Mindfulness exercises to curb binge eating

Aim to practise mindfulness every day for about six months. PHOTO | GETTY IMAGE

On many occasions, we are ‘forced’ to do things not because we need to but our emotions are raging. This is the case with Fausta Nalukenge who seems to continuously eat when stressed. It is in those moments that a KFC family pack is consumed in not more than an hour or a family pack of salted crisps is consumed in less than 30 minutes. 

“My only way of coping with stressful situations is eating and fast foods seem to do the trick. Unfortunately, this has led to weight gain. Additionally, the craving for extra salty crisps leaves me extremely thirsty,” she shares. 

While Nalukenge would love to stop binge eating, work related stress has not made that possible and this escalates towards the end of the month. “The reports and budgets that must be done during that last week cause a lot of stress yet deadlines must be met. Eating through the rigorous writing and calculations makes the tasks easier,” she shares.

While an occasional indulgence of these foods is part of life, Noeline Kisakye, a nutritionist, says emotional eating is when one seems to have no control over their eating. The eating habits become automatic and impulsive, she says.

Chris Mugabe, a fitness trainer, says rather than putting yourself through the agony of diets, there are some exercises that can help you control the habit. These will enable you become increasingly aware of what you are eating and to determine whether you are hungry or not. In so doing, the habit of eating impulsively will reduce. These exercises are also known as overeating mindfulness exercises.

Kisakye says since this is not a diet, there are no menus or recipes because the motive is to make one aware of how and what they are eating. 

“As such, it is not as restrictive as say, intermittent fasting. The sole purpose is to ensure that you are present (mind) as you eat to pay attention to your body’s needs rather than giving into emotions,” she says.

Sit down for a meal

Owing to busy schedules, many people are always on the move, thus eating while they work or walk. However, Mugabe, a nutritionist, advises someone with an emotional eating issue to start sitting down for all meals. 

“Serve food on a plate so that you can see the amount of food you are about to eat. This is different from when you keep eating different foods as you make a meal or work around the house. Being aware of your food portions limits eating too much,” he says.

Ask if you are hungry 

My son loves rice too much that even after two servings could ask for more. After noticing this, the father advised him to take a moment after finishing each serving to find out if he is really hungry or excited about the taste of the rice. This led to a significant drop in the amount he eats. Kisakye says often times, people eat food without pausing or breathing. 

“Pause between each bite to ascertain if you are hungry or not. That will save you from eating more than you need,” she says.

Assess your lifestyle

Mugabe says issues such as inadequate sleep can also alter your hormones. 

“When we are exhausted, more so mentally, our decision making rationale is skewed, even regarding what and how much we eat. Therefore, as much as possible, ensure you sleep well so your brain functions better,” he says.

Mindfulness exercises

With the techniques, one is programming their body to focus on being present when they are eating. Here are exercises to do in instances you find yourself eating carelessly:

Take a walk: Akin to sightseeing, with this workout, one allows themselves to look and internalise their surroundings. 

“Take note of how long the grass has grown, look at the number of trees surrounding you or the colour of the leaves on the various trees. Do you notice a difference in the smell of the air? All this makes it possible for you to appreciate what is around you rather than just walking by. As you do so, this is transferred to how you appreciate food. Ultimately, you do not eat without your senses,” Kisakye shares.

Keep a journal: While this is done to take note of your emotions and feelings, it has a direct relationship with your eating habits. 

“Write about your day, how you felt when you saw something, say your neighbour who had dyed her hair blue or how the yelling from your boss made you feel. In so doing, your emotions are validated rather than letting them get swept under the rug. Additionally, you pour them out on paper rather than on food, which curbs emotional eating,” Mugabe says.

The techniques and workouts will not become part of you in a day. However, with practice, these will become second nature and will help you overcome binge eating. Therefore, the results may not be fast but with persistence and consistence, you will win.


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