MINDLESS EATING: HOW IT AFFECTS YOUR GOALS & 8 TIPS TO PREVENT IT
You know the saying “it’s the little things in life that matter the most?” The same goes for eating. Think about it: You walk by the pantry and grab a couple of crackers and a few bites of ice cream that’s been sitting in the freezer staring you down. Later that day, you’re sitting in your office and grab a handful of candy that’s sitting on your desk. It’s now time to wind down after work and you sit down on the couch with a bag of chips to watch your favorite show. Soon enough you look down, and the entire bag is gone, without you even realizing it. If you have never been guilty of this, you’re lying. Either that, or you have an incredible sense of self-control and I give you mad props.
All of those “little things” have calories, calories add up, and can be a hindrance when trying to reach your goals. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t indulge in snacks and treats every now and then because remember, we our goal is to establish a healthy, balanced lifestyle. What I am saying, is that it is crucial that you are accounting for those calories and mindfully consuming them. The key word here is mindfully. It is easy to effortlessly and mindlessly grab something without realizing it. But this is how you are sabotaging your success.
I’ve been there one too many times.
Anyone who knows me, also knows about my obsession with rainbow sprinkles… I put them to any and everything. Oatmeal? Yep. Egg whites? You bet. Peanut butter rolled in sprinkles? My favorite. I figured “They are so small and insignificant, it doesn’t even matter.” I added heaping amounts on top of my foods, didn’t factor them into my daily nutrient requirements, and was oblivious to how much I was consuming. I did this for months on end. Then I sat there wondering why I wasn’t making as much progress as I should have since I was hitting my macronutrient goals daily, or so I thought. Then came the reality. One night, I decided to actually measure one teaspoon serving of sprinkles which turned out to be about 3 ½ sprinkles LOL!!. I compared that to MY idea of a serving size and my jaw about dropped. The difference was significantly more…roughly 7 times more. Now let’s do the math.
One serving has 3g of carbohydrates. Multiply that by the 7 I consumed.. That is about 20g of unaccounted carbohydrates of straight sugar. I was doing this 2-3 times a day, leading to an overconsumption of 40-60g of carbohydrates, racking up to around 160 to 240 extra calories DAILY and 1,120 to 1,680 calories a week. Overtime, it really adds up. The purpose of this silly story is to show that the “insignificant little things” and “small handfuls here and there” can really make or break you.
Mindful eating is the concept of using mindfulness to reach a state of full attention to your experience, cravings, and physical cues when eating. You make over 200 decisions about food daily. The majority of them are controlled by the subconscious mind, so you don’t even realize it. This can lead to senseless eating and snacking, ultimately causing an unintentional weight gain. This is why it is important to be cognizant on the decisions that you are making and take action towards the controllable variables.
Fundamentally, mindful eating involves:
- Listening to physical hunger cues and eating only until satiety is reached
- Distinguishing between actual hunger cues and non-hunger triggers such as stress
- Engaging your senses
- Learning to cope with anxiety and guilt about food
- Noticing the effects food has on your feelings and overall body composition
- Appreciation of food
8 TIPS TO EAT LESS MINDLESSLY & MORE MINDFULLY
1.) Weigh & Measure!
Weighing and measuring food creates a conscious awareness of portion size and the true quantity you’re consuming. Have you ever compared “your” idea of a tablespoon of peanut butter with an actual tablespoon of peanut butter? It’s depressing. Most likely, you are eating two to three times more than you think, without even knowing it. This can pose a problem, especially in foods that are calorie dense. Weighing and measuring food creates a great frame of reference of what you’re putting in your body.
2.) Don’t Eat Out Of the Package
This goes hand and hand with weighing and measuring food. Eating straight out of the package is extremely deceiving. Have you ever ate an entire bag of candy, just to look at the back of the label to find out there were a full 3 servings in the bag? Anyone would be lying if they said they haven’t done this before. Grab a plate or a bowl and put away the rest of the package! In the event that you do eat out of the package, lean towards a smaller package. Favoring a smaller package can reduce caloric consumption by over 25% without you even noticing.
3.) Use Smaller Plates
Studies show that people tend to eat 92% of the food that they serve themselves. Therefore, reducing the amount of food that you serve yourself can significantly reduce the amount of calories you consume. The larger the plate, the smaller the portion of food looks, causing you to serve yourself larger amounts of food. Even slightly decreasing the size of your plate can help you consume 27% less food.
4.) Slow Down!
Slow eaters tend to eat less because it allows the body to release leptin, the hormone responsible for promoting fullness. It takes the body 20-30 minutes to release this hormone and for the body to realize that you’ve eaten enough. Often times, when we eat too quickly, we think we are still hungry and go back for seconds, increasing caloric intake. In order to reduce eating speed, try eating with your non-dominant hand and chewing more often. Not only will this promote satiety but it will also create a more enjoyable meal!
5.) No Distractions
One of the easiest ways to mindlessly eat is to be absent-minded. Whether you’re zoned into the TV, videos games, or your cell phone you are not consciously focused on the action of eating, and how much you are eating, causing over-consumption. For example, people watching TV while eating their meals consumed 36% more pizza and 71% more macaroni and cheese. Turn off those electronics and enjoy good conversation with your friends and family!
6.) Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Scientists suggest that visually seeing food pushes you to make a conscious decision on whether to eat it or not. The more frequently you see it, the more likely you are to chose to eat it. You know that candy bowl that sits on your office desk staring at you? Cover it up or hide it! This theory can also work in your favor by replacing those tempting treats with healthy, nutritious options.
7.) Use A Meal Plan!
The utilization of a meal plan is important for various reasons. Not only does it ensure that you are getting proper nutrients, but it also aids in reducing the temptation to grab foods that are not on your plan. You know what you need to eat, and when you need to eat it. There is no second guessing. If you are a person who finds yourself snacking throughout the day, the implementation of a meal plan will provide you with the necessary structure in order to establish healthy habits and build awareness while eating.
8.) Keep a Food Journal
It is important to pay attention to what you are consuming and why you are consuming it. Are you eating because you truly are hungry? Are you eating because you’re stressed or bored? Or are you eating due to an environmental food-related cue such as the sight or smell of food? Tracking how you feel when you eat certain foods will help you better take control of your eating habits and set you on the right track towards mindful eating.
I hope that you now have a better understanding of mindful vs mindless eating and can implement some of these tips in your everyday life!
Coach Kerianne Los
Bjarnadottir, A. (2016, January 1). Mindful eating 101 – A beginner’s guide. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com
Petre, A. (2016, May 9). 13 science backed tips to stop mindless eating. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com
Wansink, B. & Sobal, J. (2007) Mindless Eating – The 200 Daily Food Decisions We Overlook. Sage Journals, 38(1), 106-123