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The Diet Survivor’s Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating Acceptance and Self-Care

NEW LESSON: FALL 2011

Stay curious about your mouth hunger. Think of yourself as a detective as you try to learn more about what leads you to reach for food when you are not physically hungry.

Whenever you experience repeated mouth hunger, check in with yourself to see if you have the basic steps of the approach in place. Are you tuning into hunger and fullness? Are you asking yourself exactly what would satisfy your hunger? Are you keeping a wide variety of food available? Are you judging food as "good" or "bad"? Often, a simple adjustment in one of these areas is enough to solve your problem and help you return to attuned eating. If, however, these guidelines are in place and you continue to reach for food when you are not physically hungry, think of yourself as a detective as you examine the meaning of your eating. Use the phrase you learned previously, "I'm reaching for food and I'm not hungry. I wonder what I would think about or feel if I didn't eat right now." If you're able to postpone your reach for food, you have a wonderful opportunity to look at what is truly going on for you at that moment.

It's helpful to practice identifying your feelings. You can also work toward noticing any patterns to your mouth hunger. Do you tend to overeat after work? Late at night? These are just some of the possibilities that can exist. Ultimately, your goal is to be able to calm yourself and take care of your needs without using food.

One diet survivor found that she frequently ate when she came home from work, even though she usually was not physically hungry. As she described her automatic trip to the refrigerator, she realized that she was looking for a way to unwind in order to transition from the demands of her day to the responsibilities of home. Once she had this awareness, she decided that when she arrived home, she would go straight to her room, change her clothes, and give herself a few minutes to sit and read the mail; then she would evaluate her hunger needs.

Many diet survivors struggle with eating late at night. Often, evening is the time of day that you have more time to think about or feel whatever is bothering you. Perhaps you live by yourself and feel lonely or bored at night. Perhaps the dynamics of family life create anxiety for you. No matter what your circumstances, stay gentle with yourself and keep trying to understand what triggers your reach for food. Try to find ways to get through those moments without eating, but always give yourself permission to go to the food if you must. Remember, your goal is to outgrow, not control, your need to overeat. Let this be a natural process, but keep giving yourself a gentle nudge to get through these moments without food.

It's caretaking to learn about what bothers you and to deal directly with these issues. It's also caretaking to be gentle with yourself as you try to understand why you may continue to overeat at times. Remember, the amount of overeating you engage in is considerably less than when you first began this process. You can only move so fast. Stay curious and be patient with yourself.

Activity: The detective is in

Look for clues to help determine what guidelines for attuned eating might be amiss. Circle "yes" or "no" for each question:

– Do you have enough food? Yes No
– Do you keep it available at all times? Yes No
– Are you staying mindful of your hunger and fullness? Yes No
– Are you judging what you eat? Yes No

Investigate any possible patterns to your mouth hunger. For instance, are you experiencing more mouth hunger during a particular time of the day? Do you experience more mouth hunger after a particular type of situation? Perhaps after talking with a particular person?

In the spaces below, write down some examples of recent mouth hunger experiences, and see if you can find any patterns:

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Looking over these responses, are you able to gather any evidence that will help you to more fully understand the reasons for your mouth hunger?

File a virtual report to yourself. If you hypothesize that you seem to be eating from mouth hunger under certain circumstances, see if you can focus on this area by paying attention.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
– Albert Einstein