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The Day After

  • Eating

The day following a holiday feast or any major food event deserves a blog promoting reflection. Print this one out and save it to read after every occasion when you’re eating outside your routine. It will help you reflect on your progress with “normal” eating skills. Better yet, it will remind you of the nonjudgmental mindset needed to continue recovery.

First, identify the part of you that is interested in your behavior but has no intention of judging it. That might take a minute or two, but keep at it until you’re there. If that mindset seems elusive, relax your body, take a few deep breaths, and return to seeking that calm, compassionate place in you that is curious about your eating and wants the best for you, but is without criticism. When you’ve found that sweet spot, stop and smile. Be happy that there’s a part of yourself that is a nurturing parent that loves you and wants to alter your behavior that will speak with only kindness and compassion.

Next, without judgment, review your eating from The Day Before. Rather than consider, as disregulated eaters tend to do, whether you did well or poorly or were good or bad, simply scan your eating behaviors and recall them. This is an exercise in itself, a skill which is vital to reflecting on all your eating experiences. Note everything from how you felt before, during and after the meal to specific attitudes and actions food generated. Pretend you’re watching a film of your dining experience and identify specifics—portion size, state of mind, posture (hunched over food versus relaxed), what, how, and how much you ate. Observe your hunger, pleasure, and satisfaction levels.

Identify behaviors that pleased you, no matter how small—choosing your favorite foods rather tasting everything, eating slowly, not talking while you were eating and not eating while you were talking, or leaving food on your plate. Take time to feel proud of these successes. You’re learning, you’re changing, you’re moving toward “normal” eating. Now notice the behaviors that displeased you (without feeling unhappy with yourself; just stick to the behaviors): you went back for seconds when you were full, you ate mindlessly and too fast, you felt anxious around food, you ate to please others not yourself. Make a mental note that these are skills to learn about following your appetite. Consider and visualize what you could have done differently, again without judgment.

If you begin to slide from compassion to criticism, or from curiosity to evaluation, reestablish compassion and remind yourself that today is a new day in which you don’t have to eat until you’re hungry and can continue following the rules of “normal” eating.