During the many years I have worked with weight loss; I have come to realize that many of my clients who consistently abuse their bodies by eating large amounts of what can be classed as unhealthy/junk food don’t to do this because they prefer the taste of unhealthy/junk food to that of healthy food, neither are they ignorant to the negative physical nor mental consequences of indulging in such foods. So why do they do it and continue to do it? Because society has taught us to associate positive feelings towards unhealthy/junk food so people believe the immediate ‘high’ they get from eating unhealthy/junk food can help fill the empty void they often feel inside and perhaps numbness, and put their emotions into perspective. Well at least it does for today.. for this time.. for this hour. Not only have my clients taught me this, but I myself have a history of using food in this way.
Many of the unhealthy/ junk foods people turn to contain a lot of sugar. Sugar is highly addictive, and is recognized as a drug that you can become dependent on. The more you have; the more you want. One of my aims is to teach my clients how to enjoy their food, and how in moderation, sugar can be incorporated as part of a healthy diet.
Today, I decided to carry out an exercise with my client to show her how she could really satisfy her taste buds and really enjoy her food before reaching the point of experiencing the uncomfortable feeling of over filling her stomach.
So much to the surprise of my client; I marched her off to the closest pastry shop and demanded she choose whatever she really fancied from the vast array of pastries and cakes on display. She chose a large chocolate chip muffin. I must admit by this point my client was looking at me as if I was completely crazy. What on earth was I doing making her choose a huge calorie laden muffin when I was supposed to be teaching her about healthy eating?
Surely we should be discussing the virtues of salad. Or, had I found a magical way of making the calories in pastries and cakes disappear?!
We sat down together with the muffin, and I told her to trust me and what I was about to ask her to do. I asked her to break off small pieces of muffin, and pop them into her mouth one at a time and then close her eyes, and concentrate on the taste, let the muffin melt on her tongue slowly, and allow it to fill her senses, but most importantly to really enjoy the experience. I requested she did this until she felt she had eaten enough of the muffin, and felt satisfied. To make her feel at ease; I decided to join her in the muffin ceremony, and together we sat in muffin eating ecstasy or at least that was where I was! We took the time to let each bite melt in our mouth, and I kept verbally bringing her focus towards the enjoyment of the taste.
After about eating only four small pieces of the muffin; my client got really upset and began to cry. She said she couldn’t eat anymore. She told me she felt physically sick, and that when she was concentrating on eating the muffin, it made her realize that she wasn’t even enjoying the taste or experience of it, and was actually just going through the motions of chewing, and swallowing the food for the sake of it. We talked about why she felt so upset and she told me that in all her years of trying to lose weight nothing had ever had such a powerful impact on her than the exercise we had just carried out. It was like a punch in the face, a real wake-up call. It was the first time my client had ever become conscious of what total lack of enjoyment, satisfaction and fulfillment the food was actually delivering. The muffin exercise had actually helped her recognize how she had become so emotionally dependent on food in the past to comfort her; filled an empty hole, how perpetual this habit had become, and how she felt it necessary each time to consume even larger quantities of food to experience these good feelings. Now, she had discovered however in actual fact, no matter how much she ate; the food was not providing her with any of the long term emotional rewards or security she thought or hoped it would, but instead it was claiming her freedom and stopping her living her life to the fullest. She felt a huge amount of sadness and loss for the great amount of time she had spent participating in this futile act; where her only achievement was continual frustration and disappointment. She felt anger for these wasted hours which could have been spent participating in something more personally fulfilling and rewarding.
How many of you have felt like this? How many of you have eaten without really enjoying it? How many of you have eaten without really thinking about it? How many of you have let your habits control what you eat?
For those of you who identify with any of these feelings; I recommend you also try the exercise I have spoken about in this article, it will really help you change your relationship with food and how you think about it. Learn to satisfy your taste buds rather than over fill your stomach.
This is how you do the exercise:
Step 1: Choose your favorite food item
Step 2: Take a small bite, close your eyes and focus on the taste
Step 3: Keep the food in your mouth as long as possible, preferably 30 seconds
Step 4: Continue to take small bites and stop only when you feel satisfied
When you do this exercise correctly; it creates an intense ‘over loading’ of your taste buds and you are then really able to focus on the taste of the food. This creates a feeling of satisfaction very quickly, and therefore your desire for the amount of this particular food will be much less.
Please feel free to email regarding this article or with any other questions you may have. All comments and feedback are greatly appreciated.
Yours in health and fitness
Helga Marin Bergsteinsdottir
Health and Wellness Coach