Ten days ago, I started doing a few of the practices in a book that promises to increase emotional intelligence, especially around eating. I’ve known for years I’m an emotional eater, but I’d never really figured out what to do about that, how to change it. Eat Q showed me how. There are many more practices than I can list here, but the two that did me the most good were “Pause” and good old journaling.
“Pause” is just that. Whenever I wanted to eat anything for any reason, I paused a few seconds to figure out what kind of hunger I was feeling. At first, it was hardly ever actual hunger. Mostly it was cravings. I followed the cravings back to how I was feeling in that moment. That was the tricky part because I tend to avoid feeling my feelings when I eat. I just eat. So journaling helped me explore the feelings thing.
Frequent food emotions were a vague anxiety, or sadness, just a little bit, lonely, too, or bored, even happy, and often feeling like I wanted to treat myself. Because I deserved it. Over the course of ten days I tuned into and recorded all these feelings and more every single time I wanted to eat. I figured out very quickly that my emotions were really running the show and I determined I’d put them in their place, deal with them in healthier ways than with chocolate, potato chips, or cookies.
I learned that “healthy eating” consists of a plate of food that is half high health, like fruit, vegetables and protein. Then a quarter of the plate can be medium healthy, like whole grains or good dark chocolate. The final quarter of the plate can be any number of less healthy foods like crackers or a hamburger bun or even a handful of potato chips.
I decided I wanted to eat healthy more than I wanted to soothe my emotions with food. With that decision, I took the last step in the “Pause” sequence. I thought about the consequences of emotional eating, I gauged my actual hunger level, and I made the healthy choice. I got it right 28 out of 30 times. And the few times I did eat less healthy, it was only a little bit, and I didn’t feel guilty, I didn’t binge, and I got right back on track.
Losing weight was not part of my plan–I just wanted to be in control of my emotions instead of mindlessly letting them rule my diet and my life. It was surprising how very easy it was to do most of the time. The first few days I had cravings, but soon enough, as I gave myself time to figure things out, the cravings stopped. I found myself going from three hours between meals to four and even five hours. I never felt deprived. Instead, I feel proud of myself for sticking with that sometimes tedious “Pause” and journaling process. And even though it wasn’t planned, I lost weight while eating lasagne.