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Ask the Expert

On this page, I'll post questions from readers and provide guidance.

QUESTION:  I often find myself eating between my daily tasks or work projects.  Can you help me stop?
ANSWER:  Using food to ease transitions is very common, and a good place to apply mindfulness (paying attention, on purpose, with an attitude of kindness toward yourself).  For three days track how often you stop for a food break when you are transitioning from one activity to another, or when you are unsure about what to do next.  These times may be when first entering the house after you have been at work, when other family members have left the house for the day, when you are getting ready to start a new project, or when you have finished a project.  If you notice your mind turns to food during these kinds of transitions, make a plan in advance about how you are going to handle it in a way that does not involve food (unless you are actually hungry).  Suggestions for a more conscious transition break are:
1. ask yourself what you really need, which may be one of the following:  a moment to relax, recognition for having accomplished something, or time to contemplate how you want to spend your next few hours
2. take a short walk
3. have a stretching period
4. practice attending to your breath for a few minutes in order to become more relaxed
5. sit quietly by a window and observe nature
6. listen to music
7. read a page from an inspirational book
 QUESTION: After working with your materials and really focusing on mindfulness for almost a year I was successful in losing over 30 pounds.  Now I find my old grazing habits starting to creep back in.  What should I do?
ANSWER:  First, truly appreciate what major changes in your life you have accomplished, and the strong determination it took to be this successful.  Next, recognize that motivation is not a straight, continuous line - it comes and goes and needs to be re-ignited on a regular basis.  Now would be the time to do several things:
1. Be very specific in recalling why you wanted to lose the weight in the first place, the discomfort you felt, the impact of obesity on your daily life, health, social life, employment....
2. Reflect on all the efforts you put in to getting where you are now.
3. Find new ways of encouraging yourself to continue - different exercise classes than the ones you have been doing, new recipes, encouragement from a book, website, or CD about self-care, a support group, a weight maintenance buddy, a seminar with an inspiring teacher, or a meditation retreat.
4.  When the urge to eat for non-hunger reasons arises, remember to sit with yourself and tune in to what it is you really need in that moment.  We are a society addicted to speed, and sometimes just sitting down and taking the time to "re-set the inner compass" will provide the guidance you need.