I usually eat a snack before I got to bed. I do it so regularly, it has become a habit. The other night, I went into the kitchen like I normally do, and grabbed a banana and the jar of peanut butter.
For some reason, I paused. I’m not sure why. But I stopped for a second, and checked in with myself. I realized I wasn’t hungry. Once I noticed this, I went to bed without eating the snack.
There’s a big difference between eating mindlessly and eating mindfully. When I eat mindlessly, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. I’m not tuned in. My mind is elsewhere. I just eat out of habit. It’s automatic.
On the other hand, when I eat mindfully, I’m aware of my body. I’m tuned in to whether I am hungry or full. My mind is engaged. I’m eating on purpose.
The Problem with Eating Mindlessly
Most of us eat mindlessly. (We do a lot of other things mindlessly as well.) As humans, we are actually designed to do this. To conserve energy and mental resources, we tend to shift processes to become automatic whenever possible. This is actually incredibly efficient. If we had to think about every little thing our bodies do, we wouldn’t get very much done.
The problem, when it comes to food, is that when we eat mindlessly, we tend to eat too much food. Or we eat junk food that isn’t good for us. This can negatively impact our health and waistline. So, what can we do to counteract the negative tendency to eat mindlessly? Here are 4 suggestions:
4 Ways to Combat Mindless Eating
- Practice mindful eating. When you take a bite of food, chew slowly, focusing your attention on your food and taste. Once you are done swallowing, pause for a few seconds before taking another bite. As much as possible, focus your awareness on the task of eating.
- Check in with yourself. It’s important to check in with your body to gauge your hunger level. Don’t just eat out of habit, but tune into your body. Are you hungry right now? If so, it’s time to eat. If not, it might be good to wait a bit before eating. If you aren’t very hungry, try eating a small amount and then stopping.
- Eat a prescribed amount. Because we have the tendency to eat mindlessly (even when we are full), it can be helpful to decide ahead of time how much food you are going to eat, rather than just doing whatever. This is why diets that have you count calories or weigh and measure your food tend to work. You eat a prescribed amount, and then you stop. Even if you don’t want to get as detailed as counting calories or weighing/measuring food, you can make certain decisions ahead of time. For example, only eat one helping of food, or take half your dinner home with you.
- Eat slowly. One of the problems with eating mindlessly is that it takes about 20 minutes from the time you put food into your mouth until the brain registers that your stomach is full. So, you might have been full half a hamburger ago, but you don’t yet realize you are full because of the lag time. To combat this problem, eat slowly. Chew your food slowly. Set your fork down for a minute between bites. Slow down and enjoy your conversation rather than shoveling food into your mouth as fast as possible.
Do you tend to eat mindlessly or mindfully? What has helped you to eat more mindfully? Which of the 4 suggestions could you implement in your life this week?