When the COVID crisis began and we were instructed to stay at home, many of us joked that we would gain the quarantine fifteen. It was funny at first, but then when it happened, and the quarantine fifteen became eighteen, twenty, or thirty, it became not so funny anymore. Eating in response to boredom, fear, and loneliness is a common phenomenon, and as a clinical psychologist who helps people with eating and weight issues, I saw this behavior increase – a lot.
We’ve all done it. Put your hand in the cookie jar and before you know it all the cookies are gone! Or, your fingertips scrape the bottom of a potato chip bag before you realized you had eaten so much. Or, the ice cream didn’t even have a chance to melt before your spoon came up empty. This type of eating is called emotional eating, and is sometimes referred to as binging when you feel out of control.
Fortunately, there is a simple technique to gain control of this kind of out-of-control eating. All you have to do is “Drop and Give Me Ten.” When you find yourself eating and can’t seem to stop, follow these simple steps and interrupt your binge by the count of ten: First, wherever you are - SIT!
That’s right, sit. If you are already sitting, good for you! Next, put down the food you have in your hands and place your hands by your side. If you are still chewing, swallow, and then, take a deep breath. To take a deep breath you want to fill up your belly with air. Belly breathing is probably the most soothing breath you can take. If your shoulder or chest rise as you inhale, that’s chest breathing.
Chest breathing is okay when you need oxygen, but it is not as helpful when you need calm. After you have taken a nice deep belly breath, exhale to the count of ten. If you can’t get to ten on your first try, that’s okay. As you practice belly breathing it will get easier.
For now, take another deep breath and after you exhale, stand up. That’s the “Drop and Give Me Ten” technique. It’s not hard and can be very effective. After you have dropped and given me ten, you can continue eating if you choose, or you can choose to move on – back in control!
By Dr. Sheila Forman
Dr. Forman is a clinical psychologist based in Santa Monica who provides teletherapy services. For more information, call 310-828-8004 or go to www.DrSheilaForman.com. She is also the creator of www.TAMEYourAppetite.com, a non-diet approach to weight management.