I’ve been doing this for many, many years – following the philosophy of attuned eating, practicing what I preach in my BodySense groups. And yet every now and again, I find myself eating when I’m not hungry. And when that happens, I don’t select healthy, nutritious foods, I go right for the mind-numbing, high sugar, high fat varieties.
I remember an incident a few years ago when I was preparing to have friends over for brunch. I’m not a good cook (although I make a great salad and set a lovely table), so I was ordering a quiche as the main part of the meal and I allowed myself to be talked into quite a few tasty-looking and expensive pastries. On the way home, my husband pointed out that I had spent the same amount of money on the dessert as I had on the main course. Shame immediately bubbled up from deep down inside me and I felt horrible. The wave of shame kept getting bigger and bigger and by the time we arrived at home, I couldn’t wait for him to leave the house so I could stuff my face with at least one of those pastries. Two BodySense “no no’s” – eating when I clearly was not hungry and sneak eating.
The moral of the story, as they say, is to know your triggers. Shame (an old, old issue for me) is clearly one of mine, as is feeling “entitled” to eat beyond satiety when I’ve been working hard. And if I had been really paying attention, I would have been aware that I was feeling uncomfortable while talking with the person taking my dessert order.
So what are your triggers? I hear boredom a lot. “I’m bored so therefore I eat”, say many of my clients. What if I were to propose that many of us are uncomfortable just sitting and being still with ourselves and with our feelings – and we call it boredom. What if we know we should start a project that we don’t really want to do but we eat instead and we call it boredom rather than procrastination. Or what if husband or child or co-worker says something that makes us sad or angry and we don’t want to confront him or her, so we eat instead. What if we’re out to eat for the first time in ages and the food is so good and the ambiance so relaxing that we eat until we’re stuffed rather than ask for a take-out box – and enjoy another delicious meal the next day. What if we’re lonely or sad?
I also hear “I’m addicted to food”. The women who say that to me are not obsessing about salad or chicken broth or shredded wheat (without the sugar frosting). They’re addressing how challenging it is for them to stay away from/ stop eating foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat. And we now know, science tells us, that these foods change brain chemistry, trigger the pleasure centers in the brain, so no wonder we want them and more and more and more of them.
So along with our trigger emotions and situations, we also need to know our trigger foods. I’ve learned the hard way not to keep quantities of chocolate chip cookies in my house. Out of sight/ out of mind on one hand or the battle with urges and cravings on the other. I choose the former.
Whether selecting a life partner, a career, or making the decision to eat or not to eat, we all need a certain level of self-awareness. And when we practice self-awareness, we discover our triggers. So, what are yours?
Ilene Leshinsky is a licensed, clinical social worker with fourteen years of counseling experience. In her Plattsburgh-based private practice, she works with women who want more joy and fulfillment in their lives. Ilene’s BodySense program is open to women of all ages who are in conflict with weight, eating, and body image. She can be reached at 518-570-6164 or www.ileneleshinsky.com.