Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Habit-A-Week Challenge: Alternatives to Eating

Ahhh, what a timely subject! This week's Habit of the Week is: find alternatives to eating. Of course, we *have* to eat, but I am talking about eating for reasons other than nourishment. Eating from boredom, anxiety, sadness, excitement, or just because you *feel like* entertaining yourself with food can lead to weight gain and/or a stall in your weight loss plan. I think many of us have some bad habits of eating for those reasons. It makes it hard to stick with a schedule if your mind is always wandering to "what yummy thing can I eat right now?" Sometimes we do it because we are avoiding something. I can't count the times I have eaten a bag of Cheetos to avoid doing the laundry. Silly, really. I mean, if I don't want to do the laundry right now, I do NOT have to eat Cheetos to give myself permission to put it off. I can just *decide* to do the laundry later (if it truly can wait). I can *decide* not to deal with some issue or activity for a half hour, an hour, or a day. I do not need to occupy myself with *food* in order to delay those things. Neither do you.

Here are the details of the challenge. Have a read, then come back here to finish reading this post.


This week, perhaps you can try some of those methods. Can you wait out your cravings? Have you made a list of activities as alternatives to eating? If not, make that list! It can have fun things AND chores on it, like:

read a book
write a letter
answer emails
clean a toilet
walk the dog
strength train
take a bubble bath
paint your nails
pay bills
do a load of laundry
call a friend

And then, when you find yourself about to eat something you really shouldn't, just pull out the list and choose one thing and do it. If you can't decide, close your eyes and point. Just do *something* other than eating. By the time you are done, usually the urge will have passed.

Now, I am in a different mental and dietary position than I was in 2008 when I wrote that challenge originally. I am doing a diet that has very scheduled, regimented eating times every 2-3 hours. I pretty much don't want to eat between meals, but if I do, I drink a big glass of water and go do something else. So far I am not having those cravings anymore or *needing* to distract myself from eating. However, I think I have a little bit of new insight.

The thing you are trying to avoid doing, through eating or food obsession, is the *very thing* you actually need to do instead of eating.

Simple, yet profound.

See if you can figure it out for yourself. The next time you get hit with a crazy urge to eat a bunch of junk or, heck, even a bunch of good healthy food, I want you to go someplace quiet (if you can) and just sit. TRY to clear away the food thoughts. Concentrate on your breathing. Close your eyes, feel your breath. Think, "I am breathing in, I am breathing out" with every breath. Try to LET GO of the food thoughts. Then, try and feel what you are feeling. Here are some examples of what you may figure out as you do this. There are some things I was trying to avoid thinking about and feeling by EATING.

I am afraid of being alone.
I made mistakes in my past that I regret.
I miss my dead parents.
I wish I had done things differently.
How do I fix this? (This... being many things)
What will become of me?

I had fears for my health, my children's health, my finances, my marriage. I had regrets and sorrows I was stuffing down with food. And even simple things... yes, laundry, or mopping the floor... had become reasons to overeat (because I could not mop and eat hot dogs at the same time, and when I was done eating seven hot dogs I felt absolutely too sluggish and ill to try and mop a floor. I ate hot dogs so I wouldn't have to mop. It worked. And it made me feel like it was my "disorder's" fault rather than just me being a bad housekeeper.)

It is better to deal with the things we need to deal with. Whether it's dishes or toilets or something more distressing like a hospital visit, a death or a pending divorce, it is *better* all around to recognise the feelings, FEEL them, let them wash over and through you, cry if you need to, and then get up and do whatever needs to be done. It is better because instead of all those worries and fears and regrets festering in you like an infection, you can wash your wounds and care for them and then... they heal.

What will you do instead of eating this week?


M Pax said...

Wow, this is great, Lyn.

It's what I did, too. It works if you give it time.

Hey, I made your cauliflower pizza last night. It rocked! Yum. I put sliced zucchini, onions & fresh basil on top.

If you use parchment paper to line your pans, you don't need to spray with oil. The parchment will keep things from sticking. Bonus, that the clean up is easier, too.

Leslie said...

Really excellent. And so true. After just 2 days of clean eating, I was so "on the surface" with emotion it was shocking! Painful, unexpected, but good. In order to get at what's eating at me, I have to stop eating it away. It doesn't go away, it just gets buried in many layers of much stuff, most notably fat cells!

Rebekah said...

Put up the laundry I have been avoiding for like...... 3 weeks lol.
Right now.. My husband will thank you for the motivation.

Now that I am also on MF i just CANT eat off plan. Its not an option.

Julie, The Accidental Fat Chick said...

Thank you for posting this today, I really needed it!

Evenings in front of the tv is when I tend to mindlessly eat. I try to always be doing something that you can't do while eating now - like scrapbooking, crocheting, or making jewelry - things where you need to keep your fingers clean & cheetos orange just won't go! :)

Debbie said...

