One of the biggest personal challenges with working from home can be learning how to control mindless eating.
How many times a day do you wander around the fridge or the snack drawer, and reach in just for a small morsel, just because you're there?
This is something I struggle with on an almost daily basis. Often I'm not hungry, and I'm not even bored. But I am in the kitchen, so I just grab something to eat. Those calories really add up, let me tell you! Day after day, week after week, grabbing small snacks multiple times a day. I may as well sit back and just watch the pounds develop around my middle section.
How to control this? I am well versed on fitness and nutrition issues, plus my experience and understanding of behavior. You'd think that would help, but the reality for most people is that knowledge alone does not move people towards behavior.
So knowing I'm eating too much and have had too many empty calories today has no impact on whether or not I continue to reach for a handful of pretzels after I finish this blog entry.
As with all behavior change, it comes down to attention and energy. When I direct my attention and energies towards managing my food intake, I can control it more easily. The good news is that I know that all I have to do is decide I'm ready to put forth that effort, and I can make a difference.
So what do I do?
I use two main techniques. The first one is to structure my food intake as much as I can. This is rather unglamorous and time consuming, but it makes a huge impact. I plan out what I will eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack each day, and I do this in chunks of about three to four days at a time.
Why does this work? It works because it removes the internal debate that often occurs in our heads as we decide what we are going to have for lunch or dinner. Usually, we base our food choices on what we "feel" like eating. This poses a big problem, because it throws open a gaping door of emotion-driven eating. How many of us make good food choices when we let our feelings determine what we eat?
Now, there is no internal debate, it removes the emotion from the decision making process. I can act almost automatically and without wasting lots of time trying to "decide what to eat."
While it takes time and energy to initiate this plan, I find using it actually frees up lots of my energy through the day. No more "worry" or thinking about what I'm going to eat and when.
The second technique I use is the one I described in a previous post - deep breathing. When I'm feeling restless, bored, or anxious about something, deep breathing helps me focus my attention more readily and calms me down.
Then I'm less likely to reach for food impulsively or mindlessly. It works beautifully.
When I first started using deep breathing as a food management technique, I had a difficult time remembering to actually USE the deep breathing! That's when I discovered just how much energy and time controling food intake requires. But after a few days, I felt more comfortable using my new coping strategy, and eventually it was more habitual.
I do stray from these methods often, and for instance, I've stayed away from the things I know work well for about three months now.
The upcoming bathing suit season reminds me it's time to revisit what works.
Want to join me? Post your efforts here, and let me know if these techniques work for you!