Have you ever craved celebratory food when you heard the good news? Does weather change make you crave for something fried along with a hot beverage? Do you tend to numb yourself with food when you are bored or just feeling very low?

You might be an emotional eater and probably want to read along.

Who is an emotional eater?

An emotional eater is a person who uses food as a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions such as stress, anger, fear, boredom. On the flip side, they may also use food to manage the overwhelming response to positive emotions.

It might be normal for an emotional eater to connect food with experiences, places, people and so on. Sometimes it may be linked to a major life event that led to use food as comfort and the habit carried on.

Is emotional eating harmful?

Emotional eating may turn into a form of addiction where a person is using food to cope with life’s stress. Stress is meant to bring out a  positive response in a person for a person to grow in experience.

Emotional eating dampens this experience and prevents the emotional growth of a person. The side effects of eating too much of a specific type of foods may further lead to illnesses, emotional dependency, obesity, and loss of health.

Emotional eating may start as a harmless coping mechanism but if left unchecked may turn into a full-blown psychological disorder. It also does not really lead to your desire of feeling full and content in life and the void that you are feeling might never be completed by food.

It is important to learn better coping mechanisms and slowly replace this habit and start a healthy relationship with food.

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is in it’s simplest definition is eating with awareness. It is an experience where you choose to eat with a moment to moment awareness. Mindful eating experience allows you to use all your senses in choosing to eat food that is satisfying and nourishing.

Having awareness while eating mindfully helps you understand when you are physically hungry vs emotionally hungry. It can help you become aware of your current emotional relationship with food.

Most people eat mindlessly, in a hurry or exhibit a great degree of unconsciousness or indifference towards food. Mindful eating gives an opportunity to bring awareness and attention to our bodies during the activity of eating.

12 mindful eating strategies for emotional eaters

Here are 12 mindful eating strategies that will help emotional eaters change their experience around eating:

  1. Pay close attention to your emotions around food – When you are eating a bite of food, close your eyes and tune in to your emotions around this bite of food. Ask yourself these questions. Are you attracted to this food? Do you feel in a hurry to eat? Are you annoyed to slow down and think about all these questions? Is there a sense of hatred towards this food? What are you hoping to get out of this food?
  2. Do not multi-task – While eating only eat. Turn off the TV, cellphone, computer. Do not talk to anyone else. Do not read. Just give your complete attention to the food in front of you.
  3. Eat with a sense of gratitude – When you eat food, think about what all activities must have taken place behind the scenes to get food on your plate. Thank the farmers, the industries, the chef, the logistics and transportation services, your ability to pay for the food, pay gratitude to every little task.
  4. Slow down – For the time that you are eating your food, slow down mentally. Try to not think about what you have to complete next or where you have to reach. Just completely focus on food.
  5. Use all your senses – Summon all your senses during eating. Truly work on smelling the fragrance of your meal. Touch the food and notice the textures. Does the food make a crunchy noise while biting or is it a soft chew? How does it taste on the tip of your tongue? What color is your food today? Is it appealing? Bring complete awareness to your food.
  6. Take 3 mindful breaths between some bites – Put your fork down in between and take 3 mindful breaths. Then start eating again.  This will help you bring you back from any distraction from this mindful eating activity back to the present moment.
  7. Notice how you feel after eating the food – Do you feel satisfied? Do you feel nauseous? Do you still feel some form of a void? Do you feel full? Do you feel lethargic? Do you feel energized?
  8. Ask yourself how hungry you are on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is starving and 10 is full after a few bites? Repeat till you feel comfortable. Stop eating when you feel full and pack the remaining food for the next meal.
  9. Ask yourself why you are eating? Are you feeling stressed out or nervous? Are you feeling happy and excited? Are you feeling physically hungry?
  10. Use your non-dominant hand – Use your nondominant hand to eat your food today. Notice how it feels. Does it feel awkward? Do you feel more aware of your eating? What is the judgment going on there right now?
  11. Be mindful of what you are putting on your plate – When you are choosing your food, ask yourself? Is this good for my body? Why am I choosing this food to eat right now? Will it help me feel better? Will it nourish my body? Do I usually feel crappy after eating this?
  12. Ask yourself – Would you be caught red-handed eating this food in this quantity right now? Notice what goes on in your mind. What emotions come up? What stories start forming? What excuses start coming up?

Mindful eating and becoming more aware of our patterns helps us to make changes. It will not help if we ask ourselves questions and go in a cycle of judgments towards our selves.

Show self-compassion in this process as much as possible. Congratulate yourself in taking this important step towards becoming more aware of your eating patterns and your emotions.

Here are some ways to succeed in using mindful eating process regularly

  1. Put in your calendar to have one mindful meal or bite every day or every other day or every week or whichever pattern works for you the best.
  2. Find a partner who is willing to do this with you and share notes
  3. Work with a mindfulness coach who will hold you accountable

Did you try any of these strategies this week? If yes, share your notes below in comments!