I used to have a love-hate relationship with food.
It made me happy. And that was the problem: I was using it to make me happy.
This meant always reaching for two extra donuts, an extra bowl of rice, or enough pasta to feed a family of three"”all for myself"”whenever I felt like it.
As a result, the extra weight piled on pretty quickly. My clothes no longer fit, I felt unkempt and out of shape, and my self-esteem dropped to an all-time low. This is where the hate crept in. I also felt fearful around food because my eating habits were making me feel so out of control.
The time had come for me to decide to do something about it, and thanks to a close friend's shot of tough love, I chose me. Not the food.
But I also knew that I didn't want to stop eating whatever I wanted, so I devised a strategy that would help me take my power back, instead of letting food control me.
Here's what I did, in 3 easy steps:
Step #1: I asked myself: "Are you really hungry?"
At my heaviest, eating was something that I did even when I wasn't hungry. It had become my chosen way to deal with everything"”stress, sadness, boredom, even excitement and happiness.
I couldn't go on like this, so I took a step back and asked myself this question when the urge to eat came up. What I found was that 80% of the time, the answer was "no".
If didn't feel sure, I'd ask myself another question: "Would you still want to eat if the only option you had was a bowl of unseasoned steamed broccoli?"
If my answer was "no", I stepped away from the food and did something else that would take my mind off my craving and disrupt my habit of mindless eating.
Step #2: I made eating into a meditative ritual.
My old way of eating looked a little something like this: See food, heap as much food as I can on my plate, finish everything on it, and go back for seconds in as little time as possible.
Cos, you know, I'm busy and stuff.
The only problem was, it wasn't working out very well for me, at least not according to my waistline and self-esteem meter.
My new eating ritual: Set aside at least 15 minutes for each meal. Instead of looking at my meal times as an inconvenience, I decided to see them as opportunities to recharge, de-stress and nourish my body and mind.
I put down my fork in-between bites, chew a little more than I need to, and take deeps breaths and relax to really savor my food before picking up my fork and going for the next bite.
This step has turned out to be a game changer that over time, would help me put a stop to my chronic binge eating for good.
Don't get me wrong"”I'm not perfect 100 percent of the time, and I still do slip up occasionally at parties and big events where the food is SO amazing that I want a little more than usual, but these episodes have become the anomaly rather than a regular part of my life.
Step #3: I focused on my food, and ONLY my food during meal times.
One of my favorite things to do while I ate was to watch TV.
The only problem was that if a program went on for an hour, I'd spend that entire hour eating mindlessly.
My new rules when it comes to the minimum of 15 minutes I'd spend on eating: No TV, smartphone, book or magazine, no eating on the go in the car, bus or train, or even while I'm walking.
The only exception I make to this rule? Good company and conversation.
These rules have allowed me to put step #2 into full gear and get the most out of them.
They've also taught me a simple but powerful lesson: The more mindful and present you are during your meals, the less likely you'll be to use and abuse food for entertainment or medication.
Are you eating for a whole lot of reasons besides hunger? How do you plan to change this? Let me know in the comments below.