Food for Thought: Behavioral Techniques for Mindful Munching, The Third Article in a Three Article Series Dealing with Overeating Cessation
Over the last two weeks we have defined overeating and provided practical, at-the-table tips for breaking the habit of consuming too much food. This week’s last article of the series will focus on the cognitive skills that can be part of your strategy for overcoming overeating.
Have you ever noticed the stream of chatter that runs through your head? It’s amazing. Even as we listen to someone speak or read a book, that chatter has the ability to interrupt our attention. When overcoming a habit, it behooves a person to take time to listen closely to the chatter and to really hear the words, phrases, and general tone of the monologue being spoken to you by you.
In the case of overeating, your mind may suddenly shift from working or playing a game of catch to, “I’m hungry,” in an instant. Compelled by this thought, we drop everything and quench that desire. As we work through breaking overeating, it’s necessary to take a moment and question whether we are physically hungry or if our mind just wants food: the habit needs feeding. More than likely, it is the former and not the latter, but in any event, feeling hunger won’t kill you. If a water fountain is close by, get some water and continue on with your task at hand and be aware of mindful munching.
Behavioral patterns accompany food addiction. Personally I have found that I am a boredom eater, an emotional eater, and a comfort eater. Understanding this, I can logically take steps to find other outlets other than food to entertain me, make me feel better, and soothe me. Simply because we have “always done it” isn’t an excuse. Change your “if this, than that” to activities other than food. If you find yourself scarfing a bag of cookies or chips at night and think to yourself, “well, here I am again, I always end up finishing up the bag," roll up the package, put it away and get the heck out of the kitchen! We have beaten down paths on our brain that rule our behavior, but challenge yourself; trail blaze new cerebral ground and watch as you eventually habituate yourself to overcome overeating and replace it with mindful munching.
In her book, "Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals," psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD writes about strategies we can use to attain our goals. Acknowledging the road blocks, the challenges is critical according to Grant-Halvorson, for in keeping these in mind, a person can develop strategies to help them cope with those challenges. For purposes of this article, our No.1 goal is to quit overeating. The challenges to overeating can be and are certainly not limited to: culture, social pressure, hormones, foods in the home, going out, addiction, and the short-term pleasure of eating, to name a few. “Effort, planning, persistence and good strategies are what it really takes to succeed," says Dr. Grant Halvorson. Admit that putting an end to overeating is going to be challenging, but don’t allow yourself to be a defeatist. Write down the foreseeable pitfalls like those mentioned above, expand upon them and then write ways of coping with these roadblocks. If you can’t come up with any ideas, talk with a friend, a nutritionist, your physician or a mental health professional. Creating a support group is certainly not out of the question! If you bring the topic of overeating up in a fitness class, believe me, the majority of folks will begin sharing anecdotes freely. It’s a very common problem in a nation blessed with abundance coupled with a multibillion dollar food industry fueling this obsession with food.
So you keep a mindful ear to your inner chatter, examine your current behavior, list your challenges in reaching your goal and strategies for dealing with those challenges. Maybe you create a support group of friends or make a page on FaceBook or create a blog as a hub where people can share their day to day experience dealing with overeating cessation. The last tip is to carry some small cards in your purse, your wallet or in your pocket that remind you of this article. I have a dozen tiny pieces of paper stapled together that I read in the morning and throughout the day. Each is a note that “speaks” to me as an overeater: “STOP! How will this make you feel when the food is finished?” “The food industry spends billions to make you eat, be a revolutionary!” “Visualize yourself in a relaxing place and be there for just a moment.” “Progress, not perfection.” “If you’ve gotten off the program, now is the perfect time to get back on."
Kicking the habit of overeating is not easy. The focus on food is tremendous; from commercials to holidays, from play dates to get togethers and bake sales, food is all-encompassing. We do not have to say no to food, obviously, it’s learning how to, as an older woman once said to me when I was a chunky teen, “push away from the table.” Here is your strategic tool box for mindful munching:
1. Understanding overeating from a theoretical vantage point (article 1)
2. Having practical table skills to help you learn correct portion size and listening to your body when it is hungry and when it is satiated (article 2)
3. Behavioral techniques (article 3)
When we quit overeating, we feel lighter and more in control, happier. Say goodbye to food hangovers and guilt. We put less pressure on the planet and its carrying capacity. We model to children, friends, and family that food is pleasurable but that it is not the focus of our lives. Contrary to magazines, commercials, and television channels devoted to eating and food preparation, life is full of so much more. Wouldn’t it be illuminating to reach a point in our lives where we simply “ate to live” rather than “lived to eat”?
Please share your journey as a former or current overeater and how you are making changes. Do you come from a family of overeaters? Is there candy in your office? Are you a mom that is part of a social group where food seems to be at the center of the organization? If you are one of these special “eat to live” types, have you always been this way? How do you feel about food? How did you eat growing up? All experiences support our collective mission to quit mindless chowing down and practice eating with awareness. Please share your experiences and be part of the conversation with JumpSport, Inc. by following JumpSport Fitness Trampoline™ on Facebook or on Twitter @FitTrampoline.
In good health!
Heidi Aspen Lauckhardt-Rhoades
Writer and Social Media Correspondent
Professional Fitness Instructor
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