Healthy Habits: Mindless Eating


The refrigerator door is open, you're looking for something to satisfy a craving, but not sure what you want.  You're not really hungry, you just need a little pick me up.  Sound familiar?  This is mindless eating.   Eating, not because of hunger, but because specific cues are being sent to the brain to signify the craving for food.  Consuming food is often done without thought.  The clock strikes a certain time and we automate our eating.  This isn't the only reference point we use to designate meal times. Emotional cues also leave us grasping for the closest comfort.  Happiness, sadness and boredom are common mindless eating emotions. 


Recognizing the emotion and having a plan in place to satisfy a need when an emotional cue arises could mean the difference between losing momentum in a weight loss attempt and significantly increasing the success rate of implementing a healthy lifestyle. 


Simple strategies include:

·       Keep high calorie foods out of sight and out of mind

·       Pre-portion healthy snack options so they are readily available

·       Don’t eat bulk food from its package. Portion it out and put the package back

·       Leave plates/cans/bottles etc. on the table so you can see what you already consumed

·       Use smaller plates and tall skinny glasses to trick you brain into thinking it’s getting more


Take time to enjoy the food you’re eating.  Mentally checking out during meals can mean forgetting how much of something you have already eaten. Eating while distracted, whether it is watching television, working on the computer or playing on your phone can leave you eating far more calories than you realize. 


Research has shown slow eaters tend to eat less, feel fuller and find their meal to be a more pleasant experience.   By taking more time to eat your meal, you allow the release of hormones that tell your body it’s full.  This may reduce the amount of times you go back for seconds.  


Convenience makes it easy for mindless eating to be a regular practice.  If more time had to be taken to walk to a cabinet, grab a container from a high shelf, open a package, portion it out and then place the content back in the bag and put it back in the container and then put it back on the high shelf in the cabinet, would this make you think twice about having it?  Yes.  You would now be making a mindful decision to eat. 


Consider other situations causing mindless eating:

·       Continuing to eat more because others haven’t yet finished their meal

·       Advertising on TV triggers a craving for a particular food

·       Rewarding a particular behavior with food

·       Bottomless bowls of chips/soups/pasta make you lose track of how much you ate

·       Eating/Drinking often increases when you’re not paying the bill 


Become mindful of daily food decisions.  Slow down, savor foods and have a plan to change eating patterns. 


This week’s Healthy Habit:  Choose 3 strategies for mindful eating and stick with them for 60 days to create a new behavior. 


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