Hello and welcome back for Step 2 of the Eat Simple series! Take a moment to thank yourself for having the desire and courage to come back and find out the next step in healing the patterns of overeating and emotional eating. Today we'll be talking about the all-important practice of eliminating distractions while you dine on your delicious meals but first I want to check in with you; how did you go with slowing down and taking your time eating? Did you notice any differences, insights or challenges? Let me know in the comments below how you went, I am really keen to hear it.
STEP 2: ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS
As well as slowing down and really enjoying the taste and sensations of our food, it's also important to eliminate distractions whilst we're eating. Why? Because what we're trying to do is get mindful of our food and mindful of our emotions while we're eating and it's nigh impossible to do that if we're distracted. Think about a time when you've eaten dinner while you're on the phone, watching a YouTube video or scrolling Facebook and Instagram. Did you get to the end feeling largely unsatisfied and like you wish there was more? Do you move onto dessert hoping that will hit the spot? I know I've done this before and I know that this is how plenty of people eat most of their meals but the bottom line is, it's not helpful to divide our attention between food and [insert distraction here].
So you might find yourself saying "What do I do while I eat dinner then?". I'll tell you what you do; you eat dinner. You slowly chew your food, noticing the different sensations and flavours in this delicious meal you're lucky enough to have in front of you. You pay attention to how different it feels to be hungry at the start of the meal compared to how you feel after a few bites. You listen to your body's signals of satiety and fullness, and you notice how the dinner you've chosen affects you. When I started this practice, I had the odd realisation that some of the meals I regularly cooked for myself, I actually didn't like all that much. Once I started noticing and paying attention to how food affected me, and how it really tasted in the moment, my whole diet changed. For example, I noticed that I really enjoyed fresh vegetables in a salad. The flavours are so complete on their own, they really don't need a dressing. And the Tofu I used to cook and eat fairly often? It was kind of gross, like an eating an old foot doused in chilli. But I wouldn't have ever noticed that if I hadn't slowed down and been fully present of my food by eliminating the distractions. It can be quite eye opening!
OK so the really juicy part now, I saved the best for last. How does slowing down help overeating and emotional eating? Well, it works the same for both patterns in slightly different ways. By paying attention to our food, being mindful of our body's cues and slowing down the whole process, we're much more likely to realise when we're full. We're also much more likely to feel satisfied by our meals, which is part of what we're aiming for when dealing with a pattern of overeating. The other thing we're aiming for by doing this is to allow the space for our feelings to breathe and see the light of day. I truly feel that emotional eating and overeating have their basis in our emotions not being allowed in - denied a spot at the dinner table, if you will! By giving them room to breathe and actually becoming aware of what those feelings even are, we're able to separate them from food. How we feel becomes something we deal with separately to what and how we eat, instead of one driving the other. It's similar for emotional eating - by taking the time to check in with ourselves whilst we're devouring something driven by our emotions, not our hunger, we actually allow the feeling that's driving it all to come out. Keep practicing this and slowly but surely you'll get used to allowing your feelings to be heard without needing the middle man, food, to squash them back down.
Know that this is a practice, not an overnight fix, and that talking about it is the simple part. Doing it is where the real work begins. If the feelings that come up when you slow down and eliminate all distractions are really strong, try and take a few deep breaths without pushing them away. Allow them to be there without needing to engage with them and run off with 'the story' of it all. Keep taking deep breaths and know that it will get easier. It can feel a little bit like breaking the dam wall when you first start this; all of your emotions come rushing out like a big WHOOSH of water. Stick with it though and I promise it will subside, and you'll be left with what's really going on for you in your life right now. And honestly, there's no better place to be because awareness is the first step of changing things for the better :)
Have you tried slowing down and eliminating distractions when eating? How did it work for you and what experiences would you like to share? Remember to stay tuned for Step 3 where I talk about getting mindful with the emotions that might pop up and where to go from there.