It’s unfortunate that in our society today, it’s become the norm to eat on the run.

Back “in the day”, we’d come home from work (or play), and sit down as a family to a home-cooked meal.  Not only was that tradition, but it was also unwavering and non-negotiable. 

As we’ve “progressed” as a society of do’ers, our schedules are full with after school activities, overtime at work and just plain “busy-ness”, now a sit-down dinner is only reserved for special occasions. 

family dinner

Not only do we no longer sit-down (literally) for a meal, sometimes we are so busy we hardly pay attention to what we’re eating; our focus is only on filling the void in our stomach!

So we wolf down a quick hamburger or an energy bar and wash it down with a soft drink, not realizing that we might be causing bigger health problems than we ever thought possible…let alone what this quick food is doing to our waistlines.

Our fast-paced lives distract us from considering our meals properly.  Even when we’re at home, we often move from the television to the computer to our smartphone with fast food in hand.

Mindful Eating

This is one aspect of “mindless eating”.

Let’s dive into exactly what mindless eating is so that by the time you’re finished reading this article, you’re determined to become a mindful eater – yes, it is that important.

 

What is Mindless Eating?

 

Many believe that mindless eaters are people who don’t have any willpower or self-control when it comes to eating. But actually, there are real reasons why people overeat or just mindlessly eat without being aware of what they’re putting into their mouths. 

 

Mindless eating is eating without even being aware of it or not even being necessarily hungry.

 

It’s simply just putting food into your mouth for reasons that don’t have anything to do with hunger.

Mindless eating often happens when we’re bored, lonely, stressed, sad, angry, or frustrated. We try and distract ourselves from the emotions we dislike, and stuff our feelings down with food.

Sometimes we eat mindlessly just out of habit – which means that we end up eating food by routine even though we’re not even hungry. With mindless eating, the number of times you eat and the amount of food you eat can actually surprise you.

 

To put it simply, mindless eating means that your brain is not involved with your eating.

 

And it can occur when you’re involved in certain activities too, like driving or reading, watching television, socializing, basically doing any activity where you’re concentrating more on something other than eating. Before you know it, you’ve eaten much more than you planned.

So then, what is mindful eating?

mindful eating

Mindful eating, on the other hand, is when you choose healthy foods that you like, specifically to fuel your body.  Foods that awaken your senses and give you pleasure in eating it, merely by its delicious smell or flavors.

With mindful eating, you eat food carefully in order to fuel the body.

Try this test

To see just how often you eat mindlessly, eat all of your meals using your non-dominant hand, for one week.

Using your non-dominant hand means your brain has to be engaged in the physical act of eating.

Because it’s unnatural for you to eat with your other hand, your brain needs to send a message to that hand to pick up the food and place it in your mouth.

You will be amazed when you realize just how much mindless eating you actually do.

 

Let’s look at the reasons why people eat mindlessly

 

Anxiety:  When you were growing up, did your mother tell you to “Eat something now, because you’re going to get hungry later on!” The thought of getting hungry later, becomes a trigger for many people to eat, just in case …

mindful eating

Another example is the anxiety of not being able to eat a certain food again.  For example, if you have been on a holiday and found a particular food that you thought was absolutely delicious.  BUT you will be leaving soon, and might not get to eat that food again, so you eat more and more of this local delicacy because you don’t want to feel deprived.

Or you fear the thought of missing out on some special food. Even though you’re not particularly hungry, there is something in the fridge that you want, so you eat it before someone else does.

Your senses: The sight or smell of certain foods triggers the need to want to eat it. Maybe you decided that you’re only going to eat your main meal in the restaurant but then somebody decides to order a creamy chocolate dessert – now you feel you can’t leave without sampling it – it looks too delightful to pass up.

mindful eating

Or you can smell the bakery’s aromas of coffee and freshly baked donuts – how can you resist that, right?

All the tastes of delicious foods on the palate can certainly be hard to resist.  Your mouth craves the satisfaction of something delicious, so it looks to food that create that sensual mouth feel from sweets, pastries, pies, creamy desserts etc.

Once you start to eat your food with concentration and awareness though, you can reduce the urge to want more and more and not feel obligated to give in to those senses.

Money: How many times have you gone to a restaurant where someone else is paying the bill, and because it’s free, you decide to get your money’s worth?

mindful eating

Sometimes when you cook at home and there is a little bit of something really delicious leftover, so you decide to eat it rather than let it go to waste.

Eating so that you’re overly full is still wasting food – it’s just going into your body, instead of the garbage can.  Your body does not need all that extra food for its energy. Don’t treat your body like a vacuum cleaner or a garbage bin – find other ways of get rid of the waste.

Eating what’s available: Often we’re inclined to eat food because it’s readily available, so we’ll eat, hungry or not. For example, you might be attending a meeting where sandwiches and cookies are available to enjoy –  even if you had breakfast before the meeting, everyone else is nibbling on these goodies, so you take some too.

What about time? Its breakfast time, then its lunchtime, and then supper time and what about snack times in-between – that means it’s time to eat, right? But did you check to see if you’re really hungry when those times come up?

mindful eating time

Many of us have been conditioned that breakfast, lunch, and supper are times to eat, hungry or not, which means sometimes we eat more than we need.

