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Manage Your Mind, Manage Your Eating

Being unable to manage your thoughts can add substantial difficulty to managing your eating. Said another way, by learning to employ power over mental chaos, you can learn how to make wise choices that guide your food cravings.

The interrelationship between the two came to me as I awaited a client who’s a troubled eater and I began thinking about several interactions I’d had with a friend I was doing a project with. I kept emailing her a question that related to the project, and she kept emailing me back without answering it. This happened four times. Each time I tried to be clearer about what I wanted to know, but to no avail. The question wasn’t greatly important to finishing the project, but her lack of response was bugging me no end.

I’m usually pretty good with scotching ruminations before they start by immediately filing non-essential issues in my Unimportant and Inconsequential (I&I) mental folder, but I was having trouble keeping this thought out of consciousness. So, I decided to pull out all the stops and ignore it, and finally it fell back into the I&I folder at about the time my client arrived and immediately began talking about a wild binge she’d had at a Chinese buffet. I couldn’t help but notice how she skipped from one aspect of the meal to another, how disordered her thoughts were, and how she didn’t appear to know this was happening. Whenever I tried to bring her back to the chronology of events or her feelings about the binge, off she’d charge in another direction.

At this point, I started to realize that her eating was much like her thinking. There was no one in charge, no one holding the reins, no sense of purpose to her thoughts. And it hit me that if she could do better at saying yes and no to the thoughts that popped into her head, she would be better able to say yes or no to the food cravings she had. When I could, I laid out this idea for her and she was so intrigued by the connection I described that she agreed to start again to tell me about her binge, but in a slow, precise way by thinking about everything she wanted to say before she said it.

At one point, she started to digress and tell me about what her partner had eaten during the meal, but then she stopped and said, “Well, that really has nothing to do with what I want to tell you.” This was a large step forward in managing her thinking and a very new experience for her. If you recognize yourself in this anecdote, try these two things. Slow down your thoughts and think about their value as you’re saying them. The same advice goes for eating, slow it down and consider the relationship of the food to your appetite with each mouthful.


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