I remember these wise words from Linda Crawford, Green Mountain’s first ever ‘behavioral therapist.’ She wasn’t a trained therapist, and she didn’t claim to be one. But she did lead classes looking at emotional eating issues, and was very good at it. She did her homework, read all the research, and presented some very useful information to the many women who came to Green Mountain during her watch.
Linda moved on a while ago – she’s now in Florida, playing tennis and enjoying her retirement (we hear from her from time to time). But her wisdom has stayed with many of us, staff and participants alike.
I heard her words in my head this morning as I was getting dressed for my yoga class. I’m coming off (I hope) a few days of emotional eating. Not totally clear about the issues that spurred the emotions, but I was definitely aware that I was eating emotionally. Rather than succumb to this unhelpful behavior, however, I’ve been trying the various strategies we present for consideration at Green Mountain.
They include awareness, exposure, resistance and response strategies. Here’s one that really spoke to me:
Pay attention when you are eating. Make eating a conscious act so you know when and what you’re eating and can enjoy the experience.
That may sound obvious, but when I’m in the middle of emotional eating, I’m certainly not eating consciously. When I do, it makes a world of difference.
Here’s another one:
Sit down in an appropriate place with minimal distractions when you eat. Enjoy conversation and background music, but avoid reading, watching TV, doing paperwork, driving while you eat. If you do eat in distracting circumstances, control the portion size and focus on the food as much as possible. When alone in a restaurant, read a book while waiting for your food to arrive, then put it aside and concentrate on the act of eating. If your family cannot do without the six o’clock news at dinner, fine, but consider giving up snacking in front of the TV during the evening.
Again, much of my emotional eating occurs in front of the tv or with a book in my hand or just standing as i prepare meals. If I limit my eating to places where I’m less distracted, or limit the behaviors I engage in at the dining room table, I end up eating much less.
Such strategies are part of the cognitive behavioral approach to relapse prevention that has been so successful with drug and alcohol addiction. Whatever it’s called, it sure helps me work my way through lapses (short-term steps backward) to help keep them from becoming full-blown relapses (where I would regress into old behaviors for long periods).
The good news is that, after years of working on such behaviors, I rarely find myself caught up in them anymore. The better news for those who are just beginning the work is that whether we’re just starting, or have been at it a while, looking at periodic lapses as learning opportunities instead of failures offers a positive way out of the moment when things aren’t going the way we want.