Are you a mindful or mindless eater? Are you concerned that your eating habits are affecting your weight, your mood, and your health?
Truth is, most of us are mindless eaters at some point. Mindless eating is eating without full awareness, and often happens when you’re eating for non-hunger reasons. If it happens once in a while, not a big deal because nobody is perfect. But if you’re doing it more than once a month and it’s at the point you’re feeling overly full, guilty, and even in pain after – something has to give. When these patterns become habitual they create that overeating –> dieting cycle in an attempt to balance out your calories.
A huge reason why we overeat is because we’re distracted or we’re eating for reasons other than hunger – this includes stress, boredom, sadness, anger, happiness, or just because we think it’s “time” to eat. Think about a time when you ate at your desk in front of the computer. Chances are you probably kept reaching for more without consciously realizing it. This can easily lead to overeating. It’s also not enjoyable when you’re not really paying attention to your food like we often do when we work through lunch.
What if you only ate when you were truly hungry? What if you gave your body exactly what it was craving, didn’t deprive yourself, but instead listened to what your body was telling you?
I know, you’re probably thinking yeah right – life is too crazy and I don’t have the time to think about that. And yes, life can be crazy for sure. But does it have to be THAT crazy? I challenge you today to think about your life, hard. Is there anything you can cut out to leave a little time for you to really enjoy your food and to FOCUS on how you feel when you’re eating? Think about how much better you’d feel after eating mindfully instead of mindlessly– happy, satisfied, and energetic as opposed to sluggish, unmotivated, and bloated when you eat out of emotions.
This is a process to practice these habits of eating mindfully – it can take some time to do it consistently but that’s okay. You take it one day at a time – because all good things take time. If it was easy, everyone would already be doing it.
Here are 5 things you can start today to reduce your chances of eating mindlessly:
- Don’t leave your “trigger” foods out in plain sight. If you absolutely love donuts and tend to eat them more when you’re stressed, it’s a recipe for disaster if you leave them on the counter during the witching hour. It would take an extremely strong person to resist them then.
- Eat protein with every meal. Make sure every meal and snack contains protein so it holds you over longer. Some ideas are greek yogurt, nut butters, nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, chicken and fish. These high protein foods will satisfy you so you’re less likely to have strong cravings during times of stress.
- If you realize you are about to eat out of emotions, take a step back. Go in the other room, hug your kids (yes, even if they are screaming and driving you nuts because 99% of the time this will actually calm them down) or text a friend to vent. This will distract you because you gets you out of that mindless, autopilot mode.
- Drink some water and take 2 minutes to breathe. Go to the bathroom, lock the door, and close your eyes. Think about a time when your kids did something really cute that you couldn’t imagine being upset about. Then come back.
- If you do all of this and you feel actually hungry, EAT! Choose something that will give you real energy, and eat it slowly (like a banana for instance). If you’re too busy and you can’t sit down to eat it, that’s ok. Take a bite every few minutes until you feel satisfied. Scarfing it down will not make you feel full any sooner, and it will only make you feel bloated and probably in a worse mood. Food takes time to digest so paying attention to your pace is a skill, but it can be learned.
Have you tried mindful eating? What questions or reservations do you have?
I am a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and I help busy moms move away from emotional eating, break the yo-yo dieting cycle, and find a sustainable eating plan that works for them. Contact me to find out more!