Have you ever been unable to stop eating something delicious? Maybe a more interesting question is have you ever been able to stop eating something delicious?
That happened to me last night and it kind of blew my mind.
I was faced with the dregs of last week’s grocery trip and didn’t have much of a choice for dinner besides buttery noodles with salt, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast on them. (Don’t judge me, it’s delicious…)
I made two portions, one for my husband. But when I offered it to him he didn’t want it. Uh oh.
Cue mental chatter:
“Great, what am I supposed to do with this second bowl of delicious pasta?”
“Put them both back in the pot and eat all of it out of the pot.”
“Yes, good idea Katie.”
With a slight thrill at the “naughtiness” of this decision, I sat down at the table with the pot of pasta, fork in hand, and considered the quantity of food in front of me.
I thought, “Ok, I can see that this is too much food for my body right now. That’s just an objective fact.”
“… but also I would really like to eat it all.”
I sat for a moment observing the tension between my craving to eat it all and the knowledge that this wouldn’t be the wisest choice.
Annette‘s voice appeared in my head saying something about how it was an opportunity for presence and curiosity, so I decided to eat until I felt satisfied, doing my best to stay curious about when that point would be.
But, predictibly, the first delicious bite triggered the NOM NOM NOM EAT IT ALL RIGHT NOW AS FAST AS POSSIBLE response. Maybe you know it.
Sometime about halfway through shoveling pasta into my face, I became aware that my stomach was approaching fullness.
Then, I remembered the practice we’re working on in our community of taking a mindful breath in-between bites.
The only reason I was actually willing to pause the shoveling and do this practice was the thought:
“Just pause for a second to take a mindful breath. You can eat the rest of it after that if you want.”
So, fork still in hand, I took a slow mindful breath and tuned into my body. Yes, I was getting full. Ok, noted. Did I want to keep eating? Heck yes.
So I ate another bite or two and then took another mindful breath. Again, with full permission to continue stuffing pasta into my face afterwards, if I wanted to.
And then, I was astonished to find that I didn’t actually want to. I watched myself put the rest in the fridge for later and felt a little bit stunned.
I’m not sure that has ever happened.
I was shocked at how the simplest practice of remembering to take a few breaths during a meal actually stopped me from overeating. And I had really wanted to eat all that pasta.
Imagine the impact this simple practice could have over weeks, or months. This simple, tiny, micro habit of simply remembering to breathe, (without any shoulds, shouldn’ts, or restrictions), could actually translate to real outcomes such as weight loss.
In retrospect, I think that there were two reasons this practice worked to curb overeating:
a) I gave myself full permission to eat it all if I wanted to without any guilt or judgement
b) I paused and slowed down enough to become aware of hunger and fullness sensations while eating
Once I was aware of my body, any “pitch” my mind was still making to try to get me to keep eating seemed silly and unconvincing.
Maybe the antitode to overeating is permission + presence. Seems counterintuitive, right? I invite you to try it.
Try taking a mindful breath or two sometime during your next meal. Just one breath without food in your mouth. What happens in that spacious moment?