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Emotional eating – is it why diets have failed you?

Do you have a healthy relationship with food? Would you classify yourself as an emotional eater?

Spoiler alert: We are all human, so we all eat for emotional reasons to some degree.

If you eat when you’re stressed, sad, tired, depressed or anxious, you are emotional eating. Our world of electronic (TV, computers, smartphones) only makes the problem worse as these devices put our focus on the screen instead of the food in front of us.

How do you bring more awareness to your food experiences, cravings and physical cues when you eat? You may have heard of a state of awareness referred to as “mindful eating” frequently in recent years.

Based on over 3,000 clients I’ve worked with over the last 10 years, this is the component that is missing in most diets and healthy eating plans on the market that have failed you.

Even some of the best, science-based diets only focus on food selection and portion size – and those are only part of the problem that’s impacting your health and waistlines.

Eating more mindfully helps address the emotional side of nutrition and is essential to your health and the long-term success of any diet or eating practice.

It may take a little practice as you work to retrain years of fast eating, stressed eating and depressed eating.

The strategies below are a great starting point:

First, slow down your eating, and don’t rush your meals. It takes your brain at least 20 minutes to realize you are full and that you should stop eating. Block at least 20 minutes in your schedule to eat and allow a little extra time to sit back and rest while your food starts to digest. This keeps your brain engaged rather than distracted, which leads to all the healthy benefits of mindful eating. Next, chew thoroughly while feeling the temperature and texture of the food in your mouth. It’s a known fact in the food industry that temperature, color and different textures in the meal all play into being more satisfied with the food. I teach my clients to salivate before the first bite and chew, chew, chew. Finally, work to eliminate all distractions such as smartphones and TVs. If you want to take it to the next level, eat in silence and give your brain a break. Silence at mealtime allows you to bring awareness around the food you are eating and how it makes you feel. This alone will allow you to more effectively stop eating just before you “feel” full. Again, fullness is not the overly stuffed, “I need to unbutton my pants and lay down” feeling. Fullness can be a warm sensation in your stomach, but many people experience fullness with different sensations in the body. Without mindful eating, you can never tap into the sensation of being satisfied just before you feel full.

If you feel you are eating too much, unsatisfied with your food, depressed or anxious, or struggle with binge eating, mindful eating may be what is missing from your eating experience. Practicing mindful eating is an easy way to improve your food relationship and achieve better health. Extreme food enjoyment and satisfaction are just one meal away.

Fran Sutherlin is a local registered dietitian, health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition, which has offices in Durango and Bayfield and offers virtual-coaching options. She can be reached at 444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.