Getting to the Root: It’s Not Just What You Eat but Why
By Michelle May, M.D.
Focusing on what and how much you eat is like weeding your garden with nail clippers; it is an endless job that never gets to the root of the problem.
What and how much you eat are certainly important for health and weight management but they only address the surface issues. In fact, what you eat and how much you eat are strongly affected by why you’re eating in the first place.
Since you can only change what you are aware of, the following questions from the Mindful Eating Cycle™ will help you recognize and better understand how you make conscious or subconscious decisions about your eating. More importantly, you can use these questions to identify specific steps you can take to change the way you eat permanently. Consider printing and posting these questions as a reminder to get to your root issues. To learn more, download chapter one of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle free.)
(©2009 Michelle May MD; graphic used with permission.)
Why? Why do I eat?
- Why do I think I eat?
- Am I aware of any situations or emotions that trigger me to want to eat when I’m not hungry? Examples: Mealtimes, social events, certain people, stress, boredom, buffets, getting ready to start a diet…
- Have I tried a lot of diets? What happened? How did they work for me long term? Why?
When? When do I feel like eating?
- How often do I feel like eating?
- How do I know if I’m hungry?
- How could I redirect my attention away from food until I’m hungry?
- Are there times when I overeat because I waited too long to eat?
- What could I do to cope better with my emotional triggers for eating? Examples: Manage stress better; tell someone how I really feel; find a hobby; treat myself to a hot bath; ask for more help around the house…
What? What do I eat?
- What do I eat and drink in a typical day? Would an eating journal help?
- What kind of foods could I keep on hand to eat when I’m hungry?
- What health issues do I need to be aware of when deciding what to eat? Examples: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, family history of certain diseases, allergies or intolerances, desire to lose weight…
- How do I feel after eating certain foods?
- What types of foods do I feel like eating when I’m eating for emotional reasons? Why?
- Are there any areas of my diet that I could improve right now?
- What specific change(s) am I willing to make at this time?
- Do I restrict myself from eating certain foods—then later give-in and overeat those foods?
How? How do I eat?
- Do I eat while I’m distracted? Examples: Watching TV, reading, driving, working, talking…
- Do I eat fast?
- Do I really savor my food?
- Do I eat differently in private than I do in public?
- Do I “overdiet” the way I overeat—thinking and talking about food all the time?
How Much? How much do I eat?
- How do I typically feel when I’m done eating? Do I like that feeling?
- Do I usually clean my plate? Why?
- If I’m not hungry when I start eating, how do I know when to stop?
- What situations or emotions trigger me to overeat?
- What could I do to address those triggers more effectively? Examples: Order less food, ask for a to-go container, get up from the table, turn off the TV, say “no” to people pushing more food…
Where? Where do I invest the fuel I eat?
- Am I physically active?
- Do I watch too much TV or spend too much free time in front of computer?
- Do I exercise? What do I like to do?
- Do I practice consistent self-care?
- What else do I do with my energy? Examples: Play with my children, enjoy my hobbies, volunteer, travel, spend time with friends…
- Is there anything else I’d like to do with my energy that I’m not doing now?
- What are my goals for my relationships, my career, and my life?
The first step to changing the way you eat permanently is awareness. As you become more mindful of each decision in your Mindful Eating Cycle, you’ll discover small changes that can make a big difference in why, when, what, how, and how much you eat, and where you invest your energy.
Michelle May, M.D. is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. Dr. May is also the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Workshops and Facilitator Training Program that helps individuals learn to break free from mindless and emotional eating to live a more vibrant, healthy life.
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