Note: Learn more about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program here or at www.amihungry.com.
Do you know why you eat when you do, and why a particular food? Do you think you have reasons other than convenience, availability, boredom, habit, being social, etc? Do you wish you knew what those reasons were, so you could handle them in some other, more effective way, but you don’t know how?
It can be very hard to find the answers to those questions. Our society doesn’t encourage us to make the time and space to be that self-aware. But not allowing time for it means that we may remain trapped in old patterns and might never be able to get past them.
Luckily for me, self-reflection has rarely been a problem – sometimes the opposite. But in terms of losing weight, this has proven invaluable. For instance, in November 2000, I wrote the following in my journal:
…I’ve actually begun losing weight, slowly but steadily, and I’m beginning to feel differences in my body. And then a couple of days ago, it suddenly scared me. If I go through with this, which I have every intention of doing, I will at some point have to deal with the fact that I will be attractive. That shouldn’t be a scary thought, and yet somehow it is. Because in that case, if someone rejects me, I won’t be able to have the comfortable, superior thought that it’s because of my weight – it would be because of me.
It was only then that I realized that part of the reason why I remained heavy for as long as I did was because it was a convenient excuse. As an adolescent, I dealt a lot with people being mean to me, or deciding they didn’t want to be my friend anymore, or only deigning to speak to me if they needed help on their homework. I convinced myself that I didn’t care what they thought of me, that it was simply that they couldn’t get past my weight. But what would happen if I didn’t have that rationalization anymore? How would I deal with it?
This is one of the things I appreciate most about the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating program, that Dr. May specifically provides a strategy called FEAST. It stands for Focus, Explore, Accept, Strategize, and Take Action. The idea is that when you realize that you’re eating for some reason other than hunger, you’ll go through these steps to understand why and come up with a more effective way of dealing with whatever the issue is than turning to food.
To me, this is key. If I hadn’t identified that this was part of my rationale for eating, I would almost certainly still be triggered to eat by having a difficult conversation with someone, or any type of confrontation. I could also have chosen not to accept it, to give in to that sense of fear and let it keep me where I was. Instead, I was able to acknowledge that truth, and take action by continuing what I was doing. I also paid attention to my interactions with people, and how those changed as I lost weight.
I would therefore encourage anyone who is trying to make a change in their life, around eating or anything else that might be difficult, to FEAST. I hope that it helps you as it helped me.