Even outside of quarantine life mindless eating is one of the most common things that pops up with my clients, especially my mamas. You wake up, pulled in 8 million directions. The day is a blur, you move through the motions, and before you know it it’s 7:30pm, you have no idea what your name is and you find yourself mindlessly eating cold leftover macaroni and cheese off your kids plate. Or maybe for you it’s part of your wind down routine. You finally get a few kid-free moments of silence once they go to bed, and nothing feels more relaxing then a glass of wine and a whole box of cookies.
And hey, it might work for you and it’s important to know that nothing needs to be “fixed”. But often times it doesn’t work for you and leaves you feeling full and uncomfortable and struggling with your relationship with food…and wanting a more mindful eating experience.
There’s more to managing mindless eating then just stopping. It’s about exploring why you engage in mindless eating, if it serves you, and what other options you have instead. If you’ve struggled to address mindless eating in the past it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, it just may mean you haven’t found the right way to make the shift yet. So if you’re ready to be back in the drivers seat when it comes to your eating habits, here are 6 reasons you may be struggling and what to do about it.
1. You’re distracted. I get it- the idea of a fully present meal at the table with no distractions is like a unicorn these days. Instead you have kids you’re trying to feed too, or toys you’re trying to put away, or emails you’re trying to get through. But it’s virtually impossible to have a mindful eating experience when you aren’t allowing yourself to be present in the moment. There may be distractions you can’t control, but I’m betting there are some distractions you can drop. Set your kids up with a fun activity while you eat (or eat with them). Leave your phone in another room. Set aside time later for emails (they can wait, or be done before meal time). Focus on what you’re doing. Pay attention to your 5 senses. Be present.
2. You’re tired of making decisions. Decision fatigue is real on a good day, and after 7 weeks of also considering changes in job, routine, homeschool, 3 meals a day for everyone, and what life looks like right now decision fatigue may be at an all time high. Attempt to reduce the amount of decisions you’re making. Have a plan for what to eat in advance. Prep if you can. Make extras for dinner to have more for lunch. Keep it simple.
3. You’re coping with emotion. Boredom, stress, sadness, joy…all are emotions that may cause us to turn to food. It’s important to note that emotional eating isn’t a bad thing. It’s just an attempt to cope with feelings. If you’re finding underlying stressors or buried feelings are impacting your eating habits it may be time to allow yourself to feel your feelings, explore other, more effective coping skills or seek help from a coach or therapist.
4. You’re letting yourself get too hungry. Listen, I’m not really one to forget a meal, but sometimes the day just completely gets away from me and I’m left starving with no game plan. Letting yourself get too hungry combined with no clear plan as to what to eat is a recipe for mindless eating, and can be exacerbating by eating too fast. Sometimes having a game plan, even just a mental game plan, for what meals will look like for you for the day can be a game changer.
5. You’re restricting. I feel like most of us have been here. We are starting our new diet, or kicking some foods out of our diet. And while this may be with good intention, sometimes moving from all to nothing leaves us feeling restricted. Suddenly we crave that food more. It’s all we want. And when we finally “allow” ourselves to have it, we end up eating 5x as much without any thought as we would have if it had been intentional. Adding foods in in moderation and challenging food rules of foods being “good” or “bad” can help you have better balance and more mindfulness with meals. And lastly,
6. You’re not making time for yourself. Listen mama, I get it. There’s a million things that need to take priority and you are not one of them. There are tiny mouths to be fed, a house to be cleaned, a job to be done. It’s easy to move yourself further and further down the ladder. But who does that serve? You deserve a solid meal too. You deserve to be fueled well too. And you definitely deserve more than the cold leftover mac-n-cheese off your kid’s plate. So make make yourself a priority mama, because you can’t feel your best when you don’t make time to feel your best.