I sat down for dinner a couple of nights ago and half way through dinner I realized that I was shoveling food down as if there was no tomorrow. That’s just my way of saying I was eating mindlessly and oblivious to the taste, sight, smell and texture of the food. After a couple of deep breaths I started to eat more slowly so I could enjoy the experience of eating. That also gave me thinking space to reflect on what was happening and I realized that I was eating mindlessly as I was feeling frazzled after a stressful week! Furthermore, although mindful comfort eating can be a way of coping with stress, I noticed that mindless comfort eating was not very self soothing and seemed to heighten the experience of stress.
As stress increases, our awareness into how we are feeling and our insight into our behavior seems to decrease. Added to that as stress increases, any self care strategies we would normally use to look after ourselves tend to decrease. So effectively when we’re stressed, we’re not recognizing that we’re stressed and not doing anything to manage the stress until it reaches a critical point when we sit up and take some notice. That’s something I’ve observed in myself and others. While not all mindless eating is stress-related, if you find yourself eating mindlessly, perhaps it is a good idea to just ask yourself, “How am I today?” or “Is anything bugging me?” As simple as it sounds, when I’m shoveling food down, I’m fairly oblivious to my emotional state until I take a deep breath or two, step back, reflect and observe what’s going on. Only then can I connect with how I am feeling and what is really bothering me.
After checking in to see what the problem is, I might be in a better position to work out a plan of action to manage the source of stress. If there is no immediate or obvious way to manage the source of stress or it’s hard to identify what the problem is, then I could ask “What do I need to do to look after myself?” Although it had been a stressful week, I did not consciously make any extra effort to engage in any type of self caring activity. That would only have occurred if I had ‘checked in’ with how I was feeling and determined that I needed some extra love and care. We typically ask people we love and strangers all the time, ‘How are you?’, so it makes sense to me to ask the same question of ourselves on a regular basis. After that we can determine whether we need that extra bit of love and self care.