We don't always eat just to satisfy hunger. Many of us find we also turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or to reward ourselves. And when we do, we tend to reach for junk food, sweets, and other comforting but unhealthy foods. With the times we are currently experiencing we can find we are subjected more to stress eating and emotional eating. You know, work at home, eat at home, and entertain yourself at home all of the time – all while uncertainty, anxiety and fear floods our newsfeed and television screen. It is testing times.
With not much else to turn to, you might find yourself in your kitchen often looking for food to relieve the stress and begin stress eating. We have all done it before – and if it happens once in a blue moon, it is no big deal. But if it is happening on the regular it could be a detriment to your health.
So, if you have suddenly found yourself doing a lot of stress eating, how do you stop? Say hello to mindful eating. It is a simple strategy that could help you put down the M&M’s before you demolish the entire bag!
Assess your hunger
To eat or not to eat – that is the question. The first step in mindful eating is to figure out if you’re actually hungry, and if not, find another way to help you heal emotionally, call a friend, go for a walk or have a nice relaxing bath. Maybe take time out to blow dry your hair or paint your nails, or some such beauty treatment, because there ain't going to be anyone else doing it at the moment!
If you decide that you truly are hungry and not eating as a result of stress, you should eat distraction-free. Turn off the laptop, put your phone away. That will help you to be in the moment and pay attention to your food, rather than polishing off an entire meal or snack without even blinking.
You should aim for 20 to 30 minutes to finish a main meal, or 10 to 20 minutes for a snack. Chew your food slowly and thoroughly, instead of trying to finish it as quickly as you can. It can also help to put down your cutlery between each bite.
Take notice all your senses
Eating is a sensory experience. It is not just about your taste buds, but all five senses: sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste, so try to notice all these elements in your meal. What colours can you see? What aromas are coming from your food? What noises can you hear while eating? What textures can you identify? And finally, what flavours can you taste? Paying attention to all these aspects of your meal will help you to truly enjoy the eating experience and feel more satisfied afterwards.
Reassess your hunger
While you are eating your food, you should re-evaluate your hunger. Stop eating when you are about 80 per cent full, rather than eating and eating until you feel absolutely stuffed.
Using the above strategies, will hopefully help you turn away from stress eating and enjoy the eating experience when you are genuinely hungry.