Dr. Kim: Are You a Food Zombie?

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Written by: Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Kim Feinstein, Tucson Medical Weight Loss’s Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist

Food Zombie (noun): The danger zone; turn back now! Your state of being while eating something so good (or long-anticipated) that one loose all awareness and slips into a food trance.

“Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention. That steak made me a food zombie.”

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Have you ever found yourself mindlessly munching on popcorn at the movies or in front of the television and then, eventually, your hand reaches the bottom of the bag only to find that the popcorn is all gone; Or, you buy a pizza and think “I am only going to have one slice;” however, you go into the food trance and then realize the entire pizza is almost gone and you don’t remember eating it all; Or when you plan to just grab “a handful” of chips while you work on the computer only to discover you consumed the entire bag.

Beware: You have entered the danger zone, otherwise known as “the food trance.”

If you are like most people in our society, you eat meal after meal, snack after snack, barely aware of what you are eating and how much you are consuming. Now, if you ate mindlessly only once in a while, it may not be such a problem. However, it becomes a destructive habit when you are in a food trance most of the time. As you probably know, over time, this unskilled way of eating can result in unhappiness with food and how your body responds to it. It can also lead to chronic dieting and significant weight gain and obesity.

Waking up from the food trance can help you discover a far more satisfying relationship to food and eating than you ever imagined or experienced before. Below are my 5 S’, which are effective tips to help you wake up from the food trance once and for all.

The 5 S’s for Waking up from the Food Trance

1. STOP participating in other activities while you are eating. This means, no screen time (i.e. television, movie theater, computer, smartphone/tablet, etc.) while you are eating. Eating while watching “the screen” is one of the quickest ways to consume excess calories, as it takes your focus away from the smell and taste of the food. Consequently, you feel less satisfied, which causes you to eat more.

2. SIT DOWN

Sit down and only eat at a table instead of standing, walking around, or driving.  If this seems like an outrageously simple suggestion, think about the number of times when you eat on the go…driving in your car on your way to work or school, walking around the kitchen, or even pacing your office. Make it a rule to only put food in your mouth if you are sitting down at a table. This will help you focus on what you are eating and prevent you from entering the food trance.

3. SLOW DOWN

Slowing down when eating is a great first step to breaking the food trance. By slowing down, we can fully experience our food and become aware of our hunger and satiety. There are many tricks you can use to slow down while eating. My favorite is eating with your non-dominant hand. You can also try eating with chopsticks. This will force you to take smaller bites and eat slower. You can also try putting down your fork in between each bite.

4. SAVOR

Try counting how many times you chew a bite. Try chewing 15-20 times before swallowing. Taking the time to savor and enjoy your food will help you to stay present, notice when you are satisfied, and keep you from falling into the trance. Make it a true sensory experience. Savor the aroma, appreciate the color and texture.

5. SERVING SIZE

To avoid the food trance, never eat from an open box, bag, or jar. Instead, measure out a serving size and transfer it to a bowl or plate. This will help you from eating the entire box or bag. Eat only what you have portioned out, and do not take seconds. You can also buy single-serving-size snacks.

*Individual results may vary. Seek medical advice before starting any service including a weight loss program or med spa treatment. Contact us to make sure this is the right solution for you.

Status Update: In a Healthy Relationship… With Food

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Written by: Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Kim Feinstein, Tucson Medical Weight Loss’ Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist

What is a healthy relationship with food?

So many of us are chronic dieters and emotional, binge, and mindless eaters; therefore, we have lost touch with what a healthy relationship with food actually is. Below are some fundamentals of a healthy relationship with food:

  • You feel happy and fully engaged in life when you are not eating (food is not your only reliable source of pleasure and satisfaction).
  • If you are not feeling physically hungry, you don’t eat.
  • You stop eating when you feel physically satiated.
  • You are able to leave food left over on the plate (even though there are starving children in
  • You fill in the country as it changed based on your generation).
  • You don’t obsess about food.
  • You enjoy eating many different kinds of foods.
  • You have intervals of at least several hours when you are not hungry or thinking about food, punctuated by meal times when you do feel hungry and take enjoyment in eating.

If you do not resonate with above statements, you are not alone. Most of our society has a very dysfunctional relationship with food. Thankfully, mindful eating can help re-establish a healthy and joyful relationship with food.

A large part of mindful eating is gaining awareness of what physical hunger feels like. For most of us, somewhere along the line, we stopped paying attention to our body’s internal signals for hunger and satiety (fullness). The signals are still there, but we are out of touch with them and have instead chosen to eat in response to external, internal, and social stimuli.

How Do I Begin?

Now, you may be asking yourself, “How do I begin?” Mindfulness (awareness) is the foundation and first step for change and transformation in any area of life, including in your relationship to food. Therefore, you need to begin to pay attention and observe your reactions to hunger/fullness signals and eating without judgment or criticism. By becoming more aware and in tune with your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to food and eating, you can learn to listen to your body’s internal signals of hunger, fullness, and physical satisfaction. This can further help you to decide why, when, and how much you chose to eat. Below is a 4-step approach to help you begin.

Step 1:

When you feel or notice a craving/urge to eat arise, ask yourself: “What type of hunger am I experiencing.” Is it Physical hunger, Emotional hunger, Environmental Hunger? or Sensory Hunger?

Step 2:

If I am not physically hungry, ask yourself: What can I do instead to satisfy my psychological hunger?

Step 3:

If I determine I am physically hungry, ask yourself:

  • “What is my hunger rating?”
  • “What type of food would help me best meet my hunger?”
  • What foods are on my plan?
  • What foods will make me feel healthy & balanced; pleased AND nourished.

Step 4:

Next, sit at a table, free from distractions, and eat your meal mindfully.

? Create 3 intentional pauses when eating: Before eating the first bite, 10 minutes into the meal, and at the end of the meal.

  • Try to eat slowly and mindfully noticing the colors, textures, flavors, aromas
  • Chew each bite approximately 15- 20 times before swallowing
  • Savor the flavor
  • Pay attention to your own experience without judgment.

(Bays, J. C. (2009). Mindful Eating: A guide to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food. Shambhala: Boston & London.)

*Individual results may vary. Seek medical advice before starting any service including a weight loss program or med spa treatment. Contact us to make sure this is the right solution for you.