A friend recently called me with an urgent request. “Help! I can’t stop stress eating and I don’t know what to do!” My reply: “Search Inside Yourself.” No. This was not my attempt at a Confucius-like answer. It’s the name of a recent book on mindfulness. It’s on my list of favorites. Search Inside Yourself was written by Chade-Meng Tan, an engineer at Google who teaches mindfulness classes. His official title at Google is “Jolly Good Fellow.” As you read the book, you will understand why he has obtained such a title. His personality and sense of humor glows through his words. Each chapter conveys a warm and thoughtful way of explaining how to cope with daily stress.
The book impressively begins with a forward by two leading authorities on mindfulness, emotional intelligence and self-regulation, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and Daniel Goleman. Dr. Kabat-Zinn is the founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Daniel Goleman is the author of the fantastic bestseller, Emotional Intelligence. Their forwards echo what you will read throughout the book—self-awareness is key to making changes and living well (including stopping emotional eating!).
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an internal google bar? To type in the question, “Why am I stress eating right now?” “What emotion am I trying to soothe or push away by eating in this moment?” The answer often doesn't pop up as easy as it does on google. We often wait until after we are done eating to ask the question: “Why did I just eat that?” Asking yourself after you eat, instead of before or during, is often too late. Getting to the root of the emotional drive to eat in-the-moment gives an opportunity to alter the course.
I suggested that my friend try some of the self-awareness and self-regulation exercises in the book. They help people to detach and get distance from the overwhelming nature of the emotion, particularly stress. For example, we often smother feelings down with food. Instead, it can be helpful to ride through tough emotions by getting to the other side of them without reacting to them.
Chade-Meng Tan describes emotions to be like riding a horse. Sometimes we let the horse just take us where it wants to go and sometimes we can tame and guide the horse. Instead of identifying with the feeling by saying “I am stressed” you can distance a little by saying, “I am experiencing stress in my body.” You can also practice the art of breathing well to calm down. See him describing this on youtube video on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8fcqrNO7so
It's nice to find another book that makes mindful exercises feel easy, doable and very helpful to daily stress!
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Dr. Albers is a psychologist for the Cleveland Clinic and author of five books on mindful eating including 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food and Eating Mindfully 2nd edition (order now!). Her books have been noted in O, the Oprah magazine, Shape, Prevention, Health etc. and seen on The Dr. Oz Show on TV. www.eatingmindfully.com.