I have a great suggestion for those who struggle with what I call the MEE Syndrome – Mindless Emotional Eating. Mindless Emotional Eating is a cornerstone of weight gain and a common obstacle to any weight loss endeavor. The key to solving this problem is to become more mindful and less mindless about the health choices that you make. With that said, here is an idea that can help make that happen.
I received a plea from a desperate woman one day who was frustrated over her inability to stop eating candy bars. Snickers candy bars to be specific. She ended her message with the following request. She wrote, “Dr. Sklare, can you please show me a way to shift gears when that Snickers candy bar is calling my name?”
The core of her difficulty was that she was fixating on the very thing that she was trying to avoid. And, as research and experience teaches us, the more you focus on something the more mind consuming it becomes. What she really needed was a distraction strategy that would help shift her attention away from eating that candy bar and interrupt her temporary mental obsession. Her situation brought to mind a creative activity I developed some time ago for situations just like this. I suggested that she give it a try and I offer it again here today for your consideration.
Studies show that, if you can distract yourself for as little as a few minutes, your craving for food will often pass. Activities that divert your attention away from food are called distraction strategies. Reading a book, taking a walk and listening to music are typical distraction strategies that many people employ. Along those lines, I have an idea for a distraction strategy that will divert your attention, disconnect you from that burning desire of the moment and help you to focus on healthier thinking. I call it The Health Jumble and here is how it works.
Let\’s say, as in the case of the woman above, it\’s a Snickers candy bar that is relentlessly calling your name. Write the words Snickers candy bar on a piece of paper and then see how many new words you can create with all of those letters. For example there\’s: rice, nice, niece, I, dear, can, earn, be and cab to name just a few. Just approach this exercise with a creative mind and see how many new words you can produce out of all of those jumbled up letters. Then, after you have written as many words as possible, see how many healthy sentences or positive statements you can make by combining those newly created words. For example, four of the words that I created above can be combined to create the sentence, I can be dear! Dear, in this case, meaning valued, loved or treasured.
The benefit here is threefold: 1) this activity allows you to face and confront your temptation; 2) it provides you with a way to engage that temptation in a safe, healthy and positive way; and 3) by creating the words and developing the sentences you take control of, defuse and totally reframe that temptation.
Research teaches us that repetition gives birth to habit. This activity interrupts that habitual and repetitive cycle of Mindless Emotional Eating by providing you with the breathing space you need to choose wisely during those critical moments of truth. The bottom line is this. To successfully manage your weight you must address more than just your body. You must also address your mind. The Health Jumble will provide you with a distraction strategy that will throw a spotlight on that moment of truth and change the way you respond to temptation by helping you to become more mindful and less mindless about the health choices that you make.
Wishing You Great Health!
Dr. John H. Sklare