How To Stop Mindless Eating

You are probably familiar with this scenario that I am about to share with you.

You woke up at dawn, had a good workout, had a tiring day at work, washed all the dishes, took the dog for a walk, put the kids to bed and after all this you have 30 minutes for yourself. You crashed on the couch for some Netflix with a bowl of popcorn or bag of chips and a glass of beer, wine or diet soda nearby. You are most likely not thinking about how much of that popcorn you are about to consume…. until you feel your fingers scraping the bottom of the bowl, saying, “ OH no! What have I done? I have eaten it all- all of that greasy popcorn”. And GUILT sets in...

Mindless eating is when we eat without thinking about what we are doing. This happens because we are only aware of a fraction of food decisions we make. How many decision do you make per day related to food? 10, 15, 20 or even 30?

Whatever that number is, you likely didn’t come close to what Dr. Brian Wansink, Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, found with an experiment he conducted to unearth how many food-related decisions people make each day on average, and how their days events affected those choices. When 139 participants were asked how many food decisions they make daily, they guessed an average of 14.4 decisions. In reality, they were making over 200 food decisions per day!

You shocked? That’s because most of those decisions are snap judgements made during mindless working.  Each of you at some point must have wondered “oh I have arrived home without even realizing how time just flew” or “If you put 2 spoons of sugar in your coffee, you are most likely to put 2 spoons next day as well”.

When Wansink took to the TED stage, he explained that these subconscious cues have power over our decisions precisely because we don’t think they do.

The upside: You may not need a diet overhaul to change your unhealthy eating behaviours. Call them tricks or nudges, but the following five changes can help you break out of the mindless eating mold.

  1. Hunger Check

Ask yourself if you are really hungry or are you just bored tired, stressed or thirsty? Has it been a few hours since I last ate? Would a glass of milk or piece of fruit make my hunger go away? Are you just used to eating at the same time everyday? Have you just been pressured by society to think that lunch time is between 12 noon and 2 pm?

  1. Get Active

Take a walk down the stairs or around the block, or simply play a household board game to refocus your attention.

  1. Drink Water

It’s easy to confuse thirst with hunger. Drink sparkling water or add a piece of lemon to liven and freshen it up. 

  1. Handy Snacks

Keep a supply of nutritious snacks such as baby carrots, celery sticks,  or handful of nuts on hand. If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple than most likely you are just bored.

  1. Find a hobby

Find something else to do to keep your hands busy during your weak moments. Maybe indulge yourslef in a hot tub bath, or pamper yourself with a manicure or pedicure.

Last, but not least, when you take time to shop with fresh ingredients and cook healthy flavoursome food, you’re eating habits will change. The quick stop through a drive through for some KFC that you once thought was to die for, is no longer delicious.

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