Questions: Do you notice when you are eating? I mean consciously notice? If you had to fill in a food diary at the end of the day how accurate would it be? If you ever watched Secret Eater’s you would have seen how delusional people were about the food they ate daily)
What I have come to realise is how easy it is to eat mindlessly, to pick at food throughout the day paying little or no attention to what it is, the quantity or the content. It is mindless eating, usually brought about by our emotions; the desire to feel better.
When we are stressed, bored, tired, angry, anxious or upset we tend to reach out for a reward or pick me up. Unfortunately, no amount of food can truly satisfy our emotions. There might be a temporary sense of relief but it is likely to pass and end up with us feeling guilty… and so the cycle repeats itself.
It is important to acknowledge your emotions and to understand what has triggered them so that you can deal with the real issue and not try to smooth over them with food.
Here are 8 steps to managing mindless eating:
- Have a shopping list! It seems like a small thing to do but if you go out shopping intentionally with a very specific list, you are less likely to get sucked into all the 2 for 1 and BOGOF offers that seem to appear on most of the poorest nutritional food products. Ramp up your time in the produce section of the store and greatly reduce the time spent in the processed food isles. Also, don’t be sucked in by the check-out counter treats; they have been put there for a reason ‘while you wait’. If you want to eat better, shop better! And avoid shopping when you are hungry (bad mistake and one I have done far too many times – in goes the chocolate bar to fill the gap!!)
- Get into the habit of noticing hunger. A lot of the time we become detached from what hunger feels like because we constantly pick at food. Eat when you have an appetite but avoid waiting so long that you feel ‘starving hungry’ and reach for anything. Begin to notice what it feels like to feel hungry.
- Use smaller plates. Dining plates have increased in size. In 1960’s they averaged 9 inches in diameter and now the average is 12 inches; that is a lot of plate space to fill and we keep on filling it! Get back to using smaller plates in order to control portion sizes.
- Put the green goodies on your plate first. Get into the habit of having vegetables/salad with your meals and ensure most of your plate is covered with these items. The add your whole grains and finally the meat or fish.
- Savour your food. Instead of rushing it down, take some time to enjoy each mouthful of food. Allow all your senses to be involved from preparation to serving and then eating. Take in the colours, textures and aroma. As you eat allow your taste buds to acknowledge the different flavours.
- Take small bites. Take small bites and chew your food! We are so used to rushing all the time that we forget the importance of digestion. Aim to chew each mouthful 20-30 times, depending on the food type. After each mouthful place your cutlery down and remember step 3.
- Drink plenty of water throughout your meal. Water has the capacity to give you a ‘full up’ feeling. Therefore, having a glass with each meal is a good way to give your body the fluid it needs and potentially reduce the quantity of food you require to satisfy your hunger.
- Acknowledge your emotions. If your emotions are getting the best of you, acknowledge them first and foremost. Before reaching for a pick me up, give yourself 10-15 minutes to think before you act. Sometimes the feeling will pass thus removing the need for a reward. And if it doesn’t, begin to monitor your emotions, what triggers them and focus on finding solutions to the causes…. Because food isn’t going to do it in the long run!
Be mindful, be healthy… because your health is your wealth!