ProjectFit Life Coach Merry C. Lin
*adapted from Craving Change by Shah and Cannon
The more you know about "why" you eat the way you do, the more successful you will be at battling your problematic eating behaviours. As you do some of the exercises below, you'll begin to know what triggers problematic eating for you. Don't worry about trying to make the changes to your eating habits right away; your goal now is to simply become more aware of your eating triggers and responses so that you can start to take steps to change those unhealthy patterns.
For one day, stop for a moment each time you are about to eat or drink something and ask yourself the question: "Is this stomach, mouth or heart hunger?"
Stomach - physically hungry, eating for your health
Mouth -- craving food with a particular flavour, texture or aroma
Heart -- eating in response to an emotion, or a learned eating behaviour
On another day, try this exercise. Each time you are about to eat something, say out loud (or whisper!) the word, "HALT". Then stop and ask yourself what you are feeling:
Hungry Angry Lonely Tired
Feel free to substitute other feelings for the HALT initials, for example, "A" for "Anxious". Use words that are most meaningful to you. This exercise will help you distinguish between eating because you're physically hungry or to satisfy an emotional need for food.
As you focus on becoming more aware of your eating triggers, you may notice that when you are with certain people, situations or events that you are more likely to eat in problematic ways. Sometimes these circumstances can lead to difficult feelings such as anxiety, anger or boredom, which can in turn trigger eating. Check off all circumstances that may be triggers for you and feel free to add your own:
I feel I have trouble with my eating when I'm:
With a particular family member Just getting home
Dealing with my children Visiting a relative's or friend's home
Being criticized On vacation
Feeling rushed Dealing with money issues
Working in the kitchen Cleaning up after meals
Doing a task I don't like Getting ready for, or in, bed
Celebrating a special occasion Eating out at a restaurant
Anticipating a deadline Watching TV or a movie
Doing certain work tasks With a certain friend
Dealing with a certain co-worker Saying "no" in a difficult situation
Discussing an issue with my manager By myself
Meeting new people Studying
Watching TV or a movie Shopping
Although you may be aware that you are an "emotional" eater, do you know which emotions will trigger your problematic eating behaviours? For at least a week,
Ø Focus on those times when you are about to eat in a way that is problematic for you.
Ø Take a moment to try and identify which emotion you are experiencing at that time. You may be experiencing more than one emotion.
Ø Find the emotion(s) on the Emotions Inventory (attached) and make a checkmark in front of the emotion, or if it's not identified in the list, then write it in the extra space provided.
Ø Then go ahead and eat.
Ø About 5 minutes after you eat, think about how you are feeling and this time, make a checkmark behind the emotion you are feeling.
Ø You may also want to check in with how you're feeling 30 minutes later, and again make a checkmark behind the emotion word.
Ø At the end of the week, examine your Emotion Inventory to see if you notice any trends by the number of checkmarks you see. Where do you see most your checkmarks before eating? Which emotions are you feeling most often after you eat?
Use the eating log each day (see attached) to track your pattern of eating and the emotional triggers that may be occurring. This will be a great way to see if any patterns emerge.
We grow up being comforted with food from the time we're infants. This is a strong relationship, and with food being readily available, eating can be a quick way to comfort or nurture ourselves. With our increasingly stressful lifestyle, we often feel we deserve a "break", have earned a "treat" or need a "pick-me-up" to get through the day.
There are two ways to break this relationship with food. One is to reduce the stressors in your life that could be triggering your need for nurturing. The second is to replace eating with other simple, pleasurable activities that can comfort, reward or re-energize you.
Make a list of ways to do something special for yourself that don't involve food. Be sure to have some ideas that require very little time or money, and have some ideas that don't require other people to be involved Identify times when you want to eat as a way of comforting, re-energizing or rewarding yourself, and instead of eating, try one of the ideas from your list. Practice DAILY nurturing yourself without food.
Here are some possible ideas, but be creative: Buy yourself some flowers; take a bubble bath, massage your feet with scented lotion; curl up with a good book; download a new song; go window shopping; put your feet up, close your eyes and relax; give yourself a facial; give your pet a hug; browse in a bookstore; do some star gazing; phone a dear friend; to go bed an hour earlier; warm up next to a fire with a cup of tea; wander through an art gallery; walk in a park or by the water; colour or sketch; go fishing; rent a movie; have a pedicure; watch any show that makes you laugh