In her book, 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself without Food, Susan Albers (New Harbinger Publications, 2009) recommends that individuals who engage in binge eating prepare in advance for times when they will be tempted to overeat. Although it takes some time to set up, I’m following her suggestion to create an Inspiration Box.
When Stress Overrides Mindful Eating
If, like me, you are an overeater, you know that when you are stressed, eating can be a soothing process. At least it is until the food is gone and we are left with the guilt of both blowing our diet and ignoring our emotional health by using food to numb us from our emotions.
Albers suggests that we use food as a self-soothing technique and that if we use alternative methods, we can be healthier both emotionally and physically. Instead of ignoring our emotions, she offers activities that fall into five categories – mindfulness meditation, changing our thoughts, relaxing the body, distracting our thoughts from food, and seeking the soothing support of others.
Avoid Binge Eating with an Inspiration Box
An inspiration box (or jar) is any container that will hold small squares of paper with different soothing techniques listed on them. Fold each piece of paper, set it in the box or jar and when you need to stop a bout of emotional eating, pull out a random slip of paper and do the activity.
The activities don’t have to take much time. If one activity doesn’t work, try another. If that doesn’t work, try a third activity. Chances are by the time you’ve tried three different distractions your mindset will have changed and you’ll be able to move on to something besides eating. Obviously, it is worth the effort to set up this box before you feel like overeating.
These are a few of Albers suggestions. Write them out individually on slips of paper. You may even want to color-code them according to the different methods they use.
Mindfulness Meditation – Focus on your senses, what you can see, hear, feel, and smell. Meditate, focusing on a candle flame, photograph, or a mantra (repeated words or sounds). Take three slow, deep breaths. Imagine yourself “catching” a thought and then “releasing” it. Squeeze bubble wrap.
Change Your Thoughts – Journal. Collage images of how you feel. Watch or do something funny. “Reframe” by thinking of another way of looking at a situation (not, “I’ve blown my diet” but, “I now know that I need to plan to do something at night beside sit in front of the television.”). Daydream. Do something that allows your mind to go blank – surf through television channels, color, flip through a magazine.
Soothe Your Body – Sip hot or cold tea. Apply a warm or cold washcloth to your forehead, wrists, or feet. Burn a scented tea candle, promising yourself to not eat until it has burnt out. Go to the gym. Do a yoga pose. Dance to a song. Do 50 jumping jacks. Sleep.
Distract Yourself – Chew gum. Drink Water. Watch a movie. Go shopping for a non-food treat that costs under $5. Knit. Search the Internet. Weed. Work on a puzzle (crossword or jigsaw).
Social Support – Have a diet buddy. Make a collage of loved one’s images. Start a blog. Call someone to vent. Spend time with a pet. Write a letter (be in a clearer mind frame before considering sending it.) Cuddle between two pillows if no one else is around.
Brainstorm other techniques and include them in your inspiration jar. Remember to try at least three techniques when you are upset or bored and want to overeat. The goal of the inspiration jar is to provide you with distractions from your urge for an eating binge.