The vicious pull

by Dr. Ellen Cullman, FLT Columnist

We’ve all experienced this: your fingers scrape the last crumbs from the bag of chips or Oreo cookies and you suddenly realize “I ate the whole thing and didn’t really taste it!” Somewhere we became lost while cruising the Internet, watching a movie, or some other “zoning-out” activity. As we toss the empty bag into the trash, regret and guilt are there waiting for us. 

We all engage in emotional eating at times. When we are stressed out from a hectic day at work, we are at risk of seeing the “floor” of the empty container of our favorite flavor of Ben and Jerry’s when we come home. Likewise, anger, boredom, loneliness—you name it—can trick us into not paying attention to what we really want or need. How do we get unstuck from the vicious pull to eat it all? Here are a few things you can try:

·         Practice building your sensitivities to times you are most vulnerable and make a plan to cope ahead of time. After a hectic day at work, bypass the ice-cream shop. Instead, think about what would be wholesome yet tasty to you. If you are not hungry, plan an enjoyable activity for the evening such as visiting a friend or going to a movie.

·         With your sensitivities strengthened, next time practice catching yourself before you have eaten yourself overboard. Put away the food and take a walk, or sit silently in another room and grapple with what is happening right now. By “grapple” I mean to compassionately face yourself and learn to give yourself a break. Then, as mentioned above, make a plan to do something different and go for it. 

·         Consider that you may actually be experiencing genuine hunger and you don’t recognize it. While taking a reflective timeout, ask yourself: “Is my stomach growling or empty? Do I feel angry and irritable?” If any of these are true, then perhaps you are hungry. The trick here is to curb your impatience to eat “right now” and make a timely plan for real food as soon as possible. 

We all sense and respond to the vicious pull to eat it all, but guilt and regret do not need to be there waiting for us. Try one or all of these reflective tips. As your skill improves, the vicious pull will just become a game and you will more often choose not to play.           

See more of Dr. Cullman’s columns at Email or call 419-494-7699 for information about how you can begin mindful eating. Dr. Cullman is available for presentations, seminars, personalized retreats as well as individual sessions.