Lately, have you found yourself more preoccupied with food, cooking, and your body size? You’re not alone. Tough times in your life (like living through a pandemic) may lead to increased feelings of stress, isolation, and boredom, which can cause intensified thoughts around food or your body shape. While allowing yourself to eat ALL foods, without guilt, is the best way to put an end to these obsessive thoughts, it can also be helpful to couple that strategy with finding a post-meal activity.
See my post on the Binge- Restrict Cycle to learn how restriction and diets can lead to food “addiction.”
What is a Post-Meal Activity?
The idea of having a post-meal activity was brought to my attention last year by Jessica Setnick during her Eating Disorder Bootcamp. A post-meal activity is simply an activity you plan on doing after you finish your meal. Post-meal activities don’t have to be anything exciting; even answering your emails or doing laundry counts! Generally, this activity is not food-related. Before you sit down for a meal, decide what your post-meal activity will be, and after you feel satisfied and choose to end your meal, go straight to that activity.
Why Is Having A Post-Meal Activity Important?
While social distancing at home, it’s easy to graze on food throughout the day rather than sit down for your meals. When we don’t create a designated time to eat, our food isn’t as enjoyable, and as a result, we don’t feel as satisfied and are more likely to think about food. The idea is when you’re eating, you’re just eating, not checking your phone, or worrying about school or other tasks. Having a post-meal activity helps carve out time for you to eat distraction free. Taking this time to eat will also help you recharge, so after your meal, you can tackle all the things on your to-do list.
The most important reason to have a post-meal activity is to distract us from negative self-talk. When you don’t have something planned to do after your meal, you’re more inclined to dwell on what you ate, leading to feelings of guilt, food preoccupation, and shame. Our post-meal activities help us to move on and refocus our thoughts from what we did or didn’t eat to something more positive. While it’s important to learn from our meals, such as which foods cause our bodies to feel good, we shouldn’t think about it for too long. Food is to be enjoyed and celebrated; it is an essential part of life. However, if it becomes your entire life, you may need to reflect on what might be causing you to feel this way. Before moving on to your post-meal activity, give yourself a compassionate reminder. Examples of compassionate reminders include, “What I eat does not define what kind of person I am” or “I honored my body by providing it food when it was hungry, even though it was more food than I expected to eat”.
What Are Some Ideas For A Post-Meal Activity?
- Do Homework
- Get back to work
- Answer emails
- Clean the bathroom
- Fold laundry
- Watch This Is Us
- Read scriptures
- Call your family
- Create a vision board
- Go for a walk
- Practice DuoLingo
What other ideas do you have?