Welcome to the Eat Simple series! Over the next two weeks I'm going to walk you through my simple, effective method to begin to heal from the patterns of overeating and emotional eating. These are two behaviours that can be very damaging in your life - I know, I used to do it! It can be crushing to your self-belief and confidence when you're constantly in a cycle of committing to new health goals but you can't seem to tell yourself when enough is enough, or even get any real enjoyment out of the meals you eat. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel and I promise you, it's not as far away as you think. Let's dive in, shall we?
Step 1: Slow Down
Everyone is in such a hurry these days and we've become wired to expect everything to be instant, so it's no wonder that eating fell into this category too. The invention of fast food and snack food probably didn't help matters either! It encourages us to think of meals and the joy of eating as something you do on-the-go; standing up at the kitchen bench, whilst driving, or at a social event with a drink (coffee, alcohol etc.) in the other hand. From a convenience point of view, I totally get it but when did we become so busy that our most fundamental way of keeping ourselves alive became a task on our to-do list and not something to rejoice in?
Slowing right down was the first thing I did to start to heal from overeating and emotional eating and whilst it wasn't necessarily 'easy', once I embraced it and hung in there through my emotions desperately fighting to plough through my food, I found it incredibly effective. Yes, it is likely that if you've got patterns of emotional and overeating, you may experience a tantrum of sorts when you first start to slow down. Whether its minor or major on the scale depends on how invested you are in this pattern. You see, I believe that both of these patterns are really about not wanting to see what's hiding underneath it all; not wanting to feel the difficult emotions in your life. There's no shame in it - heck, life can be really hard! We don't always know how to process some of the things that happen to us, so we cope in the best way we know how. However, I'm betting that right now you're actually no longer in the initial after-shock phase of life throwing its curveballs, so this coping mechanism is no longer serving your immediate need for survival. It is only hindering your ability to move on.
Here are my top tips for slowing down and introducing some calm meal time into your day:
- Find somewhere lovely to sit, preferably at a table, and don't start your meal until you're seated and have taken a few long, deep breaths.
- Chew your food - it's an oldie but a goodie! Make sure to chew each mouthful completely and really pay attention to the tastes and sensations of the lovely meal you're having.
- Put your knife and fork down in between bites. We're reinforcing to our physical body, and subsequently our emotional body, that we are not in any rush and that it's OK to rest in between bites.
- Sit quietly for a while after finishing your meal, instead of rushing to get up when you're still halfway through your last mouthful. Allow the experience of eating slowly to fully wash over you and simply notice how you're feeling.
- Start with one meal a day in the least stressful environment possible. So if you're at work early in the morning, how about try making dinner your 'slow' meal? Or vice versa, you work late, make it breakfast. Breakfast is my particular favourite to start with because it sets you up in a good, calm space for the day :)
There you have it lovely, that's the first step you need to take if you want to really heal this pattern from the inside out. Remember to do your best and be gentle with yourself - it won't necessarily all go perfectly the first time but if you make this a practice that you eventually take to all meals, you will find yourself becoming more free from this pattern of overeating and emotional eating.