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  • Writer's picturesarah young

Reset Your Kuchisabishii Moments

Have you ever found yourself eating even though you’re not really hungry? You grab that bag of tortilla chips or sleeve of Oreos or pint of ice cream and just start eating away. You’re not hungry but you feel a need to eat those M&Ms. We’ve all done it. But why?

The answer is you may be experiencing a case of kuchisabishii (pronunciation here) Kuchisabishii is a Japanese word that translates to, “my mouth is lonely”. It’s a more playful way of saying, “I’m bored and I want to eat.”. It’s a word that doesn’t contain harsh judgement —doesn’t shame a person just because they simply sat down and ate a bag of Doritos purely out of boredom. I appreciate that. Life is stressful enough without all that judgement.

Now that’s not to say eating a can of Pringles or several Snickers bars every day, out of boredom, is the best choice for your overall health. But it is to say that beating yourself up or someone else dissing you because you caved to kuchisabishii is kinda stupid. If anything, the shaming from others, the self-dissing, only serves to disempower. And it’s harder to make healthy choices when you don’t feel empowered.

It’s probably better to say, “yeah, I ate that bag of chips”, and own it. Then laugh about it. In doing so you can avoid getting trapped by guilt. You can free yourself — empower yourself — to begin better understanding your kuchisabishii moments in order to develop strategies to avoid totally giving into them.

And just to be clear, there is a distinction between food cravings and kuchisabishii.

According to Kimberley Wilson (a UK psychologist who specializes in nutritional psychiatry — her website is full of good info) cravings can often arise as a result of diets and food restriction. Simply put — we want what we can’t have. It might go like this: “Cupcakes are bad and not on my diet plan. I’m not allowed to have a cupcake. But I want a cupcake!”. And that “I want” thought process can be a formidable force.

Thinking of foods in a more neutral sense rather than all or nothing, good or bad, can be helpful. You might even discover that when you do eat a cupcake — because you want to and not out of defiance because it’s on your “forbidden food” list — that the object of your food desire is actually kinda meh. You might also really enjoy your cupcake. If so, take your time and savor it.

And of course, if you have a condition like celiac disease there are foods you’ll want to steer clear of.

Unlike cravings, emotional eating is more about coping with uncomfortable feelings. And those emotions can range from the rather innocuous feeling of boredom, which can invite kuchisabishii, to more complicated emotional states like anxiety and depression. Stress eating is also a form of emotional eating.

Emotional eating is about trying to self-soothe. Finding some comfort, or distraction, through food and/or drink. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it’s probably a good idea to understand a bit more of what’s going on.

What can you do if you find yourself engaging in emotional eating? Well that depends on how complex your situation is. If you’re experiencing deep levels of anxiety or depression then reaching out to a mental health care professional is probably a really good call. These two articles (here and here) offer solid suggestions on finding a mental health professional. And if you think you might have an eating disorder then reach out to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

If your emotional eating is simply related to boredom — and you don’t want to continually feed your kuchisabishii, here are a few things you might try:

Develop a habit of taking a few mindful breaths before you go rifling through your kitchen in search of food. Taking a few mindful breaths is a way to press pause. It can help you slow down enough to ask, “Why do I want to eat?”

Because maybe you are hungry. Or maybe you’re stressed or bored and you’re just wanting some comfort via food. And that’s ok. Just remember — slow down long enough so you can make a conscious choice.

To elaborate a bit more on slowing down — when you are experiencing a case of kuchisabishii and you’ve made the conscious choice to feed it, you might as well savor it. Take small bites. Chew your food. Experience it fully.

Rushing the feeding of your kuchisabishii means you miss out on all the fun of eating — and you won’t feel truly comforted — who wants that? Rushing also, more often than not, only leads to more kuchisabishii.

If you know you’re experiencing kuchisabishii then you might make the conscious choice to engage in another activity that distracts you from boredom. An activity you know leaves you feeling good — feeling soothed. You might play with your dog or go for a walk or meditate or dance around. You might even crawl under a weighted blanket for a bit or take a hot bath or shower.

Keeping fewer, if any, snack goods in your home is also another strategy. When kuchisabishii strikes you can’t eat snacks that aren’t there.

And know that certain activities tend to lead to kuchisabishii. Watching TV, scrolling on a device, working at a computer, reading — are common activities that can lead to kuchisabishii. Notice what activities lead you to lonely mouth moments. This info can help you make more conscious choices when feel the pull of kuchisabishii.

So please remember, kuchisabishii happens. And it’s not inherently good or bad. It just is. And you are not a bad person if you find yourself mindlessly eating out of boredom. Accept that you ate those chocolate chip cookies and shake off any judgement.

Each moment is a chance to choose again. So why not choose being kind to yourself? Because the best way to deal with kuchisabishii— emotional eating as a whole — is to begin with self-compassion. That is a place of power. Know you are more than your kuchisabishii moments. So much more.

You can reset your kuchisabishii moments for even more comfort and self-soothing. Just step away from guilt. And the next time when you sit down to eat some cookie dough ice cream — smile, go slowly, and relish every bite.

You’ve got this!

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