Whoever said food is fuel- nothing more nothing less- obviously never had a food struggle in her life. And, if we’re anything alike, you’re not that girl.
1:15 pm and there she is in front of the vending machine again- looking for something to help her get through the rest of the day.
3:45 pm and she’s standing in front of the pantry looking for anything to help her escape the screams, the spills, and the demands of the kids who just got home from school.
8:45 pm and this is her third trip to the kitchen to grab a snack while she finishes up work before calling it a night.
10:45 pm and she finally got the baby to sleep for good and she’s sitting on the couch devouring the chips.
What do all of these women have in common? They are using food as an escape- a way to check out. The pleasure that they get from indulging really comes from the ability to escape and not the food itself. And, in most cases, they all wish that they could stop. They are sick and tired of how this mindless munching makes them feel and look. But, they can’t figure out how to make it stop. How do I know? Because that was me and when I don’t pay attention, it is still me.
We know that “just say no” may work for drugs but it rarely works for food choices over the long haul. For every hard and fast rule we set, there’s at least one exception- a time where it makes sense to not follow the rule. Constantly managing the exceptions is exhausting so we check out. And, we lose control and don’t reach our goals. So how do we set ourselves up for success- to stop being controlled by food and to start being in control of our choices? We bring mindfulness to mindless situations.
Mindfulness can be so abstract, theoretical and exhausting when we don’t know how to make it simple and practical. But, practicing mindfulness can be as simple as asking yourself questions. It doesn’t come naturally so in order for it to work, we have to commit to practicing. By the way, in order for our practice to be effective, we have to do it all the time. Waiting until we are already in a situation likely to go bad to try to muster up the energy to ask questions doesn’t work.
Here are three questions you can practice asking yourself every time you are thinking about getting a snack outside of mealtime. These questions will give you the pause that you need between impulse and execution. That pause and the questions are often enough to help you make a beneficial decision without the rules and the drama of not wanting to follow the rules. Here they are.
Am I hungry?
The purpose of asking yourself if you are hungry is to realize when you need a meal and not a snack. Sometimes I get so focused on a project that I don’t even realize that I am hungry. But, my body knows. So, I get up and grab a handful of this. Five minutes later, it’s a fistful of that.
Before I know it, I have eaten my weight in snacks and I’m still not satisfied. Realizing that I’m hungry before I grab that first snack is a game changer. Then, I can choose to grab a convenient, Figure-Friendly meal or snack that helps me fuel my body without the excess calories and starch.
How will this make me feel an hour from now?
At some point, you have probably felt your hunger take on a life of its own. Or perhaps woken up in the morning with a food hangover. I have more times than I can ever count. In most instances, my mindless munching set the stage for feeling that way.
Most of us have some idea which foods satisfy us for hours on end and which ones make us want more the minute we put down our forks. Asking this question brings our attention to how we want to feel instead of what we can or can’t have. It can be hard to bypass the cookies in the breakroom just because you feel like you should. However, when we bring our attention to how lethargic and ravenous they will make us feel, it is easier to really mean it when we say no thank you.
Is it worth it?
Can we just be honest and say that there are times when we don’t really care about what happens next because what we are planning to have is just THAT good. I know that I’m more than likely going to answer with an excited “yea please” if I’m offered a slice of my Aunt Betty’s sweet potato cake.I get it once every few years and it is worth every minute of the sugar coma that follows. However, that’s not the case for everything.
Most of what we munch on mindlessly really isn’t worth it. Don’t believe me? When was the last time that you got in your car at night to drive across town to get…pretzels? Never, right? So bringing our attention to the fact that what we are about to munch on really isn’t that spectacular can make it easier to pass and not feel deprived.
That’s it. Practice asking these three simple questions and you’ll be on the path to beat mindless munching. No more swearing off snacking or trying to cut off your meals at a certain time. We both know those hard and fast rules don’t really work long-term. However, taking a moment to assess what’s really driving your desire and the likely outcome of your munching puts you in a place of power.
You can finally stop having those accidental indulgences that weren’t even worth it and finally feel in control of what you put in your mouth. But, I’ve got to warn you. It works only WHEN you work it. There are times when I still mindlessly munch. However, when I make the commitment to practice, it works. The more I practice, the more naturally I ask myself those questions and feel in control of my food choices.
What do you think about all of this? Have you tried asking these questions before? Did it work? Do you have other strategies to help you turn off the autopilot and bring mindfulness to your eating choices? Sound off in the comments below.