The Mindful Diet Week 8: Deal with Your Emotional Crud

It’s time to look at the thought patterns and beliefs about yourself that may have caused you to reach for the wrong foods or overeat in the past—and might threaten to derail you now.
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It’s time to look at the thought patterns and beliefs about yourself that may have caused you to reach for the wrong foods or overeat in the past—and might threaten to derail you now.
Woman Reading, yoga books

It’s time to look at the thought patterns and beliefs about yourself that may have caused you to reach for the wrong foods or overeat in the past—and might threaten to derail you now. Now that you’ve got the basics well in place, you’re ready to face the tough stuff that might come up. Here’s how to look under the hood of your emotional life in a productive way:

Days 50–53: Embrace the fact that you will eat for emotional reasons.

In one of the first studies Kristeller worked on, she surveyed healthy eaters (mostly nondisordered, healthy-weight individuals) about their eating habits and found that most of them said they eat for comfort on occasion. “Food is comfort, so it’s completely unrealistic to think that you won’t turn to food to soothe yourself every so often,” says Kristeller. Grab a journal and, every morning for the next four days, write down one memory of a time when you overate or reached for the wrong foods when you were sad, stressed, happy, or feeling some other emotion. Then, accept these times. This behavior will happen again, and it’s OK.

Days 54–55: Get real about your finances.

Pamela Quinn, a holistic health coach, yoga teacher, and author of The Elemental Cleanse, says money stress is one of the most important—and overlooked—spoilers of habit formation. “So many of us stress unnecessarily about money because we take a head-in-the-sand approach,” says Quinn. So, carve out time today and tomorrow to do a personal-finance audit: If you’re in debt, what’s your plan to dig out? If you’re not saving enough for retirement, use an online calculator to figure out how much you’ll need when you stop working, and make adjustments to how much or how often you’re adding to that nest egg. “Any underlying stress about money has the potential to mess with your new, healthy habits because it can be the kind of stress that just doesn’t go away,” says Quinn. And as anyone who’s ever ditched a newfound healthy-eating habit knows, lingering stress like that is the stuff that can send you running straight for the cookies and ice cream.

Day 56: Change your self-talk.

Sure, tossing back three donuts because you were stressed or lonely wasn’t ideal, but making a bad decision doesn’t make you a bad person by extension. “The goal is to learn how to say, ‘What I did wasn’t so great’ versus ‘I’m not so great,’” says Kristeller. “If you beat yourself up to the point of feeling bad about yourself, you’re more likely to let your emotions rule your decisions around food—a surefire way to make unhealthier choices.”

Continue on to the next week:

Return to the whole program
See also 5 Mindfulness Meditations to Master Your Emotions + Face Stress