An Ounce of Prevention

Frequently people ask for tips, tools, tricks or techniques for dealing with their appetite in the evening. After fifteen years of personal and professional experience, it’s clear that once we are over-hungry (or whatever you personally call it), it’s all but too late. In other words, once the part of us that wants to eat in a way that may be harmful to our bodies is stronger than the part of us that wants to eat in a way that is healthful for our bodies, it’s extremely hard at that point to stop ourselves from the unhealthy habit.

Sure, you know the advice: chew gum, take a walk, take a bath, exercise, munch on veggies, “grab your mate instead of your plate” (just heard this one), read a book, watch TV, play a video game, just say no, pet your dog or cat, plan a trip, color, do a craft or hobby, etc. This advice never worked for me simply because none of these was as effective at generating calming chemicals in my brain as food was. If they were, then I would have done them!

The reason that we often want extra/unhealthy food at the end of the day has to do with stress. As stress builds throughout the day, we can feel more and more distressed: mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially. This distressed part of us needs relief and knows where to find it. All of the tips, tools, tricks and techniques at that point just might not be enough to stop us from doing the one thing that makes us feel better.

This is where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure comes in. What if instead, we were able to keep the stress that builds during the day from turning into a mountain of physical, emotional, mental distress? Then the part of us that needed relief from food wouldn’t be stronger than the part that is committed to the long term goal of wellness.

By practicing mindfulness in the morning, we make sure that we “wake up” the part of us that is able to stay present in the moment, the part of us that doesn’t want or need to soothe/harm ourselves with food. By practicing mindfulness throughout the day, we notice the stress in real time, learn to be present for mental, emotional physical and relational reactions to it, and respond with more effective thoughts, words and actions. This leaves us feeling less stressed out at the end of the day and more able to choose healthy food and eating habits.

Unfortunately, going into more detail is beyond the scope of this week’s message. So, I invite you to talk with me about mindfulness during your visit. By practicing mindfulness, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure by preventing those difficult evenings filled with difficult to control hunger.