If you’ve ever eaten dinner in front of the TV, or scarfed down a bucket of popcorn while watching a movie in a theater, you’ve probably been guilty of mindless eating.
But what does it mean to eat mindlessly? Read on to learn about mindless eating habits and how you can transform them into mindful eating habits.
What Does It Mean To Mindlessly Eat?
The average person makes more than 200 food- and beverage-related decisions each day.1 Ironically, they are also unaware of 90% of them.2 The reasons behind food choices are often not known. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, although the average American spends 2½ hours a day eating, over 50% of that time eating is also spent simultaneously doing something else.3
For example, if you’ve ever…
- Eaten lunch at your desk while you continue to work
- Scarfed down a sandwich in the car on the way to work
- Consumed chips or pretzels while using your iPhone or iPad4
…then you’ve probably experienced mindless eating.
When we are preoccupied with tasks such as working, driving, reading, watching TV, and interacting with a digital device, then we are not focused on what we are eating. Unfortunately, this may lead to eating too many calories, ignoring hunger cues and eventually experiencing weight gain or other health issues.5,6 How To Eat Mindfully And Enjoy
What Is Mindful Eating?
Can you eat mindfully and still enjoy food? The answer is a definite yes – and it starts with mindful eating.
Diets tend to focus on the rules of eating and the outcomes (weight loss, improved health indicators). Mindful eating focuses on the process itself. It is based on a person’s experience of the food in the present moment, rather than on consuming fewer calories or restricting food intake.7
Mindful eating is holistic: It takes into account your feelings, your thoughts, and the sensations of your body. It taps into how the food you eat affects the world. It entails being fully attentive to your food.8
Mindful Eating Techniques To Practice
Eating mindfully involves eating for total health. This includes:
- Becoming attentive to the entire process of eating, from purchasing, preparing, and serving to eating the food
- Focusing on the ingredients in your food rather than the health claims on the packages
- Consulting the U.S. Dietary Guidelines; when you pay attention to the foods that you eat, you will be less likely to engage in binge eating.9
Some healthy eating solutions include identifying the mindless eating triggers and removing or mitigating them to cultivate a better food environment. For instance:
- Become aware of the nutritional value of the foods that you eat.
- Focus on where you eat. Avoid eating in front of the TV or a device.
- Portion out your food on a plate instead of eating directly from a bag or box.
- Carve out an actual meal time and eat slowly and deliberately.
- Determine whether you are hungry or just practicing emotional eating.
- If you are on the go, use your smartphone to map out healthy places to eat rather than showing up to the first place you find.
- Avoid multitasking while eating and do not eat at your desk.
- Maintain smaller portions by using smaller plates and bowls (and drinking from tall, skinny glasses).10
Another way of influencing eating behavior is through intuitive eating. Similar to mindful eating, this practice shifts the focus from body weight to well-being. It also dispenses with the concept of good foods vs. bad foods, and promotes giving yourself permission to eat when you feel hungry and what you want to eat.11
Better Food Behaviors Equals Better Eaters
How do you become a mindful eater? Surely one way is to eat a healthy meal and pack a healthy snack, according to the USDA Guidelines. But eating healthy foods is only part of the solution. Better eaters have better food behaviors.
Before sitting down to your next meal, consider portion size, food volume, and food choice. Consider the numerous environmental and visual cues that increase your food consumption. And don’t judge yourself harshly for not following your new food mindset. Changing your food behaviors takes time and practice, with numerous small changes at a time. Doing so may even prevent extra weight gain and support your health.12