Hey I love this, I am going to print this and try to see which ones I get done. Thanks..

Jaclyn said...

I just discovered your blog today, and I'm so glad I did! I've been reading through your archives and enjoying every bit of it.

I had a big "aha!" moment when I read an older post where you described secret eating as "having an affair with food". That's so me.

Thanks for sharing your journey here. I look forward to continuing to read along as I try to sort out my own weight-loss.

Ice Queen said...

Today I made a new Spring wreath for my front door. It will last far longer and give me a great deal more pleasure than a temporary mouth thrill. :D

Anonymous said...

Well, I went through a really awful situation which basically is over. I've made a conscious decision not to pursue it on a legal level, but the anger and frustration still gets to me, usually at the end of a less-perfect day. I'm not sure what positive outcome would come from sitting with that anger and grief...

Lyn said...


Anger is only harmful to you, yourself. If you hold onto anger, or suppress it, it can hurt you emotionally and physically.

I'm no expert, but I believe we can let go of anger by understanding it and having compassion for both ourselves and others involved. The goal of sitting with a feeling... be is sadness, anger, grief, whatever... is not to wallow in it and let it consume us, but to understand it, work through it, and LET IT GO.

Anonymous said...

Lyn, Thanks for the comment, but I don't know what "working it through" means. Someone did something stupid and hurtful. Why, I have no idea. They used other people as well. It impacted my job and my career. Getting in the mindset of the people involved - baffles me. Trying to understand how to prevent it in the future - I have no idea. Being angry, on a day to day basis, isn't where I chose to put my energy.

I'm reminded of the first break-up I had, back in college, which simply HURT for years if I thought about it so I focussed on not letting myself obsess. It took maybe a decade of seeing life to "understand" the situation, to see what it said (and didn't say) about my ability to have productive relationships.

Lyn said...


I am really sorry you're hurting. I don't understand why people do hurtful things, either.

I do hope that the anger and frustration lessens over time for you. Sending virtual hugs...

Steelers6 said...

Hi, love, I thought you might like hearing that I made the sauteed radishes for dinner tonight. =)

My dh can be a bit 'selective'; perhaps especially with things that might be 'healthy'. He really liked them!

For some reason I didn't see the part about covering w/lid and they took awhile. I made a full bag; they do tend to shrink down a good bit. (just letting everyone know). Alas, I have no salad shooter, so the slicing was a task. :)

Are they good w/onions fried in them too?

Thanks for sharing your interesting recipes, as always!

And thanks for today's pep talk on alternatives to eating. Chrissy

Sib said...

Thanks for this Lyn. EXACTLY what I needed this morning.

Lyn said...


I bet they would be GREAT with onions fried in with them! I used onion powder just because onions are higher in carbs.

Ms. PJ Geek said...

Very in sync with where I'm at today. today I just felt blaahhhh and had no energy...I just wanted to eat. I journaled, I sat outside in the sun, I held my dog, I checked my blood sugar (I'm diabetic and it was fine). I journaled some more, I prayed, I drank water. Finally, I gave in and made a cup of coffee.. I ate a 1/2 oz of dark chocolate. I actually felt better and had energy, but I'm frustrated that I actually felt better after doing this. I'll re-read your post with fresh eyes again.

CJ said...

Another gem of a post Lyn. It was good. I eat when I have nothing to do. Paint nails? Makes a lot of sense. I am making my list now. The most vulnerable time for me is when I am back from work until dinner time. I am trying hard to break the pattern but I am finding it difficult. This will help. Thank you

mandy said...

Wow I really needed that post. Last week was really hard. I didn't eat my way through. I just felt my feelings. Now I'm over it. Maybe its because I didn't try to stuff the feelings with food but really allowed myself to feel my feelings and accept them. My way to not focus on my challenges was to A) BLOG, B) Exercise, C) Keep drinking diet coke and chewing sugarless gum. lol

screwdestiny said...

Good post. Bored eating is really my only reason for eating other than hunger. I've gotten better about just ignoring it now, but sometimes I do have to resort to doing something to distract myself. I like doing activities like painting my toenails, exercising, or cleaning the house since I can't eat while doing any of that.

Anonymous said...

Ah Hah!
You are Mindful and have Insight!
I was hoping you'd experienced these practices!
Thank you for this much needed encouragement!


mbm1forever said...

Awesome post and so very true. We all don't spend enough time just being with 'IT" whatever that may be. I think we have been taught to avoid pain at all costs. Many of us chose a drug of sorts, be it drugs, alcohol, sex, or food.

Jamie said...

I started doing this with out realizing what exactly what I was doing. It used to be when I got bored I would eat, but last week I picked up crocheting. I realized with my hands and my mind busy I don't feel the need to snack. I also feel a sense of pride when I pick up a new stitch!