It’s 9 p.m. You finished dinner almost two hours ago, but with the new episode of your favorite TV series airing, all you can think about is how those Kettle chips or chocolate-covered almonds or whatever snack you love to indulge in, would be perfect. But, are you truly hungry?
Mindless eating is a real thing. And you’re probably not aware that you may do it since the majority of the food-related decisions that you make daily are dictated by your unconscious mind . Food is what fuels your brain and your body. So, it would only make sense that when your brain is distracted, it’s more difficult to make mindful choices . Distractions can result from various sources that include, but are not limited to:
- Boredom or procrastination
- Watching TV or a movie, or in a social setting with friends and family
- In an emotional, sad or upset state
- Prompted by advertisements and commercials that cause a craving that wasn’t existent before
Since mindless eating is directly related to overeating/undereating, stress, increased anxiety levels, and unintentional weight loss/gain , it would be beneficial to practice mindful eating rather than mindless eating.
Mindful eating is based on the concept of mindfulness, which is, most simply put, recognizing your physical, cognitive and emotional state in the present moment. It allows you to become in more in tune with your feelings, cravings, and cues when eating. Learning to become a mindful eater is important because it will allow you to gain control over your eating habits and have better awareness of your relationship with food . Here are some tips and tricks that you can use to combat mindless eating and take on a more intuitive approach in your everyday life:
- Eliminate distractions. Avoid watching TV or being on your computer and phone while you’re eating. Focus on the actual act of eating by being in the present. [1-3, 5]
- Slow down. It’s so easy to rush eating considering the fast-paced lifestyle that is so common in America. Allow yourself to enjoy your meal by taking your time. Evidence indicates that it takes your body 20-30 minutes for your body to realize that you are actually feeling full. You’ll have a more pleasant eating experience by learning to go slow and truly appreciate your food [1,2, 5]. Practice Hara Hachi Bu. This is the Japanese practice of eating to 80% full.
- Keep blood sugar balanced. We commonly crave carbohydrates, whether sweet or salty. The best carb craving curber is protein. Maintaining a diet of small frequent meals with protein can really help prevent mindless snacking because the body is satisfied from a nutritional perspective.
- Measure out portion sizes. By doing this, you will avoid unintentionally overeating. Instead of eating those M&Ms straight from the bag, try portioning one serving size into a small bowl. Favoring small packaging and bowls, plates, and cups can also help avoid overeating [1,2].
- Use a food journal or diary. Keeping track of the food and drink that you consume for a few days allows you to be more mindful and aware of what and how much of it you are eating and drinking .
- Listen to your hunger cues. Learn to recognize and understand the difference between actual hunger and the non-hunger eating triggers. Are you actually hungry? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Are you full? Asking yourself questions like these allows you to be mindful and make you think about how you really feel in the moment .
- Deep breathing before meals. It has been proven that stress levels drop after about 3-5 minutes of deep breathing. Stress can lead to mindless eating, so working on stress can be very helpful.
Integrating mindfulness into your eating routine can be transformative. If you’re interested in learning more about mindful eating and receiving guidance on where to begin, Starkel Nutrition nutritionist Aster Galloway is here to help! Aster uses and integrative and functional medicine approach to empower clients to form healthier relationships with food and improve ideas around self-image.
Aster incorporates principles of intuitive eating into her treatment her treatment plans encouraging clients to eat in a flexible manner that honors internal hunger cues. Creating peace with food and body is incorporated in her approach while working with the goals of her clients.
Written by student Leila G.
- Petre, Alina. 13 Science-Backed Tips to Stop Mindless Eating. Accessed 2018 August 30. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-tips-to-stop-mindless-eating
- Cline, Rebecca. Mindful vs. Mindless Eating. National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability. Accessed 2018 September 2. Retrieved from: https://www.nchpad.org/1693/6799/Mindful~vs~~Mindless~Eating
- Bjarnadottir, Adda. Mindful Eating 101 – A Beginner’s Guide. Accessed 2018 September 2. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mindful-eating-guide
- Harvard Health Publishing. Mindful eating – Harvard Health. Accessed 2018 September 2. Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/mindful-eating
- University of New Hampshire. Mindful Eating. Accessed 2018 September 2. Retrieved from: https://www.unh.edu/health/ohep/nutrition/mindful-eating