There’s no way to achieve “normal” eating without practice. Here are a few simple exercises toward that end. Although I note how often to do them, practice at least as often as I recommend, but feel free to do them more often to repattern your brain.
- To improve at identifying fullness and satisfaction, set a practice of taking three bites of food, then stopping and putting down whatever you’re eating and noting your hunger and satisfaction levels in numbers (0-10) or words (not hungry, a bit hungry, fairly hungry, very hungry). Do this exercise at least once a day.
- To get better at not finishing all the food on your plate, leave a tiny bit of it every time you eat—a slice, some crumbs, a spoonful, a bite. Do this exercise at least once a day.
- To assess how fast you eat, when dining with others, notice how quickly or slowly they eat and pace yourself with the slowest eater. Do this exercise twice a week.
- To get comfortable throwing away food, do just that—toss into the garbage perfectly good food that’s edible. Try doing it with food you don’t care much about and work your way up to doing it with food you really love. Do this exercise at least once a day.
- To identify your emotions, ask yourself what you’re feeling: whenever you’re stopped at a red light while driving (or riding a bicycle), on the checkout line in the grocery store, while you’re brushing your teeth, during TV commercials, while waiting on hold during phone calls, waiting for your phone to boot up. Do this exercise at least twice a day.
- To get used to identifying emotions, listen to the conversations other people have and imagine how you would feel as the speaker and the person spoken to. You can practice at home, at work, with family or a group of friends, or in a crowd. Do this exercise once a day.
- To build emotional muscle in taking better care of yourself, when you have a craving for food and are not hungry, identify what you’re feeling. Do this exercise as needed.
- To increase your ability to be around foods you crave but overeat, put a bit of it in front of you and allow yourself to look at it until you no longer crave it. Use positive self-talk, visualize yourself not eating it, think of how proud you’ll be after you put it away uneaten, recognize that you’re practicing delaying gratification, or pretend you’re playing a game. Do this exercise once a day.
Imagine doing all of these exercises as prescribed and how that will move you along toward becoming a “normal” eater. If you feel reluctance, instead of talking yourself out of doing these exercises, talk yourself into doing them so that the wise voice in your head gets the last word. Practice makes progress.