What is your relationship to food? For many of us, it can be quite complicated. As a culture, we use food to connect with loved ones. We eat together at times of celebration and sorrow. We cook for people we love as a way of nurturing them, and we mark many major life events with food.
Because food is imbued with so many different emotional connections, changing our relationship to food can be challenging.
Just look to the multi-million dollar diet industry for evidence that, despite the many varied diets out there, changing our approach to eating is tough and often doomed to fail from the outset if we don’t address the emotional connection we have with food.
So before jumping into a new diet plan, take some time to develop a mindful approach to eating. This means becoming aware of your automatic behaviors towards food. It involves cultivating curiosity about what happened just before eating that sleeve of Oreos, pint of ice cream, or bag of chips.
What were the feelings that came just before? What were the thoughts? Were you alone or eating with others? How did you feel during the food consumption and how did you feel afterwards?
These questions below, when explored with non-judgmental curiosity, allow us insight into what may have been automatic behavior. They can help you to develop a “pause button” before eating.
Here are some important questions you can ask yourself:
- “Am I hungry now, or am I feeling a bit lonely?”
- “Am I hungry now, or am I ruminating over something that made me angry?”
- “Am I hungry now, or am I feeling bored?”
- “Am I hungry now, or am I feeling disappointed?”
- “Am I hungry now, or am I feeling deprived in another way?”
- “Am I hungry now, or do I think I need to eat whatever my friends are eating right now to feel like I’m part of the group?”
Asking yourself these questions, gives space to make a choice other than food consumption, when food is not actually what we might be hungry for.
Perhaps you need a hug, a friend to talk to, some exercise, a breath of fresh air, relaxation, or a cuddle with a pet. Try it and see what happens.
Here’s to your Well Being!
Aliza Mendel, LCSW