I was chatting with a friend the other day about how she’s experiencing the major life changes since the virus struck. She’s an essential worker in health care, she’s got little kids at home, and she’s got a pre-existing condition – so the fear and worry is REAL.
She was saying how grateful she is to have her active lifestyle – that without that release that she gets from exercise, she would most certainly, lose her mind.
And then she added, kind of tongue in cheek “now if only I could stop eating all the food and drinking all the wine”. I chuckled too, because well – guilty!
I’m pretty sure the two of us are not alone in this. Judging by the memes I’m seeing on social media and the comments that follow, I think it’s safe to say that many of us are numbing some of our stress with food or alcohol.
Now, I want to be really careful how I word this.
This is a very stressful time in our lives; probably one of the biggest stressors most of us have experienced in our lives. And stressful times are NOT the time to be rigid, restrictive or hard on ourselves (when is it the time for that, really?). Stressful times call for us to have more grace, more self-compassion and gentleness.
I see examples of this in people baking bread from scratch, making comfort foods like casseroles and soups, baking delicious sweet treats. And that’s wonderful – families are bonding by preparing food together, enjoying nostalgic recipes, sitting together enjoying delicious meals and family time.
That’s what mindful eating is all about – taking your time, preparing something delicious and enjoying the experience of eating it. We’ve been doing this at our home, and it’s been so fun!
But when we find ourselves mindlessly eating the whole plate of cookies in front of the TV later that night, then we’ve crossed a line between gentle self care to unconscious self harm.
Any of us who have crossed that line know when we’ve done it because it’s followed by guilt, shame and regret. And those are feelings that should never be associated with food. And certainly are not feelings we need when we’re already stressed to our limit.
I don’t say any of this to add further shame if you’ve found yourself stress eating. I have done it myself. It’s about raising our awareness, bringing the behaviour into our consciousness and then making a choice of whether we want to continue doing that.
Forgive yourself for mistakes you made in the past, and if you’re ready to move through stress eating, here are a few tools:
- When preparing a meal or a treat, ask yourself what do you love about this food? What memories does it spark? What flavours do you enjoy? What do you love about preparing it? Bring the feelings around that food into your conscious mind and enjoy the experience of preparing the food.
- Decide when it’s time to eat what a reasonable serving size is for you and enjoy every bite of the portion you take.
- When reaching for foods/snacks out of habit or boredom or heightened emotion – try to catch yourself and ask why you’re going for food. Are you hungry? If yes – is this food going to fill me up and satisfy me? If not, is there something that would be a better choice?
- If you realize you’re not actually hungry, then ask -why am I reaching for food? Boredom, stress, big feelings? Is there something I could do instead to satisfy that need? Ie go for a walk, call a friend, meditate, crochet.
Bringing the behaviour to light simply by looking at our thoughts is the first and biggest step towards ending emotional eating. That doesn’t mean we choose the “healthy” food each time; it means we choose the food that will best nourish our body, mind and spirit.
Eat like you love yourself – be kind to you!
If you find yourself stuck at step 4 and needing some support to work through the big feelings behind emotional eating, please reach out. Sometimes we need to behind those feelings to some deep seeded beliefs that need clearing. Through individual coaching, I can hold space for you and support you as we explore and transform those beliefs.
Always on your side,