Eating fast and mindlessly is never a good idea but happens all too frequently. Since most of us live in a high-speed society with plenty of distractions, it’s no wonder we live, work and eat fast. They all go hand-in-hand actually. Due to the almost normalized feeling of chronic, low-level stress, (which is far more depleting on our inner battery than occasional high-strung, short-term stress), cortisol and insulin are constantly being released into our bodies. This of course adds to our body’s stress level which makes digestion, sleep, weight, mood and immunity all that much more challenging.
Our brains are not made to multi-task. It’s much better to slow things down, breathe and taste our food. It’s also a much better way to re-gain our natural appetite and start learning to trust when we are full. This is far different than following a calorie-restricted eating plan given to us by an outside source. What seems far more authentic and realistic to me than reducing calories according to an arbitrary diet plan having little to do with us, is to start to slow down our eating. Even just 20 minutes gives our brains a chance to register that we’ve eaten and, consequently, it will stop sending us hunger signals.
But, many of us overeat not only because we’re stressed, moving and living too fast, and distracted but also because we’re significantly disembodied. When disembodied it’s as though we’re on auto-pilot. We’re functioning and doing things but we’re not necessarily checked into noticing how we’re feeling in our bodies. How are you feeling right now? Tired, sore, light, heavy, strong, weak, full, hungry, and/or thirsty? The combination of all of the above can easily lead us to overeating day-in and day-out. We simply don’t pay attention to what we eat nor to how we’re feeling. And over time, the excess amount we eat can become a habit. It’s what we think we need to eat in order to not feel hungry. And, then we think we need to slash calories to get back to the body size we want to be. Sadly,the contradicting messages only lead us further astray from ourselves.
Overeating can also cross the line to binge eating. What’s the difference between the two? Binge eating is similar to overeating but involves frequent overeating of anything, any time of day or night. Sometimes we can be binge eaters and not even fully register what we’re doing. What do overeating and binge eating share in common? They both are done fast and without much thought while they’re happening. Our bodies and minds are on auto-pilot. After a binge, even more so than overeating, we can feel angry at ourselves, ashamed and miserable. In fact, some of us feel so regretful after binging that matters are then made even more complicated by purging the contents of our meal. This of course can’t possibly lead to healing or improving our relationship with food and eating.
While binging is a complicated topic, I’d like to introduce a method for dealing with this situation adapted from Marc David, Founder of The Institute for the Psychology of Eating. I hope you find this helpful.
- Make peace with yourself now. You’ve had enough self-anger to last a lifetime.
- Quiet down your home, play some soft music, dim the lights, and take 5 deep, slow breaths. Become embodied and become very aware of your surroundings. While you’re ‘chillaxing’, set the table with a placemat, napkin, and utensils.
- Whatever your favorite binge item is, (let’s say apple pie), take it out of the refrigerator, cut a slice and place it on your favorite plate. (If you don’t have a favorite dish, buy one.)
- For the time being, return the remainder of the apple pie to the fridge. (You definitely can have more if you want in just a bit.)
- Take the plate to the set table and sit, relax and deep breathe.
- Start to eat the slice of pie but at a much slower pace. While eating, notice how it looks, tastes, feels in your mouth, smells, etc. Enjoy every single bite! Enjoy your surroundings!! Enjoy it all! Slowly!
- After finishing that piece of pie, rest for a moment and deep breathe again. Ask yourself, “Do I want another slice?” If so, get up and repeat the above process. Slowly. If ultimately you want the entire pie, and that is what you’re accustomed to doing, that’s perfectly okay. You can eat what you want, just with more mindfulness, a slower pace and deliberation.
The first times you practice this slowing down method of binging, you may indeed go through the whole pie or half gallon of ice cream or dozen doughnuts, etc. That’s okay and not unusual. In time, you may find when you slow yourself down and become more attuned and mindful with your inner-self that your cravings and desires for these foods start to diminish. The important thing is not to deprive yourself and also not to beat yourself up for continuing to eat. Relax into this exercise and try to connect with the real you waiting inside for self-discovery. Without a doubt, authentic change can only happen when we let go of interior fury and self-hatred and start loving ourselves. Patience, trust and love are key.
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