That have nothing to do with what you eat!
If you have a feeling you’re overeating, and your weight confirms that, then it’s probably true. Sometimes it can be hard to admit you’re overeating, though. My clients sometimes tell me only after a couple weeks of working with me: “Alex, for the first time in years, I don’t feel bloated!” But they never mentioned being bloated before.
Why don’t we want to admit that we’re overeating? Because what follows is the thought that we should stop. We should eat less. And then we will not feel satisfied, we will go hungry, we will have to put a lot of effort into eating less, and eventually because of that we may end up eating more…
So it’s safer not to admit it. But today I will give you 3 simple, counterintuitive “braincercises” that will help you eat less without feeling like you’re depriving yourself of pleasure. You can safely admit you sometimes overeat (only if you do, of course;)). There is a surprising amount of freedom in admitting we are not perfect.
One very important reason we overeat is lack of focus.
Remind yourself of the last time you were “in the zone” – that is you were so involved in doing something that you forgot time was passing. Maybe you were binge watching a series, maybe you were working on an exciting project, maybe you were busy being a perfectionist (perfecting your website, your offer, your graphics), maybe you spent an hour doing your makeup and hair. Or maybe you were reading a book that just sucked you in, and you didn’t want to get out of that world.
Nothing else exists in those moments. If someone asked you a simple question you would most likely look at them blindly without any idea what they are talking about. Yet, even though it seems you are completely immersed in that thing that you’re doing, the brain is still working on thousands of other things.
Breathing. Pumping blood. Processing emotions. Lifting that coffee mug and taking a sip. Munching on those peanuts. But your conscious thoughts are not present.
Now think about the way you eat.
Are you 100% focused on the food and the act of eating, or are your thoughts scattered? In the XXIst century, the focus capabilities of the human mind dropped below those of a fish. That’s the lowest in the history of humanity. The truth is, we are all scattered, and the more we have on our mind the less we are present in the moment.
Overeating is often overlooking. When we eat, even at a properly set dinner table (seemingly present), we get so involved in our own thoughts (that do not even circle around food) that we forget about the external world. And in that case, the external world is everything, including your body. Eating is such a simple habit that it doesn’t require any of our attention – so we put the attention in places we think need it more. Our relationship, work, a sick parent, the monthly budget.
And so can you see a scenario in wich you have food in front of yourself – maybe you are in a restaurant, having dinner with your friends, or maybe you’re simply sitting in front of the TV and food is available? The rule is simple: food is available, so you eat. Yet you’re so immersed in your thoughts that you have no idea when you ate too much. You miss the moment when you’re full and only notice it when it’s too late. Or you know you are overeating, but something else is more important at that moment and hijacks your attention. Maybe an emotion that is hard to handle?
In turn, overeating is usually followed by a guilt trip and looking at yourself in the mirror with disgust because you realize you gained two pounds in the past week and you have no idea how you allowed it to happen. You focus on beating yourself up and become even less present. Another difficult emotion to handle. It’s a vicious circle.
Avoiding that kind of behavior is easier than you think. The second when you read the article, given you devote just a tiny little bit of focus to the exercise that I’m going to present, you will feel a change.
So what can you do to avoid overeating mindlessly?
Are you catching my drift? What’s the opposite of eating mindlessly?
You probably heard about the concept of mindfulness and how it helps you to relax and be more present, happier, and find yourself. By the way, I experienced all those things within a few weeks of using mindfulness in my life. It is mind-blowingly effective.
So let’s focus on mindfulness, targeted at overeating. We already know what the problem with overeating when you’re not focused is. It’s that you are not noticing that you’re eating. Why? Because your mind is elsewhere. And trust me, if your mind is elsewhere when you’re eating, then it’s probably elsewhere when you’re at work, when you’re playing with your pet, when you’re having sex, when you’re talking to colleagues or friends or family.
If you want to be happy – you need to fix all of that. Because happiness only exists in the present moment. Fortunately, mindfulness is the easiest, most joyful, simplest and effective technique to achieve this!
You may be surprised to learn that the exercises I will prescribe here are often not connected to food or eating per se. In my B.I.R.D.S. framework for weight loss through your mind, we frequently deal with issues and habits not by addressing them directly, but by resolving something that seems unconnected.
Before we start, make sure you download my mini-guide with 7 Surprising Things You Should Stop Doing Now To Boost Weight Loss – another brilliant resource for losing weight through your mind.
So, here are a few exercises that you can start doing today, which will help you eat less without feeling like you’re deprived of food. Do them as often as you can – a few times per day, and then come back for more.
Be mindful, be present, when you’re brushing your teeth. When we brush our teeth, we tend to take a look at ourselves in the mirror, or think about the day that’s coming or has just ended.
Can you recall when was the last time when you fully focused on brushing your teeth? Be honest with yourself. When was the last time that you remember the process of brushing your teeth? Possibly never. So I have an exercise for you.
