Some people can go on eating even though they have eaten their full, or when they feel no hunger, yet they buy a goodie and champ it up. Their disability to stop eating although they are satiated is what is known as “mindless eating”.
This calls for reviewing your eating habits. If you feel that you do eat mindlessly now and again, think what causes a mechanical reaction to food. Maybe you are in the habit to react to certain snacks? You chew on something to make yourself feel better? You often bite at something while you are watching a movie or a sports event? All these habits are not quite healthy, likely to result in getting overweight and developing health problems.
Here are 7 most common causes of mindless eating:
1. Having set times for meals
Your life runs on a schedule, and that means you have set times for your meals – suppose your lunch break always comes at the same time, and at home your family gathers at the table at a certain time each evening. So, people begin to eat without asking themselves if they are really hungry. There is nothing worse than stuffing oneself when one doesn’t want to eat just because of a habit!
2. Snacking while you are doing something
Overeating is usually caused by snacking mindlessly when a person is engaged in activities like watching movies and shows, browsing on the Internet, or meeting people socially. You can take in quite a lot of absolutely unnecessary food.
3. Eating to wake up properly or to feel better
Tiredness, stress, the feeling of despondency open the door to mindless eating for many people. They go out and buy their favorite snacks every time they feel sad or tired without giving a thought to whether they are really hungry. If you write down every day what you eat and when you can catch yourself out on mindlessly gulping food after a long business meeting or when taking short rests while performing a task.
4. Eating when you have nothing to do
You don’t quite know what to do right now and the idea of having a snack flashes across your mind mechanically. You don’t feel hungry, but it seems like a good idea, and you go explore the fridge or give your friend a call to invite them out to a café. Actually food is supposed to satisfy our hunger and nourish us for further activities; when we use it for the purpose of filling up time, it is an instance of emotional eating.
5. Believing that snacking is not eating
There is a great difference between having a proper meal and chewing on a snack – you can snack standing, moving about, talking to somebody, almost without noticing that you are actually eating. “Oh, it’s just some chips to get me by! It’s not that I am really eating.” Meanwhile, you are overeating even if you don’t register the fact in your mind.
6. Eating Quickly
If you take more time over your meal, the sugar finds its way into the blood, thereby giving you a feeling of satiety. While you are engaged in peeling a fruit or getting the nut kernel out of the shell, you have time to realize you’re full and don’t really want to eat any more. If you don’t allow for pauses when you can realize the fact, you’re far more likely to eat more than you need.
7. Not Making Shopping Lists
The very presence of a collection of snacks in the kitchen is a very good incentive to eat them – and eat more of them! If you know that you are easily tempted to get another goodie out of the fridge, just don’t buy them, or buy less of them.
Make a shopping list to make sure you buy only what you want and not everything that you fancy. Сheck the list for snacks you can do without if you are resolved to control your eating habits.
Steps to eating mindfully
Those who are plagued by mindless eating can control themselves by stopping as they sit down to eat or grab a snack to ask themselves whether they are hungry and cannot go by without filling up. It’s a good idea to stop some time into a meal and gauge the degree of fullness: maybe you don’t need to eat more? Make your eating mindful by understanding your stomach better.
Below are 12 more steps to mindful eating:
1. When you snack out of a package you are likely to finish everything off. Do you really need that much? Check the serving size on the tag, take out as much as you want, and put away the rest of the package.
2. Your colleagues keep M&M bowls on their desks inviting you to help yourself whenever you come along for a chat? Don’t come along, write them an e-mail to settle a business question.
3. Keep your food stocked away so that it doesn’t catch your eye every half an hour. You don’t want to be tempted on a constant basis, so put your snacks away into drawers, containers and fridges.
4. Keep a bottle handy: everybody is apt to mistake a wish to drink for a wish to snack. As you get signals from your stomach, take a few draughts – maybe that is what you really needed.
5. See that your breath is fresh – it can put you off stuffing a snack into your mouth. When you have eaten, give your teeth a brush or chew a mint-flavored gum so you will feel less inclination to take a snack very soon after a meal.
6. Many people want to eat when they see somebody else chewing on a snack. When your friend or a colleague is snacking happily, think before you join in and help yourself – what if you are not hungry and you don’t want the nosh? Down a glass of water and see if you want to eat.
7. Fight feeding yourself to take up time. You have a pause during the day and you turn to snacking habitually? Pick up a book or the guitar, go out for a stroll, write answers to your inbox e-mails.
8. Disassociate in your mind eating and sitting in front of a screen – as you are chewing while watching a movie or surfing from site to site, you are stuffing yourself up without even enjoying the taste of your food! You may find yourself with an empty plate which was full only a few minutes ago! If you are hungry, detach yourself from the screen, go to the kitchen and pay attention to how much you eat.
9. Snack mindfully – you know when you are going to feel like having a bite, so set up a snack time and have some healthy nosh ready instead of quickly grabbing a snack near at hand which is likely to be junk food.
10. Walk past shelves with junk food in the supermarket: you don’t want to have sweets at home tempting you to devour them.
11. If you would sit up late, you may really get hungry and want to nourish yourself. Nevertheless, you know that it’s an unhealthy habit which had better be gotten rid of. Think whether you would prefer to go to bed earlier rather than sit up and eat at an ungodly hour.
12. Probably the best one of them all is to keep a food journal. It is scientifically proven that people who have their eating habits written down exercise better control over them and, consequently, are better equipped to keep their weight in check. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showcases that keeping a food diary leads their owners to losing about twice the weight lost by those who don’t bother with putting down how much they eat. It’s something to look up to, right?
So there’s nothing actually to stop you from beginning to eat mindfully from now on.
About the Author
Daria Kurilko is the founder, writer and editor of Geniusbeauty.com – an online guide for women about beauty, health and relationships. She has a master’s degree in sociology with a number of scientific publications to her credit and extensive experience in marketing and PR. Daria, who currently lives in Wiesbaden, Germany, is also a loving mother and wife. Since 2007 she enjoys sharing her experiences and broad knowledge about all things nutrition, beauty and lifestyle with her readers.