Recently in a coaching session, one of my clients shared that she had had a very productive weekend. After accomplishing all sorts of projects and tasks, all weekend long, she reported feeling relaxed, for a very brief period of time. Then she felt bored.
She and her young son had made brownies earlier in the day. After dinner, her son asked if they could eat the brownies now. She said, “sure”.
She said she went in with good intentions. She started with a sliver. Then she found herself continuing to eat slivers of brownie until she’d eaten the equivalent of about 2 brownies and she said she knew she was headed for more…many more…
Then, she simply stepped back and got mindful…she knew she was eating out of boredom. In her mind, she actually envisioned moving forward and eating the whole pan of brownies, estimating it would take her less than 10 minutes to wipe out all the brownies that were still in the pan. She laughed to herself and said, “If I’m eating because I’m bored, I need to think beyond 10 minutes with a brownie pan”. And she walked away from the brownies…
“I don’t like feeling bored”, said another client, the very same day I heard the brownie story. This very accomplished man told me about how he eats way too many cookies and milk most nights, because he’s bored AND he really looks forward to this time with his cookies and milk, every night. He said he didn’t think he could walk away from this old, nightly binge habit…and trust that his life could still be OK, or fun.
So, I asked him if he’d be willing to “experiment”. One night that next week, could he choose to mindfully enjoy a handful of chocolate chip cookies and a glass of cold milk, viewing it as a lovely dessert…vs. mindlessly eating a larger number of cookies and his milk as a way to disconnect from feelings of boredom?
During his next session with me he reported a variety of experiences with the cookies and milk. One night he sat down at the kitchen table and very consciously ate 3 cookies and his usual glass of cold milk. He made it a point to taste the cookies and he said he thoroughly enjoyed them and felt satisfied.
The next night, he headed to the kitchen for the cookies without feeling connected to anything. He certainly did not have a mindful plan. He said he ate 10 cookies before he got conscious. Then, he said he remembered something I said to him about not trusting that he could consciously create a life that would be satisfying…without using food as his number one and only means of happiness. He said he decided that night to trust the process, a little. He consciously walked away from the kitchen knowing that if he had not chosen to get conscious after 10 cookies, 10 cookies would have turned into the whole box of cookies, and then he would have headed for the chips, something salty, then back for something sweet…
Familiar to anyone? Mindfulness, intention, practice, with a little trust thrown in, is the recipe out of mindless emotional eating!
Ellen Shuman is a Life Coach who specializes in emotional and binge eating recovery. She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Eating Disorder Treatment, Vice President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), and Co-Chair of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, firstname.lastname@example.org