Comfort eating is a natural part of our human eating experience, but what happens when the occasional spree with treats becomes an over powering urge that we find difficult to control?
Winter days are shorter and colder, leading to less physical activity, feeling more sluggish and depressed. What is a quick comforting way to boost energy, elevate mood and experience pleasure? FOOD - usually something that contains some form of sugar and carbohydrate. Why? It works!
Food is information - the biochemical messengers activated by food actually are working perfectly. The yummy foods we crave are often layers of some form of sugar, fat and salt - the perfect ingredients to raise dopamine, a feel good brain chemical. When we are depressed we eat to feel better.
For a moment.
This is usually the beginning of a cycle of depression, eating, guilt, restriction, leading to more extreme overeating followed by restriction, which for some people spins into an all consuming spiral of binge eating.
So how can you break the cycle to feel more peace with food and your body? Mindful awareness.
Mindfulness is rooted in the ancient Buddhist tradition and is finding its way into the fabric of our daily living environment - it is being taught in schools, corporate America and even professional football teams.
Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment without judging. Applying mindfulness skills to our eating behavior is proving to be an effective way to treat eating disorders, manage weight and feel more positive about food and body as a whole.
Trying out new eating skills can be a great opportunity for personal exploration to see what you notice for yourself. Here are a few ways to explore mindful eating for yourself:
- Become curious about what is motivating your food choices – is it hunger, emotion or impulse?
- Tune into your body to look for your physical signals for hunger and fullness.
- Practice mindful bites of your favorite foods - tune in to your senses - look at your food, smell your food, notice its flavor and texture.
- Practice forgiveness for any “mistakes” with food. Kindness and compassion will strengthen a positive relationship with your body.
My hope for you as you emerge from the winter to spring is a sense of gentleness and kindness with yourself as you grow as a mindful eater.
Allow your inner lamb to shine this season