It should be hard to eat mindlessly shouldn’t it?
I mean, eating takes a bit of effort. You have to pick up the food with your fork, spoon, or fingers. You have to put it in your mouth. You have to chew. That takes some effort – right? That takes some deliberateness – right?
Well, eating does take effort and you do have to be deliberate about chewing, but the act of eating is definitely easy enough to be mindless – if you are not careful.
My History with Mindless Eating
I know from personal experience that mindless eating is way too easy. I was a master at eating and eating and eating and paying little attention to how much, or even what, I was consuming.
In fact, I was a master at mindless eating during my high school years, my college years, and the first 10 years of my marriage. I guess in some ways I am still a master at it, because I still have to be aware of the foods I am eating and not fall into the mindless eating trap.
Here’s an example for you. I was famous for eating half a chip bag before I realized it was gone, finishing off all the candy in the children’s Christmas stockings, or eating large quantities of ice cream while watching television.
I always felt embarrassed when John would come home from work and say, “Hey, where are the Ritz crackers we just bought yesterday?” I would shrug, but I knew where they were. I had finished off the last sleeve and half while standing in the backyard watching one of the girls swing.
I ate watching television, folding laundry, or talking on the phone. I’d grab the food, begin eating, and before I knew it, a whole lot of it was gone. Sometimes I was surprised at how little was left. I’d feel guilty and tell myself, “I’m finished eating for the day. But by the time dinner came around, I was eating large quantities of food again without even tasting it.
The Surprise Factor
I was often surprised that I ate so much each day. Eating takes effort, but mindless eating seems to take no effort at all. A dozen cookies could disappear and leave a pound on the scale in their place. I spent a lot of money replacing food that I shouldn’t have eaten in the first place and I constantly felt frustrated by how heavy I stayed, even while dieting.
You would think that I would have learned not to take the cracker box to the laundry room or couch, but I didn’t learn. I walked around with food, leaving little cookie or cracker crumbs much like Hansel and Gretel did.
When I dieted, which was frequently, I would read books that talked about mindless eating or listen to my Weight Watchers leader explain how to avoid mindless eating. I’d agree silently that mindless eating was bad, but promptly forget the words of wisdom before the evening was over.
So what changed for me?
I realized that I had to get a handle on all my bad habits, including mindless eating. Of course not having a bunch of junk in the house helped immensely – but what was even more beneficial was developing an awareness of my eating patterns.
Because after all – mindless eating is just that. Mindless. Not much awareness involved in mindless eating.
Here are five tips to help you overcome mindless eating:
1. Never eat directly from the box, ice cream container, chip bag, candy container. (Or just avoid those unhealthy choices all together!)
2. Place a measured portion on your plate to help train yourself to be satisfied with just one helping at a time.
3. Stay in the moment while you eat. Don’t get distracted by conversations, television programs, or other things.
4. Chew your food slowly and thoroughly.
5. Analyze how you did after each meal. Ask yourself how aware of your food intake you were and what you could have done differently. Ask yourself if you really tasted and enjoyed each bite.
This time of year in particular, it is very easy to mindlessly eat. A handful of pretzels here or five or six Hershey kisses here can add up to serious calories day after day. I still watch myself for mindless eating patterns, because they are easy to have and difficult to break.
How do you do at mindless eating? Is it harder this time of year? Diane
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