by Mayah Taylor, MA
When we talk about binge eating, a key characteristic is frequently eating large quantities of food and feeling unable to stop eating. Other characteristics of binge eating are the sense of lack of control over eating during a binge episode, eating even when not full or hungry, and eating rapidly during binge episodes. Even though it may feel that we can’t control the binging of food during a binge episode, there are different techniques that we can use to begin to take control of the binge eating and begin recovery. One technique that can be used to help recover from binge eating is mindful eating.
Mindful eating is an extension of practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is described as a state of mental awareness on the present moment while acknowledging and accepting your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Mindful eating is used to help a person create greater awareness of thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behaviors. It challenges a person to work through urges to binge and identify what they really need to nourish and sustain themselves. Consistent practice of mindful eating can reduce binge eating episodes and emotional eating as well.
When you are mindfully eating, you are aware and present in the moment each time you consume food. You want to use your 5 senses during each meal. Slow yourself down during each meal, after each bite focus on chewing your food. While eating ask yourself questions like, “what does it taste like?”; “Does it look appealing?” Think about the aroma of your meal and how it feels in your mouth: “is it soft or crunchy?” These are all ways to challenge yourself to mindfully eat during meal periods thereby maintaining awareness in the present moment and slowing yourself down to experience your meal. Also, by slowing yourself down, you give your stomach a chance to catch up to your mouth and be able to effectively send you a signal when you are becoming full.
Another example of mindful eating is recognizing the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. Physical hunger develops over time and goes away when you become full. It is your body’s way of letting you know when you are actually hungry and need food to sustain yourself. Emotional hunger can develop suddenly. This can be triggered by craving foods and is not always a representation of actually being hungry. This can continue even after being full. To combat emotional hunger, check in with yourself and ask: “Am I really hungry or am I in an emotional state?” Identify how you are feeling and if you may have been triggered by something prior to feeling the urge. Ask yourself, “Would food help how I am feeling?” If you think that food is not going to solve the problem, follow up with another question like “What is it I really need?”
If you are struggling with binge eating and looking for something that you can practice at home or wherever you are to help you cope. Mindful eating is a good technique to add to your arsenal of coping skills to help you not give in to those urges to binge. Remember the goal of mindful eating is to experience each meal, be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and body, and be present in the moment.
For a FREE mindful eating cheat sheet, click below!