From now on when you’re brushing your teeth, focus on how the toothbrush feels on your gums, and on your teeth, and on your lips. Taste the mint in the toothpaste, see how it gets foamy as you perform the brushing moves. And stay focused during those two minutes when you brush your teeth. Do not allow your mind to drift away.
How to do that? It’s going to drift away after about nine seconds. But there is a way to go back into being focused. When you notice that your mind is drifting away, simply ask yourself: “Wait. What am I doing?” and go back to feeling the teeth brushing, go back to feeling your gums. Go back to how the toothbrush feels in your hand. Feel how the gum it’s made of doesn’t allow it to slip and notice the texture of it.
When you’re done with teeth brushing, smile at yourself in the mirror.
Now, this may seem like it has nothing to do with mindful eating. But it is. It helps you train your brilliant mind to stay in the moment.
Start this by doing it just once per day, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Just do it once per day. If you do it more – excellent. If not – fine. Once per day is perfect.
Every day pick a meal – breakfast, lunch or dinner, that you will focus on in the beginning. Make it colorful – make sure it has some green, some red, some yellow.
By the way, it’s always a good idea to make your meal colorful. Because it makes you feel happier when you see those bright colors, and happiness gives you the energy to fulfill your plans.
Before that meal, look at the food on your plate. Take a small moment, it can be 3 to 5 seconds. Just take a moment and assess everything that’s on the plate. Take a look at the separate groups of food that you have. Maybe it’s vegetables, potatoes, rice, maybe pasta, fish or meat. And look at each of these groups separately, acknowledging what they are. Name them in your mind. Paprika, beef, avocado, tomatoes, rice, peas, et cetera. Look at their colors and their different texture.
So the paprika, for instance, is going to be cut into big chunks. And the rice is going to be smaller grains. I would like you to notice the difference between them. And then look at the dish as a whole, and say to yourself: “This is my meal”. And feel how grateful you are, that you have food, that you have this meal, that you are able to nourish your body when you’re hungry.
Now, assess the amount of food on the plate. If it looks like a bit much – put some back. Only prepare the amount you want to eat and hide the rest.
And then eat – that’s it.
When you prepare your drink, whether it is tea, coffee or a cold drink…
Side note: don’t drink soda or fruit juices because they are mostly sugar.
When you’re preparing a drink, pay attention to the sounds that the liquid makes.
For instance, if you’re preparing coffee, the first thing you need to do is fill the kettle with water. Listen closely to the sound of water that fills the kettle. Maybe it’s coming from the tap maybe from a jug – they make different sounds. Listen to that.
Then, put the kettle on and pay attention to the noises it makes as the water slowly comes to a boil. And then, as you’re preparing the glass or the cup for the drink, pay attention to how it feels in your hand. Feel how cold it is and notice the texture of it with your fingers. Listen to the sound it makes as you put it on the counter, and then put the coffee or tea, listening to the sound it makes. The little grains of coffee hitting the bottom of the cup. The lemon juice that you’re squeezing.
Then grab the kettle or the jug, and pour the water into the container. Listen to the sound it makes and realize that just by listening to the sound, you are able to discern how filled with water your mug is. You don’t have to watch it, you can close your eyes (please, don’t do it with hot water) and listen to how the container is being filled. You will know that it’s half full or almost full and when you need to stop.
Then put the kettle back, listen to the sound it makes, and enjoy your drink.
These three exercises seem extremely simple. They’re also extremely powerful. I like to say that there is wisdom in every thing and event, but that wisdom tends to elude us when we run a busy life. When you do these exercises right, you will start noticing that you’re more focused. And you will be able to expand your focus to other areas.
That have nothing to do with what you eat!
That feeling which was hijacking your mind can wait till after dinner. You don’t have to continuously keep thinking about – that won’t change anything. Allow your mind to relax during meals and you will not only eat less, but also improve your digestion.
In a week, you can introduce a new tiny change. Stop in 3 quarters of a meal for 3 seconds and ask yourself “Am I full?”. If you’re not sure, there’s a big chance your stomach is full, but your brain hasn’t gotten the signal yet. Wait a few seconds and then verify again. If you’re not full – slowly continue eating. If you’re full – push the plate away in a decisive gesture, marking the end of the meal. You’re done.
Weight loss is a journey – from here you can continue by downloading my mini-guide 7 Surprising Things You Should Stop Doing NOW To Boost Weight Loss – followed by my newsletter.
If you’re ready to dive into weight loss through your mind and get incredible results for yourself fast and easy – book a free exploratory call with me!
If you want to read more about mindful eating, there is a book by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh “How to eat”. The exercises in this article do not come from that book, I came up with those myself.
Enjoy your meals!
Lose weight, not freedomAlex Tomaszewska