A lot of women talk to me about mindless eating (eating without thinking about what they’re doing).
Do you fall into this camp? Think:
Standing at the fridge door thinking about what to have for dinner… holding a bag of crisps and piling them into your mouth as you go
Relaxing in front [insert guilty pleasure tv series] and… before you know it the whole bag of minstrels has vanished (where did they go?!)
Working away at your desk when… half the box of doughnuts has been devoured
And for all you mamas… picking on your kid’s leftovers (or food they’ve thrown on the floor – come on I know I’m not the only who’s done this)
Now before you beat yourself up for being a mindless eater, we all do it to some extent. It’s when it becomes a daily habit that it can get out of hand. And if you can curb those mindless eating behaviors, you could soon start to see improvements in your energy levels, weight loss, bloating, brain fog, sleep quality and so much more.
So why do we eat mindlessly in the first place?
Well, our relationship with food is just that. It’s a relationship. We have our good times, and we have our not so good times.
Do you ever use food as a way to distract yourself from a task that’s boring you? As a way of comforting yourself when feeling stressed, anxious or down? Do you reach for food because you’re a little peckish but end up eating enough to feed a family of four?
Like I said. Food isn’t just functional, it’s emotional, and we tend to overeat or eat things that aren’t so great for us when we’re not feeling so good in ourselves.
Before you dig in to my top tips though, do you know WHY mindless eating isn’t so great for you?
Well, the process of digestion actually starts when you see your food, and it goes a little something like this.
You see your food. You salivate (yes we’re pretty primal when it comes to eating). This triggers your stomach to create acid that will break your food down into small enough pieces so it can absorb the nutrients and pass them into your blood stream.
But, if you’re not seeing your food, in the sense that you’re not paying enough attention, your brain isn’t actively recognizing you’re eating. Which means your digestion process can get pretty messed up, leading to weight gain, bloating, gas, constipation and all sorts of other unwanted problems.
So how can you stop your mindless eating?
Here are 10 steps to help you curb your mindless eating and help you replace it with healthier habits.
Each of these small steps could have far reaching implications on their own, so rather than try to do them all, pick one or two that you can manage, and stick at them for 2-3 weeks. Then come back and try one or two more.
This small steps process is how I coach clients and is the key to creating new healthy habits that actually last.
#1 – Pack a “ride home” snack.
I always pack a “ride home” snack. Meaning…if I don’t eat a healthy snack on the way home, I want to eat everything in sight as soon as I step into my home after a day of teaching. Anyone else?
If you struggle with same problem, I recommend you pack a snack that’s easily transportable and healthy so that when you walk in your front door, you’re not doing so with an empty stomach!
#2 – Do your research!
Let me give you a little example on this one. Cereal is addictingly good stuff. One of my major weaknesses actually.
So when you’re craving something that you know is bad for you (such as cereal for me)…do the research to figure out WHY it is bad for you! Here’s what I learned the other day. Starting your morning off with Reese’s Puffs Cereal may be worse than getting up on the wrong side of the bed. One serving of this breakfast treat has more sugar than an actual Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. A 3/4 cup serving with 1/2 cup skim milk: 160 calories, 3g fat, 12g sugar. (One Reese’s Cup has 7 grams of sugar.) P.S. I’ve never eaten just a 3/4 cup of cereal. Ever.
#3 – Brush your teeth.
Keep a toothbrush and toothpaste at your desk, and brush after lunch. The clean, minty-fresh feeling and taste in your mouth deter you from wanting to consume sweet or savory foods. Who really wants another barbecue chip or chocolate-covered almond when their mouth tastes like toothpaste, right?
#4 – Crest White Strips
This is quite simple … but if you slap those bad boys on your teeth when cravings hit, you can’t eat for at least 30 minutes (which gives you time to get distracted and do other things) and your pearly whites get brighter at the same time! Double bonus!
#5 – Get moving.
A lot of people at out of an emotional response – boredom, anger, sadness, frustration, etc. So try to get moving and distract your mind from those feelings so that you’re not automatically linking food to those emotions. I’m not saying ignore those emotions forever…but distracting yourself (by doing laundry, going on a walk, working in your garden, etc.) you can keep your hands busy, get your heart rate up, and help clear your mind from mental stressors.
#6 – Plan your meals.
Plan your meals. Ok I know I harp on about this ALL the time, but a lack of planning is a huge contributor to mindless eating. If however you know what you’re going to have for dinner and/ or lunch each day, it’s a whole lot easier to side step the interim snacking process that ensues right before a meal.
#7 – Eat at the table, sitting down (no tv).
This comes back to being present when you eat (can you sense a theme building?!) Having the TV on or tapping away on your phone or computer is what so many of us have come to think of as normal. But this is the exact definition of mindless eating! If this is something you find yourself doing every day, try to either cut it out completely or have dedicated ‘no TV/ phone/ computer’ days.
#8 – When you snack, put it onto a plate.
There’s nothing wrong with snacking, but rather than doing it mindlessly which can prevent our bodies from realizing its even had anything to eat, put your snack onto a plate! Once your plate is clean, snack time is OVER!
#9 – Aim for whole foods (with a particular focus on protein and fat)
Whole foods are fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, and grass-fed meat, dairy and eggs, ie foods that have gone through the least amount of processing between being picked, grown or reared and being put onto our plates. By choosing these foods over processed foods that contains unnecessary added sugars and artificial ingredients, and in particular by increasing the amount of protein and healthy fats you’re consuming, you’ll be filling yourself up with high quality nutrients that will keep you fuller for longer.
This is one of the main concepts I work with clients on and without question, always see a big impact on the amount of mindless eating and snacking they do.
#10 – Make yourself work for it!
It’s easy to down a bag of potato chips in seconds. By switching those chips, cookies, etc. for a snack option that requires a bit more work on your end, like an orange you have to peel or nuts that require individual shells to be cracked open (think pistachios), you’ll ultimately consume less. When you slow yourself down and take longer to eat, you’re giving the sugar a chance to hit your bloodstream, which makes you feel more satiated. The slower you are to consume, the more quickly you will receive the signal from your body that you actually feel full so you don’t overdo it.