Stress Eating

Guest blog provided by Dr. Mark Long and Sally Vickers, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC), Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW) Department

he_iconHow often do you eat when you’re not hungry? For instance, do you ever eat (or overeat) to reward yourself? How about when you’re frustrated, tired, stressed, anxious, bored, or in need of comfort? We often eat to fill a need other than hunger. However, doing so can lead to overeating and making poor food choices. Of course, having an ice cream to celebrate a birthday or achievement is fine from time to time, but if you find yourself making poor food choices or overeating on a regular basis, practicing mindful eating may help you improve your eating habits and help you enjoy eating right.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindfulness is the state of being attentive to and aware of what is taking place in the present moment.[1] Before eating, think about what’s really driving your hunger. Is it a need for food or a need for something else entirely? Simply put, being mindful is experiencing and being fully aware of what your body is telling you in the present moment.

Before your first bite, ask yourself:

  • Am I physically hungry?
  • How hungry am I?

The trick is to eat before you get too hungry and to stop (or not begin) eating when you’re not hungry. You should also try to savor and enjoy what you eat by tasting it fully, rather than mindlessly filling a void.

Being mindful is an art. When your mind wanders (and it will), gently remind yourself to eat with intention and take in the whole experience moment by moment.[2] Eating mindfully will enable you to truly taste your food, eat only until your hunger is satisfied, and allow you to fully enjoy your food experience. Practice often and delight in the simplicity of eating! To help get you started, the Health Promotion and Wellness Department’s Relax Relax Toolkit offers a mindfulness section with an audio presentation on Mindful Eating.

[1] Brown K., Ryan R. The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and Its Role in Psychological Well-being. http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2003_BrownRyan.pdf.  Published September 2002.
[2] 4Kabat-Zinn, J. Full Catastrophe Living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. pp 27-29. New York, New York: Dell Publishing; 1990.

One response to “Stress Eating

  1. I was treated for eating disorder over period of years. You “nailed it” on info that’s helpful for an anorexic bulimic or binge/purge patient. Great Job!

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