Sometimes, I find myself opening and closing the food cupboards looking for something to eat after I just finished an entire meal. Why? I don’t know, I just have this urge to find something that is going to quell the need to continue eating. However, what usually happens is I close the cupboard, and walk out of the kitchen empty handed wondering what came over me.
Usually what it boils down to is one of three things:
1. I’m bored.
2. I’m tired.
3. I’m experiencing some anxiety of sorts.
Are these the only reasons, I or anyone else for that matter do this, no, but it is probably, at least for myself, the most likely reason for why I, and probably many others eat as well.
Today I am going to talk about the reality of what is actually happening when we eat to cure what ails us and why filling our mouths mindlessly with food and how we can over come this need to feed when hunger is not the real issue. It amazes me how quickly time passes as I stuff my face full of food. As I spread peanut butter over crackers, melt cheese over pretzels, and chow through a half a box of cereal I don’t even seem to notice the clock tick one, two ten, twenty minutes later then all of a sudden it hits me that the crackers are gone, the peanut butter is half empty and the cereal box is bare and I am standing there thinking, what next.
In that twenty minute time frame, I could have sat quietly reading a book or taken a nap or better yet I could have gone for a walk. However, none of that seemed important. For whatever, reason I was bored and I could not think of anything else in those moments that would fill my time better. I don’t know about anyone else, but I know that I am constantly on the go, constantly moving, constantly running. Whenever, there is a moment where I am not doing, I get bored. The problem is that I just don’t know how to be. Eating is a means for me to constantly continually do. It fills the void of not going. When I open and close the cupboards, I am doing something, when I am prepping crackers and peanut butter I’m doing something.
Rather than enjoying the moment of quiet and peace, I am filling it with unproductive activity. Activity that is only going to expand my waistline and fuel my need to constantly be doing something. Over the last few years I have learned to become OK with being bored with just being. However, that does not mean I don’t still go through the motions of wanting to eat to fill my time. What does happen however, is I stop myself. I literally stop what I am doing and ask myself what it is that I want? What I usually find out is that I am not actually hungry, but rather still reeling from the craziness that I had just left. That is when I find myself walking out of the kitchen, empty handed and taking a few moments to relax on the couch or when its nice out I change into workout clothes and go for a mind clearing run! I have come to realize that I NEED this stopped time to just let things be. I also found that it is one of the ways that I keep my weight in check! The purpose of food is to fuel us and give us energy and on a day where I got a full nights sleep, I usually don’t find myself trolling the cupboards looking for food. However, make that a day where my sleep feels restless and I tossed and turned a lot, I guarantee you will fine me in the kitchen chain eating in a feverish manor trying to find that “one” thing that is going to set me flying back into go mode. Without fail, I never find it and what usually happens is I find myself on the couch fast asleep after I pried myself out of the kitchen with a spatula.
What I have now come to realize is that it is not food I crave, its sleep! I’m tired and the only thing that is going to re-energize me is rest. Now I understand that not everyone’s schedule is like mine however, what I do know is that the next time you find yourself in the kitchen after work, regardless of the time, and you have just finished your dinner walk out of the kitchen, sit down and wait. Give your body a few seconds to catch up and give your mind a minute to decide are you really tired or are you still really hungry. If your hungry, go back and get something else to eat, if your tired, go to bed! You can eat when you get up in the morning.
Breathe! I don’t know about you, but when I am in the kitchen looking for food during non meal times, I find my heart racing, my mind racing and my breathing rate increase. Those are all signs of adrenaline pumping like I am in some kind of danger. However, this is not the case, in reality I am standing in my kitchen with the cupboard door open. Unless the food cupboard decides to chuck cans and boxes at me, certainly I am not going to get hurt. This is where I and you too need to step away from the food and inhale hold it a second and exhale slowly repeating this two or three times to shut down the sympathetic, fight or flight, system and allow the rest and digest, parasympathetic system kick in relax the tension and adrenaline. Deep breathing gives your body and brain to catch up and understand what is going on. Deep breathing is calming and soothing which may be something our body needs. Rather than using food to calm and soothe, breathe instead. If you have eaten well all day, and you are not hungry, then food is not what you need, calm and serenity is what your body really needs. Turn off the electronics, sit in a comfortable place, and sit in silence listening to your breath. It can be the most powerful thing you can do. Start slowly, find what works for you. Is it going out for a walk or run, is it taking a nap or is it taking those deep breaths? Each person is different and it take trial and error to figure it all out. It’s a process, not something that you are going to solve overnight. However, I can promise that if you practice listening to your body and using food as fuel rather than comfort, you too will achieve your goals!
Written By Julie S.