It is common for people to put on a bit of extra weight after they become sober. Many of these individuals will have neglected food during their years of addiction. They may now rediscover the joys of eating, and it is easy to overindulge. This often means that people become overweight, and if they are not careful it leads to health problems. Carrying around too much body weight is also physically draining. The goal of sobriety is for people to build a good life away from addiction. An important aspect of this will be good health. Nobody gets sober to feel bad. Mindful eating is an effective tool for helping people to control their body weight.
A life away from addiction means facing difficult emotions without a chemical crutch. Comfort eating is often called feeding your feelings. It is a behavior that people pick up in childhood when they learn to associate foods with reward. The type of items that people will turn to for comfort varies from individual to individual; it can be strongly influenced by their culture. In western countries comfort eating usually involves consuming junk food. This means that the behavior is a frequent cause of obesity and ill-health.
Comfort eating can be harder to deal with than an alcohol or drug addiction. This is because with these other substances the most effective solution is complete abstinence. People will not be able to give up food so they need to learn how to live with it. This can be a challenge for people who have picked up bad eating habits that have become ingrained.
If people have a body mass index above 25 they are classified as being obese. There is frequent mention in the media about the obesity epidemic. There are believed to be more than 300 million obese people alive today. Obesity can lead to all sorts of health problems including:
* Increased risk of diabetes
* High blood pressure
* Reproductive disorders
* Increased risk for certain types of cancer
* Cardiovascular disease
* Increased risk of cardiovascular accidents (stroke)
* Reduced life expectancy
* Inability to be active for long periods. This can impact every aspect of life; an obese individual might not even be able to play with their kids.
* More likely to develop joint problems
* Breathing difficulties such as sleep apnea
* Problems with self-esteem
The usual way that people deal with their obesity concerns is that they will go on a crash diet. They might also decide to join a gym to help burn excess calories. Such efforts can produce startling results in the short-term. If the individual is persistent and has enough self-discipline they will be able to reach their target weight. The real difficulty is going to be maintaining this weight. The truth is that crash diets just do not work.
The problem with diets is that people are usually unable to keep to them long-term. They may put in a heroic effort and reach their goal, but once they are there the usual response is to slip back to old routines. This means that within a few weeks or months they will be back where they’ve started. The solution to obesity is not a crash diet. There needs to be a change in the way people interact with food. They need to break the habit of comfort eating. One way of doing this is through a technique known as mindful eating.
Mindful eating is based on a type of meditation technique known as mindfulness. It is a way of being more present in the moment to see what is really going on. One of the main reasons why people overeat is that they are mindless while consuming food. This means that:
* They do not notice when their stomach feels full and so they eat excessively
* They do not really taste their food so they are not really satisfied after a meal
* They mistake body sensations like tiredness and stress for hunger. This means that they eat even though they are not hungry
* They eat as a reflex and do not even notice that they are shoving food in their mouth for much of the time
The aim of mindful eating is to encourage people to be more aware of food. It does not mean they will have to consume their meals while sitting in a full lotus position, or that they have to eat extremely slowly.
Mindful eating is far more beneficial than crash diets because:
* It is a lifestyle change that people will be able to maintain indefinitely. This means that their weight loss will be permanent.
* One of the nicest things about mindful eating is that there is no sense of deprivation. People can eat when they feel hungry and keep on eating until they feel full.
* Eating this way is highly pleasurable. It means that people get to enjoy all the tastes and aromas more fully. Meal times become something to look forward to, and the individual will develop a deeper appreciation of food. People spend plenty of money on food so it makes sense that they should try to enjoy it as best they can.
* Mindfulness is something that can benefit every aspect of the individual’s life. By adopting this technique they will be improving their general mindfulness.
Mindful eating involves developing some new habits. Where dieting is mostly about not doing something, this approach is more focused on taking positive actions. This approach involves:
* If people have the urge to eat they need to first check their body to see if they actually feel hungry. This urge to put something in their mouth will often be driven by sensations or emotions that are not related to food. Once people identify that they do not actually feel hungry it will usually mean that the desire to eat disappears.
* When it is time to eat the aim should be to focus on the food. This means turning off distractions such as the television which leads people to blindly put food in their mouth. Eating without distractions can be a challenge for people at the beginning, but it is highly rewarding.
* Mindful eating involves focusing on the taste of the food. This means people shouldn’t chew to fast as if they were in a race.
* People need to pay attention to their body and to stop eating when they no longer feel hungry. This is easier to do if they eat slowly. It can take a bit of time to get used to recognizing the signs of satisfied hunger.
* It is also useful to observe the effects different foods will have on the body. When people notice how junk food makes them feel bad it will help to destroy the internal association between food and reward.
* Information is power and learning more about nutrition can be highly beneficial. This will give people the ability to make wise choices.
* Keeping a food journal is helpful for some people because it increases their awareness of what they eat. This is not an essential part of mindful eating, but it is worth trying.
It people practice a formal type of meditation it will greatly help them to eat mindfully. This is because such techniques increase the ability to concentrate and be aware of the moment. Mindful eating is a type of meditation in itself, but it is beneficial to supplement it with a formal practice. This should also make it more likely that mindfulness benefits every aspect of the individual’s life.