Overcoming boredom and emotional eating habits

I am continuing on with the ‘whys’ of eating this week. One of the main purposes of keeping a food diary is to uncover why you eat. Just focussing on what you eat will not produce lasting change or bring enjoyment to eating. Two of the big WHYS are boredom and emotional eating.

A food diary encourages us to eat mindfully. From your diary you may have discovered certain times of the day or week when you eat due to boredom or emotional triggers. These can occur at any time of the day or night. As with all of our habits, eating can occur automatically without us pausing to ask “am I hungry?”.

Overcoming boredom eating

Step 1 – Commence the practice of asking “am I hungry” before you eat

Step 2 – Identify the times of day when boredom eating occurs

Step 3 – Plan to undertake other activities during these times e.g. reading, taking a walk, phoning a friend

Resolving emotional eating

The process for breaking the emotional eating cycle requires the identification of your emotional triggers. These can take on various forms and include:

  • negative self-talk
  • negative comments from family, friends or work colleagues
  • response to recent loss
  • recall of traumatic experiences

Step 1 – Commence the practice of asking “am I hungry” before you eat

Step 2 – Identify your emotional triggers and consider whether they are related to certain people, places or times of the day. The more understanding you have of your triggers, the more successful you will be at resolving them.

Step 3 – Can you resolve the triggers yourself, or do you feel that you would benefit from the support of family, friends or a professional counsellor?

Negative self-talk

Negative self-talk is a common barrier to overcoming emotional eating. When we sit still and quietly we become aware of the different voices (self-talk) in our head. Observing the voices is a form of meditation when we hear the voices without reacting to them. As an example, you might hear “I am no good at sticking to a diet”. If you can let this thought pass, others will appear “I am good at planning ” and “I really enjoy walking outdoors”.

Yes our thoughts are very random. If you can just sit back and observe you will find that your mind is continually assessing and evaluating. In this type of meditation we have to resist the temptation of reacting to the thought “I am no good at sticking to a diet” with “Perhaps I haven’t found the right diet yet” “I should starting looking for another diet” etc.

The observation meditation allows you to appreciate that your mind is mix of positive, neutral and negative self-talk. You will also learn that every thought naturally passes unless you react to it. This means that all of your thoughts are impermanent. You may often observe opposing thoughts, such as “I want to take good care of my health”, “I am not worth looking after” and “I really want to get fit for summer”.

Your actions will be produced from the thought that you focus on and react to. But you have the power to choose. “I am not worth looking after” will most likely trigger emotional eating, where as “I really want to get fit for summer” has the potential to bring about changes required to meet that goal. Wanting to get fit for summer also challenges the thought that you are not worth looking after. By choosing to take care of your fitness – you are saying “I am worth looking after”.

Consider whether negative self-talk is feeding your emotional eating cycle.

Overcoming boredom and emotional eating is supported through mindfulness. It delves deeper into the why of the WHY. Our thoughts and actions are based on what we perceive to be true. Transforming self-talk is something that we can all achieve by ourselves or with the assistance of others.

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