of your real reasons for eating. As you become more aware of your reasons, you start to get a picture of what circumstances, people or thoughts are triggering your emotions.
What do I really want? (Before you eat)
Turn off your head and listen to your body. Does it want the food or is it your mind that is demanding it? If it’s the body asking, focus on your stomach and tune into what it is asking for. Your body will ask for certain foods based on the nutritional needs of the body but we must always be listening. If it is the mind asking for the food, then try to name the emotion the mind is looking for. It can be painful to admit what we really want is love or comfort or understanding, but we can’t start looking if we don’t know what we’re looking for.
Why am I really eating this? (While eating)
There are 5 possible answers to this question: hunger, pleasure, distraction, anger and filling a void. The only reason we should ever eat is hunger but a lot of us do it for other reasons. Even if it’s not hunger that’s driving you to eat, you don’t have to stop yourself, you just have to acknowledge there is another reason.
Did the food give me what I needed or is the feeling still there? (After eating)
After eating, reflect on how you feel. Did the food give you the feeling you wanted or is the emotion that drove you to eat still there? Did it remove your hunger, did it give you the pleasure you needed because you were bored, did it distract you from the thoughts you didn’t want to think, did it quell the anger you hold onto or did it fill the void inside? By looking back at your eating, not in self judgement but in understanding, you can choose to take a different road next time.
Extract from “Still Overweight? The 6-week course that changes your weight and relationship to food forever”.