Mindless Eating: Tips for getting rid of these problematic behaviors
Do you fall into the ‘clean your plate’ club? Have you ever been eating chips/popcorn/pretzels/nuts while you’re on the computer or watching television to look down and find that the bag is empty? Do you always find yourself leaving certain situations (restaurants, social events, etc.) where you are uncomfortably full? So many of these scenarios are the result of mindless eating and can really work against our nutrition goals. While decreasing portion sizes may be particularly important for those on the Lean Machine track, almost all of us can fall into the mindless eating trap where were overeat (and not usually on the healthy food we’re trying to focus on!).
I first recommend listening to the podcast I posted in January 2018 on Mindless Eating. Here is a summary of the tips I shared. And of course, follow-up with me if you need any other suggestions or tips!
- Think 20% more or less:
- Serve yourself 20% more fruits and vegetables
- Serve yourself 20% less of just about everything else. You can always get more if you are still hungry, but so often we over-serve ourselves and 20% less might just be the perfect amount!
- See all that you eat: regardless of what you are eating, put it on a plate/bowl/etc. first. Don’t eat out the bag or box! Pre-plating our food can result in eating 14% less.
- Re-package food that is in Costco-sized bags/boxes into smaller packages (using ziplocks or Tupperware) – when we serve ourselves from these larger containers, we actually serve ourselves 20-30% more than if we served ourselves from smaller boxes/containers!
- Consider using smaller plates & bowls – the average plate size has increased by 2-3” over the past few decades, and just a 2” increase in plate diameter results in eating 30% more – wow!! If we tend to overeat certain foods or meal, at those times try using smaller plates and bowls (such as serving yourself ice cream from a mug instead of a bowl ;).
- Make overeating a hassle. Keep serving dishes in the kitchen so you don’t keep picking and nibbling when you are done eating.
- De-convenience tempting foods. Tend to overeat tortilla chips? Stash them in the back of the cupboard – out of sight, out of mind.
- Only snack at a table and again use a plate. Snacking while we are distracted (driving, on our computer/smart phone/television) can result in eating up to 50% more food.
- Do you find you’re always the first one done (maybe in certain situations like parties, etc.), and then go back to get more? Try:
- Aiming to be the last one done. This can significantly slow the pace of eating and help you to feel fuller on less food.
- Try being the last one to sit down.
- Know your danger zones! Perhaps you’re not worried about losing weight, but you notice whenever you go to a restaurant, or party, etc. you end up feeling uncomfortably full. Or perhaps you tend to munch mindlessly while you’re in the car. Know where your danger zone is and try some of the re-engineering strategies above.
- Always aim to leave something on your plate. If you try and do this every time you sit down it can help break the ‘clean your plate’ mentality.
- Find that you end up munching mindlessly, such as while you’re cooking or in the kitchen (and by the time the meal is done, you are full)? Try chewing on gum – this can keep you from mindlessly stuffing food in your mouth you weren’t planning on eating.
These are just a few ideas. Most of these ideas come from ‘Mindless Eating: Why we eat more than we think’ by food psychologist Dr. Wansink. This is an excellent read – quick, easy, and entertaining – and can be incredibly elucidating.
If you’re interested in learning more about mindful eating, I highly recommend reach Dr. Susan Albers – an excellent read for cultivating more mindful eating habits. She also has a great book on addressing emotional eating if that is a challenge for you: ’50 Ways to soothe without using food.’ Both are excellent and quite practical. Finally, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote ‘Savor’ which is a wonderful read on eating more mindfully.
Let me know what questions you have!