06/25/2015 02:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Are You Lost in a Food Fog?

We've all had those periods of time -- it could be hours or it could be weeks or months or years. Periods of time when we get sucked up in the fabric of life -- of doing and getting things done -- when we're busy and over scheduled all of the time.

And it affects our eating.

In the best-case scenario, this means that things have been okay, but maybe not great. We're sleeping enough, eating okay... most of the time. Except for the odd handful of chips or few cookies stuffed in our mouth as we pass by our kitchen cabinet when we just get home from work or in the middle of the day when we want a break. Except for we feel pretty stressed out and haven't quite had time to take a break.

In the worst-case scenario, this could mean that every day we're eating way too much chocolate or sugar or other foods that don't make us feel good, but we just don't seem to be able to do anything about it.

I call this a "food fog" -- because though we vaguely notice that it's happening, often we don't seem to be able to stop it. It's as if we're seeing our eating through a fog.


Why is this a problem? Well, mindless eating is a problem. But, in my experience, it also usually isn't about the food. It's about all kinds of other problems that we aren't fully acknowledging -- usually that we're tired or overwhelmed or wish we could say "no" when we're saying "yes" to certain things in life.

I've been there. Man oh man, have I been there. Now I work with clients on these same issues, and here's what I tell them to do to get out of it:

1. Stop

That's right. Stop. Stop right now. Go lie on your bed, set a timer for five minutes, and let all the humming buzziness of your life stop. Are you at work? Go find an empty conference room with a lock on the door, or sit in a bathroom stall of the quietest bathroom you can find, and do the same. (I'm not kidding. I've done it more than once.)

The goal here is to connect with yourself. When you've alone, in quiet, feel your body. What part of your body do you feel the most strongly? (For me, it's often the space between my shoulder blades, where I store a lot of tension and often feel a buzzy movement, or my heart.)

Five minutes seems like so little time, but how often do you actually stop and do nothing in your day, and have the quiet to allow yourself to be vulnerable to yourself. Not often? You can't do "nothing" on the subway or in the car or when you're on a date with your boyfriend -- there is too much stimulation and things to pay attention to. Give yourself the gift of five minutes.

Stop reading this post and come back once you've done that.

2. Ask: What radically kind thing can you do for yourself right now?

If you've been in a fog, you've been letting life flow without much awareness of yourself. This might be because life has been busy, or it might be that life has been okay, but you haven't wanted to listen to yourself.

Asking what you actually want is a radical move, because we so often spend our days not asking what we want. What you want might be time to lay on your bed and read a book, or a hot shower, or permission to buy a magazine, go to the coffee shop and laze there. I can think of at least 35 things it might be, but only you can know what radical self-love means to you.

3. Do it. Do it as soon as possible.

Yeah, yeah, I know you have excuses.

"I'm at work but what I really want to do is take a walk." Okay, why not leave your desk for 20 minutes? I radically changed my life when I made it a practice to leave my consulting gig daily for 20-30 minute walks around Manhattan (or suburban new jersey or wherever my client was) and no one ever noticed I was gone.

Or maybe you really can't do it at this exact moment. If your deepest desire is to go to Paris and it's a Thursday and you have work on Friday, well, maybe you can't do that. But maybe you can go home after work, put on a beautiful dress that makes you feel like a Parisian woman, and go eat dinner at your favorite café.

And if it's noon, and you can't make good on your promise until after work, then take an extra few moments to do something nice for yourself now (go outside and take a 10-minute walk, sneak away to the bathroom if you're at work and read a magazine -- or even better, read it at your desk) and say to yourself as kindly as possible, oh sweetie, I'm so sorry that you're having all this trouble. This is just a little sweetness for now, but I promise there's more coming.

Of course, this isn't the end. But sometimes, pulling ourselves out of the fog can be a key first step.

Wondering if your eating, exercise, and life could feel more authentic and easy? Check out Katie's free "What's Your Eating Style" ebook, with recommendations tailored just for you.

If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.