In the book, Joyful Eating, I dedicate an entire chapter to the impact that stress has on our bodies, our food choices and our eating behaviour. And I am not only referring to stress in response to circumstances in our lives, but also the stress of trying to eat right and follow a diet.
In addition to ditching diets and diet mentality, I recommend adopting some simple practices to deactivate the stress response, such as taking time out for yourself, engaging in flow activities, and other relaxation techniques.
A relaxation technique that I highly recommend is body scan meditations specifically designed to relax your body, quieten your mind and heighten your five-sense awareness. Through regular practice of body scan meditation, you can enhance your ability to listen to your body and see things the way they are, rather than through the stories your mind constructs, which perpetuates stress.
You can choose to do a self-guided body scan meditation, which I provide a description of in the book, Joyful Eating, or you can try a guided practice, such as a recording on CD, iTunes, YouTube or Spotify. I have links to some of my favourite body scan meditations in the Joyful Eating Toolkit and have created my very own Guided Body Scan Meditation that you can listen to on YouTube.
Although there is no right or wrong way to practise body scan meditations, as with all mindfulness meditation, you’ll want to minimise distractions, draw your full awareness to the present moment and observe your body and sensory input without attachment or judgement.
A regular practice may reduce your feelings of stress and can provide the foundation to apply this same approach of non-judgemental awareness to eating, where you are fully present with the sensory experience—sight, smell, taste, touch and sound—rather than the labels, rules and self-deprecating dialogue that diminishes joy and trust in yourself and your body.