It’s very easy to turn to food, especially sugar, when you feel stressed or out of control. Proactive eating can help you assert control of the situation. Sugar is pervasive in most of the world, and this cheap, readily available drug can exert harmful control over your life if you let it.
Proactive eating means that you don’t allow these external cues to affect your eating behavior (what you choose to eat, when you eat, and how much you eat). Proactive eating decisions come from knowledge, planning, and consistent practice. Eating proactively is a skill that you must master to achieve lasting weight loss and to kick the sugar habit for good.
Here’s a scenario that typifies unhealthy, reactive eating: After a long, stressful day at work, you come home late, too tired to cook something healthy for dinner. You plop down in front of the TV and begin munching on a bag of whatever you can grab out of the pantry.
While you eat and watch, you also go through the mail, worry about this month’s bills, and try to decide what you’re going to wear to an event this weekend that you don’t really want to go to anyway. When the bag is empty or when you feel disgusted with yourself for what you just ate, you finally stop eating…until you remember that you have ice cream in the freezer.
Examine some of the unmindful points of this scenario:
You didn’t plan ahead; dinner was an afterthought, and you ate whatever was handy. The pantry and freezer were stocked with unhealthy convenience calories.
You paid no attention to the amount of food you ate. You can’t control portions when you eat directly from a bag.
You paid no attention to your body’s cues. When you eat from a bag while doing several other things, you have very little awareness of any physical sensations or emotions. You have no idea when you’ve had enough to eat or why you’re doing what you’re doing.
You didn’t focus on any one task. The monkey mind stayed in full force the entire evening.
Here are some easy ways to improve the mindfulness of this situation:
Eat enough during the day so that you’re not starving when you get home.
Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy food instead of convenience calories.
Plan the day’s food so that you don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat for each meal.
Put your food on a plate before you start eating and take an honest look at what’s there. Do you have vegetables? Where’s your protein? What are the portions like? What’s this meal going to do to your insulin levels? What can you do to improve the nutrition of this gift to yourself?
While you’re eating, savor the tastes and textures. Chew thoroughly. Pay attention to how your body feels so you know when you’ve had enough. The Japanese use the term hara hachi bu, which means “stomach 80 percent” — in other words, stop eating when you’re 80 percent full.
Stay focused on one task at a time. While you’re eating, pay attention to that and only that. While you’re watching a movie, focus. Pay full attention to the mail during commercials. When planning for future things, do so one at a time, using facts and strategy instead of reacting to anxiety and worry.