So much of what we do throughout our day is out of habit and we don’t really think about it. We are on auto pilot. Overeating is a habit; it is trained behavior that we are not often even conscious of doing. Does this sound familiar? Busy day at work, no one thing bothering me, but there was traffic on the way home and I am thinking of everything I need to do once I get home. I come home, greet everyone and start to make dinner. While I am making dinner I look in the pantry and start eating chips, cookies, piece of cheese, whatever is readily available. Before I realize what is happening I have already eaten more calories than I would have eaten at dinner but it was all junk. Then I feel guilty and have all these negative thoughts about myself and how I have no self control and I have blown it again. This was the old me.
So how do we change this pattern? Here is a 4 step process I learned from Brooke Castillo at the Life Coach School:
- Describe the emotion: Your brain shifts from creating emotion to watching it. What does it feel like in your body?
- Name the emotion: The emotion is separate from who you are as a person.
- Find the thought in your mind causing the emotion.
- Change that sentence
Back to the example:
What was I feeling when I came home?
- A heaviness weighing me down
- Stressed, tired
- The thought was I sat in traffic for 1 hour, I deserve to have these treats. I was not aware I was thinking this until I looked at it. Did I really deserve to have a treat? I realized my brain was going on auto pilot when I got home to keep from feeling negative emotion. I have to be willing to feel negative emotion or feel uncomfortable and not answer the urge to eat unhealthy snacks before dinner to lose weight.
Remember if we are feeling stressed or tired, nothing has gone wrong. This is part of the human experience; but we don’t have to stay unconscious through it and let our primitive brain take over. We can train our brain to observe ourselves and allow negative emotions and choose a different thought. My new thought could be:
4. I really want to eat the cookies and chips in the pantry while I am making dinner, and that is OK. But I am choosing not to give into my desire and allow myself to feel uncomfortable.
This takes practice. You can’t do it once and it becomes a habit. You will fail many times but that is OK, learn and move on. Your weight gain did not happen overnight and it will not come off overnight. Be willing to be uncomfortable and experience negative emotions. Maybe your new emotion could be proud that you did not give into the urge to overeat. You might even realize that feeling uncomfortable or a little hungry did not kill you so you can practice doing that again tomorrow or whenever the next urge to overeat comes up.