Mindfulness & Overeating: Part 2 of the Mindful Eating Series

mindfulness

In Part 1 of my Mindful Eating Series, I introduced you to the concept of mindfulness and how it can be applied to your eating behaviors.

We learned that mindful eating is more than just having rules like “no distractions” and “sit down while you’re eating”. That it’s more than just managing your weight. It’s a lifestyle. One that frees you up from food restriction and guilt. It’s a way of life that allows you to be YOU. Instead of conforming to a certain type of food or amount of food, you’re listening to YOUR body and becoming the best version of you. 

In Part 2, we’ll talk about how mindfulness and mindful eating can prevent overeating with the next principle: Learning to be aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decision to begin eating and to stop eating.

Related: Mindfulness & Nutrition: Part 1 of the Mindful Eating Series 

Why Is it So Hard to Avoid Overeating?

I know you’re blaming yourself, mama. But there are so many factors at play here. Trust me, it’s not your fault! 

Here are just some of the factors influencing us to overeat (1):

  • Advertisements: Girl, food is everywhere! Of course we’re thinking about it all day. It’s literally in our faces!
  • Large serving sizes: When we’re out to eat, the servings given to us are way more than we would have maybe chosen otherwise. Seeing this on a regular basis changes the way we look at portions.
  • Emotions: We eat for many reasons other than hunger. It’s not bad or wrong. It just happens. 
  • Restricting and Dieting: To me, this is the #1 reason. When we restrict ourselves all day, we give power to the food that we aren’t allowing. Not only that, but you’re depriving yourself nutritionally. And your body is going to try to make up for that by craving and extreme hunger. It also throws your hormones out of whack which affects your hunger and satiety cues.

How Mindful Eating Helps

The more you learn about your body and its hunger and satiety cues, the more aware you are of these triggers and the more control you gain over them (1). 

When you know your body’s true cues, emotional eating happens a lot less. You’ll still seek comfort from your favorite food and THAT’S OK! There is nothing wrong with this. The difference is that you’ll be aware when you may be eating out of boredom or using food as a coping mechanism in an unhealthy way. 

Furthermore, you’ll appreciate your food and actually enjoy it instead of feeling guilty every time you eat (1). 

And, here’s the big one: It will get rid of your restrictions and food rules which will ELIMINATE binge-eating (1)!

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What Happens When We Learn Our Hunger & Satiety Cues

Here’s what you’ll notice when you start to work on mindfulness and learning your cues. You’ll realize that the first few bites of food are the most exciting and that the taste fades (1). I find this interesting. You realize that once you get to a point of being satisfied, you don’t WANT anymore. As good as that first bite was, it’s no longer something you feel you need to keep eating.  But when we aren’t being mindful, and we’re just rushing through a meal, we don’t notice that. We keep eating thinking that each bite will be just as good and exciting as that first. And subconsciously, we keep going looking for that same deliciousness. 

You’ll also notice that you are more satisfied by the QUALITY of food rather than the quantity (1). So overeating will do nothing for you at this point. You won’t be as tempted because you’ve enjoyed your food to the fullest. 

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How to Learn Your Hunger & Satiety Cues and Become a Mindful Eater

When I’m working with my clients, there are a couple of mindfulness tools I use that you can definitely implement on your own. 

The first is the Hunger-Fullness Scale. This scale goes from 1-10. 1 is the most hungry you think you could be. And 10 is the most full you could be.

How do you feel when you’re at a 1 on the scale? Your stomach is growling, you might be light-headed, even hangry. You can’t think straight, and you certainly can’t handle stressful situations. 

At a 10, how do you feel? Probably sick, sluggish, guilty. You probably can’t think straight here either. 

I don’t know about you, but as a mom, I can NOT afford to feel either of these ways. So the idea is that you want to try to avoid being at either end of the spectrum. Eat BEFORE you get to a 1 (for instance, eat when you’re around a 3) and stop before you get to a 10.

Mindful Eating Journals

A mindful eating journal is a lot different than a typical food journal like My Fitness Pal or Weight Watchers. With a mindful eating journal, you’re not tracking calories or macronutrients or even portion sizes. 

You’re tracking what you ate and when, where you were on the hunger-fullness scale before and after, how you felt emotionally before, during, and after you ate, and WHY you feel you ate. 

When I first have my clients do this, I ask them to not purposefully make adjustments. Just start to track these things. Then we can take a look and make adjustments to meals or the day’s structure once we learn what’s happening in their body throughout the day. For instance, if you’re always at a 1 by the time you get to dinner, we’ll take a look and see what you’re eating or missing in your day that might be leading to this, and come up with a way to avoid it. 

Read more about mindful eating journals here!

One Last Tip

When it comes to emotional eating, it can be tricky to know the difference between seeking comfort from your favorite food in a healthy way, and relying on food as a coping mechanism in an unhealthy way. 

As I said before, it is NORMAL and OKAY to find comfort in a dish you grew up loving, or in your favorite snack or dessert. 

It’s a fine line, but the thing that will definitely make you cross it, is if it’s your ONLY stress-relief or coping mechanism. 

So here’s my final tip: Make sure you have LOTS of ways to deal with stress. Make sure to use them every time you feel sad or stressed or anxious. One of the most overlooked forms of self care is mental health. It feels indulgent to engage in some of the activities that help you take care of your mental health, especially as a mom.  But it needs to be done. Self care is NOT selfish!!

Here are some ideas of how to deal with stress and your emotions that don’t involve food:

  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Watching your favorite show or movie
  • Reading a book
  • Yoga
  • Walking
  • Treating yourself to a massage or mani-pedi
  • Listening to music
  • Taking an extra break
  • Pausing to breathe
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Mindfulness References:

  1. Amy, N. (2012). Retrieved 11 November 2019, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/11/bite-chew
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