 

Emotions: We all know how easy it is to succumb to food when our emotions are out of control – when we’re lonely, sad, happy, nervous – we reach for chocolate or snacks to make us ‘feel better’ or to ‘celebrate’.

We need to learn to recognize the signs of being emotionally hungry and physically hungry.

Sometimes we reward ourselves with food too, like if we do well on an exam, we deserve that ice-cream or that huge piece of chocolate cake – after all, we earned it. Sound familiar? Or ‘After what I’ve been through today, I deserve a huge slice of pizza!’

Just to please others: Maybe your mother or your friend prepared your favorite meal and now you want to show appreciation by eating more than you should because you don’t want to offend anyone.

mindful eating

Are you a Mindful or Mindless Eater?

Download your FREE Mindful vs. Mindless Eating Worksheet to keep your mindful eating on track

 

How can you deal with those triggers?

 

You need figure what your triggers are that cause you to overeat. Once you’re aware of them, you can design a strategy to overcome them.

Here are a few helpful tips:

 

  • Realize that it’s okay and perfectly normal to be hungry. Remember, the enemy to your triggers isn’t being hungry, but rather over-stuffing yourself. There’s nothing wrong with being hungry.  It’s natural for your body to tell you it needs food, but it needs you to eat balanced meals in proportion for your optimal body size.
  • When you learn to respect your body, you’ll take better care of it.  Appreciate all that it does for you and feed it appropriately.
  • Instead of saying “What can I eat now?” ask yourself, “Do I need to eat now”? If you’re truly hungry, then you should eat.
  • Remember you’re neither a bad eater nor a good eater; just let whatever enters your mouth be a deliberate choice you make. And then be willing to accept that choice along with the consequences.
  • Don’t forget water, because we all know how crucial water is to good health. Hunger is often disguised as thirst and sometimes we may eat mindlessly when we actually need water. If you learn to drink water regularly each and every day, you’ll not only quench your thirst but it’ll be a bit easier to get out of the habit of eating mindlessly.
  • Learn to eat slower. Relish your food and listen to your breath. When you start breathing or sighing heavily, your stomach has had enough and it’s time to quit eating.
  • Take the time to master eating with perseverance and patience, this will help you stop mindless eating. It’s going to be a daily practice – focus only on today and not on a certain event or date on the calendar.  You have decided that your happiness, health, or wellbeing won’t be jeopardized any longer simply by eating mindlessly.
  • Remember too that mindless eating can also be influenced by your environment.  Pay attention to the room you’re in, the music and lighting, even the sizes of your glasses and plates as well as the people you’re with.
mindful eating

Learning what causes you to eat mindlessly is an excellent first step in changing how you eat. Don’t worry too much if you’ve over-indulged in the last few days, because there’s no time like the present to create healthier eating habits.

Naturally, you wouldn’t run a long marathon without practicing properly and so it’s the same with mindful eating. Your body needs to be trained to eat mindfully.

OK, you might not be 100% sure that this is the right kind of eating style for you, but really everyone should practice mindful eating. Mindful eating isn’t something easy just to mark off on your “to-do” list either – it must be practiced daily before it will become a habit.   

If you want to see positive changes in your weight and wellbeing, you need to be committed.

mindful eating

Are there any health benefits to mindful eating?

 

Yes, mindful eating has many health benefits.  Mindful eating:

  • Boosts the immune system.
  • Increases the absorption of nutrients supplied from food and energy when you eat healthy food.
  • Improves gut health.
  • Prevents over-eating, emotional bingeing and gaining excess weight.
  • Reduces stress, depression, and anxiety.
  • Treats as well as prevents eating disorders.
  • Enhances your attention skills, memory, and learning.
  • Improves general satisfaction and contentment.

Eating healthy, delicious food should be a real treat, so why not relish it with the wonderful technique of mindful eating.

mindful eating

Want to give mindful eating a try?

 

All you need to do is take a bowl of food that is easy to eat with your fingers.

Get into a comfy position in a peaceful place and then close your eyes. 

Pick up one little item from the bowl and put it in your mouth, chew it slowly with all your attention on the texture and taste of your food. 

Pay attention to the sensations in your mouth.

If you do it correctly this could take about 20 minutes as you eat each piece, one by one using only your index finger and thumb.

mindful eating

Conclusion – mindful eating is definitely worth the effort!

 

Just by making a concerted effort to chew slower, put your knife and fork down between bites and savoring the food in your mouth, you’ll realize just how enjoyable food can be.

It’s like stopping to smell the flowers.

Stay calm and watch, taste and savor your food – and find out what you’ve been missing.

Are you a Mindful or Mindless Eater?

Download your FREE Mindful vs. Mindless Eating Worksheet to keep your mindful eating on track

Are you going to try Mindful Eating?  I would love to know!  Please leave a comment for me below 🙂

 

For more information about Clean Eating, check out this article:  https://kimyoung.ca/clean-eating-your-quick-start-guide/

For more information about Mindful Eating, here is a great article from Harvard Medical School:  https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/mindful-eating

It's unfortunate that we’ve “progressed” as a society of do’ers, where now a sit-down dinner is reserved for special occasions. This way of fast food eating is causing some major health problems...let alone what it's doing to our waistlines. Mindful eating is a simple process of enjoying your food and will lead to lasting weight loss.

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