by Cheryl Wassermann, Licensed Professional Counselor

Mindfulness is being aware of what we’re doing while we’re doing it, letting go of judgments. Last month we took a look at why it’s so important to slow down and be present for the process of eating.

But there’s so much more. We begin to notice our habitual thoughts, attitudes and moods that stimulate us to turn to food when we’re not really hungry. We might notice that we never can get enough food. With more mindfulness we might begin to explore the issue of what is missing in our lives. What is it that we are truly hungering for?

The void we feel inside that we’re trying to fill with food might be a need for connection with others, or to find a more meaningful job or for spirituality or a need for more fun in our lives. No matter how much food we try to stuff into that void, it will remain empty because food is not the solution to the problem.

Many of us are emotional eaters. We eat whenever we begin to feel any uncomfortable feeling. Food is a way to “change the subject” of the emotion.

For example, we might have noticed that our boss has seemed to be short with us recently. We think of all our bills and the layoffs in our company. Suddenly we find ourselves on the way to the vending machines for a candy bar or 2, or more. The fear and anxiety that began to rise into our awareness when we scared ourselves with our own thoughts stimulated a familiar food thought. Going in search of our prey, the candy bar, distracts us from the discomfort of anxiety. It “takes our mind off of it”. The anticipation of the high fat, high sugar treat sets off the reward circuitry in our brain. Biting into the candy bar calms us initially and then provides a surge of energy. Alas, this is a short-lived pleasant experience because we soon “come to” and begin to berate ourselves as we realize that, once again, we have ruined our eating plan. We have transported ourselves via food from anxiety to depression which is unpleasant, yet familiar.

Learning how to mindfully deal with our feelings serves to turn off the drive to overeat.
With mindfulness we are able to become aware of our habitual patterns so that we can begin to make healthy adjustments that allow us to lose weight and then maintain that weight loss without deprivation.

For more information call 314-991-6730 or visit online at www.mindfuleatingforlife.com.

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