Are You Eating Mindlessly?

Are You Eating Mindlessly?

15 November 2013

Written by Jennie Bayliss

What did you eat for breakfast this morning? Was it your ‘usual’? Is that usually cereal, toast, a cooked breakfast, just a coffee, or perhaps even a smoothie? Did you consider how hungry you were before you ate and whether or not this is what your body needed this morning? Or did you, in the rush to get on with your day, pour the same amount of cereal you always have, toast the 1 or 2 slices you always have, or whatever you usually do every morning?

We unconsciously eat many of our meals and snacks. For example when eating your main meal—do you finish everything on your plate? Did you (perhaps as you always do) reach for a second helping? Do you always have a biscuit with a cup of tea at 4 pm? If a family member eats something you don’t normally eat when alone, do you automatically join in with them? Whilst watching TV, do you grab a snack? What do you go and get? Do you have a nibble of it enroute from the kitchen to the lounge?
Oh my… we all do this, don’t we! Unfortunately, our unconscious eating habits can also lead to weight gain and/or unhealthy food choices—not something that is desirable!

In Brian Wansink’s excellent book: ‘Mindless Eating: Why we eat more than we think’ he shares the results of a poll of 1,521 Americans regarding typical eating habits that showed:

91% watched TV when eating meals at home
62% were sometimes too busy to sit down and eat
35% ate their lunch at their desk whilst they continued to work
26% often ate whilst driving

I have no idea whether the figures would be significantly different if this study was conducted in the UK, but walk down any high street and you will see many people walking and eating. When you eat whilst doing something else, you’re not focused on what you are eating and therefore it is easy to overeat. More than likely you will chew less thoroughly too. Regularly eating on the go like this can easily account for an overloaded digestive system and weight gain.

How to become a conscious eater and stop eating mindlessly

Changing deeply ingrained eating habits takes time. Our unconscious actions/habits are mini programmes that run along neural pathways in our brain which don’t require conscious thought. To get a new habit equally ingrained means you need to do your new behaviour repeatedly. Although there are methods and techniques that can speed up this process (like Emotional Freedom Technique or hypnotherapy), under your own steam if you can consistently eat in your new chosen way for 30 days, you will have effected a change in your neural pathways and in this way becomes your default programme. The secret of success is to focus on no more than 2 new eating habits at a time. For example, remembering to check how hungry you are before eating, and remembering to chew your food more thoroughly.

To reprogram your brain, you need lots of reminders because your old way is so entrenched. So here are some tips to help you:
Click on this link to go to my Seven Daily Delicious Habits article to read how this works and download your own Seven Daily Delicious Habits form.

  • Allocate 1 or 2 of your food habits to this list of 7. It may seem contradictory to tell you only to choose 1 or 2 food habits then choose 5 others, but eating habits are far more challenging to change than others.
  • Create an affirmation. Write it out on 6 or 7 sticky notes. Affirmations have to be in the present tense, for example, “I thoroughly chew each morsel of food before I swallow”. Now take your sticky notes and place them in many different places: on the fridge, inside a kitchen cupboard door, beside your bathroom mirror, in your cutlery drawer and so on. Every time you see your note, pause and read it to yourself.
  • Tell someone what you are doing. By sharing your intention, it helps keep you on track.
  • Be loving to yourself when you ‘forget’ and your old programming takes over. Just start over. Persistence is key.

Eat Well—Be Well 🙂

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