Mindful breathing and emotional eating go together like ice cream and chocolate
Have you ever found yourself at the bottom of a potato chip bag while watching your favorite TV show? What happened there was you were mindlessly eating.
Being mindful means being aware of the present moment of your thoughts, sensations, and emotions, without judgment of what is happening. Mindless eating often happens when you are doing other tasks, such as watching tv, or scrolling on your phone, while eating.
Another time you mindlessly eat is when you are using food to push away unwanted or unpleasant emotions.
Mindless eating and emotional eating go hand in hand. Good news, here is a tool that can help you with both, mindful breathing.
You read that right, mindful breathing is going to help you with emotional eating.
Getting started with mindful breathing
One way to start mindful breathing is by gently closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. Use the flow of air in and out to connect with your body.
By using mindful breathing when you emotionally eat, you can experience several helpful benefits to the body.
You don’t have to go to a yoga studio or stand on your head to practice mindful breathing.
Actually, you don’t have to even do any physical movement at all. That’s right, you can sit in your chair and just breathe.
You are probably wondering now, what is mindful breathing?
Mindful breathing is the awareness of your breathing while letting your breath flow with a natural rhythm. This flowing of your breath will help guide your conscious awareness of your breathing.
The purpose of mindful breathing is to connect to the present moment. Mindful breathing can also be a way of improving how you feel.
Using mindful breathing to address emotional eating
An example of how mindful breathing can be used in action is when you are dealing with your afternoon funk. The next time you want to run to the convenience store or vending machine and grab a snack, try to first practice mindful breathing for 5 minutes.
By using mindful breathing, you have the opportunity to check in with your body to assess what your body really needs.
Instead of a snack, your body might just need water, a nap, a brain break, or even a social connection. With a centered mind, you will be able to better connect with what your body needs.
When we work with clients that are struggling with emotional eating, they soon learn that mindful breathing can also help by providing a centering break.
By assessing what is actually happening in your mind and body, you are armed with powerful information.
Not only does mindful breathing help to relax your mind and body, but mindful breathing is also a strategy to help with emotional eating. Mindful breathing can reduce triggering thoughts and emotions that can lead to your emotional eating.
When to use mindful breathing for emotional eating
The best time to use mindful breathing is when you are having an emotional eating episode. When you are stressed and want to scream, drink, eat, or do a behavior that is not the best for you, try mindful breathing.
Mindful breathing can shift your emotional state and drive for food.
Give one of the two mindful breathing exercises linked below a try before your next snack or meal.
Make sure that you take note of any changes in your experience and notice your mood, attitude, and satisfaction with your food.
Consider if you were able to notice anything new about this eating experience, such as:
- becoming satisfied with a smaller amount of food
- the speed at which you ate your food
- a decreased enjoyment of foods you thought you liked
Mindful breathing is a simple, yet vital tool you can use to help you with your emotional eating.
Mindful breathing is not intimidating
The hardest part of mindful breathing is starting the practice in the first place.
Starting something new can be daunting. We often see that once clients get over the initial discomfort with the new practice, they soon realize how much better they feel.
Once you feel better and gain confidence, mindful breathing exercises become easier to accomplish on a regular basis. Stopping eating episodes before they feel out of control becomes easier with mindful breathing awareness breaks.
The challenge then becomes carving out time for yourself. A better way for you to approach this is for you to think about mindful breathing as another one of your important self-care activities.
When we work with clients who have a hard time stopping themselves from continuing to eat when in the middle of an overeating episode, we find that they learn that mindful breathing can help them by providing a centering break. This centering break reduces anxiety and can prevent a build-up leading to an emotional eating episode.
Mindful breathing exercises that relax the mind and body
To get you started on your mindful breathing journey, we have 2 simple and quick mindful breathing exercises that you can do:
- Set a timer and focus on your breathing for a few minutes. Breathing in and out.
- Practice a 5-minute mindful breathing exercise [one of my favorites with my clients.] Take one hand in front of you and use a finger of the other hand to trace your hand and follow your finger with your breathing.
You can click here to grab your copy of these mindful breathing exercises, which include a video of me doing the activity with you.
Since your emotional eating is often about your desire to feel better, mindful breathing can be used with one of the 5 strategies to stop emotional eating [to fill a void.]
Special thanks to my intern, Maria from Texas State, for co-writing this blog with me as part of her nutrition internship.