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Emotional Eating - An Exercise in Mindful Awareness

Eating Breakfast - A bowl of ‘fruit and fibre’. 

The first thing I did was lift out a raisin. I looked at it, examined it from all angles, felt the weight of it as I moved it from one hand to another. The texture, how hard it was. I then tasted it with my tongue which registered a slight sweet taste. I put it in my mouth and felt it sitting on my tongue. I moved it around my mouth and felt it softening. I squished it slightly with my teeth and noticed the taste more, how soft it was becoming. I noticed that I swallowed three times but didn’t swallow the raisin and continued to mash it up in my teeth until it was almost dissolved. Then I swallowed it. I noticed the aftertaste in my mouth.

No, I haven't lost it........ I've just begun an exercise in mindful awareness. How often do we just wolf down our food without thinking........ or go from one task to another without really being present with ourselves in the moment. That's what mindful awareness is about, being present in every moment of your life. How difficult to do that when your mind is distracted by anxious thoughts. You can't be present in the moment when you're thinking of all the bad things that could happen. Life's too short to worry about things that will never happen but yet we do it and we lose so much of the things that are happening around us in the here and now. 

I moved on to the bowl of cereal next and noticed how hard the raisins were when I put a mixed spoonful in my mouth. I considered that each mouthful was full of vitamins and nutrients that I wasn’t even aware of but  that were in the bowl for my nourishment. I gave thanks for this breakfast, for the goodness it was providing for my body. I slowed down in my eating and immediately was aware of feeling “I have to hurry up”. I questioned “What’s the rush?” I was aware of the food being chewed in my mouth and my jaws and teeth working hard to mash up the food. The raisins were particularly hard when first put into my mouth. Everything else was mushy because of the milk. I deliberately started to savour the raisins. I then picked out other bits of dried fruit, these had softened in the milk but I noticed different tastes, apples, coconut, banana.  I marvelled at all the different textures and flavours that I usually miss because I never take time to really savour them.  

 I then noticed that a conversation was happening between parts of my body. My jaws were complaining that they were tired chewing, my brain was encouraging them to keep going, “Look, there’s still food in the bowl, you can’t leave food.”  My stomach joined in, “I think I’ve had enough”, which was overridden by my brain which was encouraging my mouth to keep going.  For the first time perhaps I listened to what my body was saying and overruled my brain and stopped eating (leaving food in the bowl).  I felt a conflict going on but I was pleased that I was able to make a  decision based on messages from my body’s needs rather than the psychological need to “clear my plate”.  

We sometimes eat out of an emotional rather than a physical need. In other words we comfort eat. It can lead to yo yo dieting and self-loathing. We feel ashamed and start judging ourselves and those feelings lead to reaching for the chocolate or biscuits to block them out......... do you identify with the vicious cycle? 

If you are interested in exploring the connection between food and feelings and want to understand your emotional eating check out www.understandingyoureating.co.uk and contact me for information about  joining a group programme.