We’ve all been there. You had a great dinner and feel like you’ve stayed on track all day. The kids are in bed, the chores are done and now it is time to sit down and relax. After you settle into the couch you start to feel hungry. And this is where it tends to go south.
You have a few options –
- Walk to the refrigerator or pantry and search out a snack
- Drink some water, try to ignore the feeling and distract yourself with something else
- Stop and think – “is what I’m feeling actually hunger, or is it something else?”
Which one are you?
Let’s be honest there – I’m sure we can all say we have been each of these descriptions at some point. And this is not something shameful because this is totally normal. The key is:
- Recognize which one you are in the moment
- Make your OWN choice with how you’ll proceed.
When you do this you are the one in control. And that simple sentence is the most freeing thing you can experience.
So let’s look at what to do in each of the situations above –
Situation 1: You mindlessly walk to the kitchen and get a snack
What is going on here? You are not in the present moment. You may be dealing with stress or fatigue and you are going through the motions. You may even find yourself in the kitchen before you even realized you were hungry. This is often a habit we’ve formed and a coping strategy.
What to do?
- Realize these are all decision points:
-getting off the couch
-walking to the kitchen
-opening a door
-grabbing a snack
-preparing the snack
-bringing the snack to the couch
-consuming the snack
- You don’t need to do any of these and just because you’ve done one doesn’t mean you need to do the next. At any point you are able to stop. This is key because so often we start and say, “well, I’m already this far, I’ll just keep going.”
- If you decide you are hungry and want to eat, then go for it! If at any point in the process above you realize you are eating for ANY reason besides being hungry, you should stop. Set the snack aside and think if eating is the right thing at that moment.
Situation 2: You try to suppress the hunger pangs and drink water instead
What is going on here? You feel ashamed that you are hungry. You want to stick to the damn diet already and know you can’t eat a snack right now. You feel hungrier by the minute and feel horrible that you can’t eat. You swing back and forth – one minute you are feeling empowered and confident that you can stick to this diet and have willpower. The next minute you are feeling ashamed and weak because the hunger might overtake you. You may “cave” and go to the kitchen, eating way more than you needed. Or you may sit and suffer. Either way you end up feeling worse about yourself.
What to do?
- Before you grab the water, think – am I thirsty or hungry? Or am I tired and stressed? How am I feeling right now?
- You may grab some water (because let’s be honest, we’re all not drinking enough water) but you tell yourself that if you are hungry, it is OK. Your body knows better than you or whoever made your meal plan how much you need to eat in a day.
- You think about a healthful snack you could prepare if you are hungry. After 15 minutes you assess to see if the hunger is real.
- If it’s real, you go to the kitchen (without shame or self-judgement), prepare your snack and eat it with enjoyment.
Situation 3: You stop and think about why you have the feelings you have
What is going on? You’ve been paying attention and have adopted a mindful approach to eating. You realize that feeling hungry can be from a wide variety of things, not hunger
What to do?
- Pat yourself on the back – you’re one of the few who “get it”
- Don’t think about how much you already ate that day. Instead, turn of all distractions and sit with yourself. Turn on a 5-10 minute meditation and focus on your breath and the moment. Focus on what you feel in various parts of your body. For example, if you feel pangs in your stomach, breathe into that. If you start to feel judgement about it, acknowledge the thought and set it aside.
- After taking time to be present in the moment, assess if you are in fact hungry. If you are, give yourself permission to eat a snack. Think of something satisfying and healthy to eat and prepare the snack. Eat it without distractions, sitting at a table. If you aren’t hungry, spend some time focusing on why you felt that way and journal about the situation. Wait to do other mindless or distracting activities until you’ve given that feeling the attention it needs.
Which situation do you tend to find yourself in? What steps can you take today to move towards more mindful eating? What is your biggest pain point with mindful eating? Leave your thoughts and comments below!