Have you ever reached for a box of chocolates just because you were feeling tired, anxious, or lonely? Or maybe when you watch television while eating potato chips and before you know it you have finished the whole bag? This is called mindless eating. Mindless eating, also known as distracted eating, plagues many of us in our day-to-day lives. Whether we are eating mindlessly while driving, working, watching electronic devices, or even talking on the phone, mindless eating can disconnect us from our true hunger and fullness cues. So in today’s blog post, we will be breaking down the common causes of mindless eating and how to eat more mindfully instead.
What are the common causes of mindless eating?
Mindless eating is defined as a lack of awareness of our hunger and fullness cues paired with a lack of attention to the quantity of food that we are eating. Some of the most common factors that can trigger mindless eating include:
- The presence of distractions (i.e. cell phones, television, working while eating etc.)
- Waiting until the point of uncomfortable hunger before eating
- When food is used as a reward or punishment
- Eating in response to boredom or overwhelming emotions
A good indicator of mindless eating is reaching the point of uncomfortable fullness as a result of the factors listed above. These habits can not only harm your daily routine, but it can also negatively impact energy levels, emotional wellbeing, weight loss goals and overall wellness. Luckily, by practicing mindful eating you can combat mindless eating and kick these unhealthy habits to the curb.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating involves creating more awareness of the food that we put in our bodies and how it makes us feel, both physically and emotionally. For example, by focusing on the look, smell, taste, and texture of food and taking the time to chew slowly without distractions we can become more intune with our body’s hunger and fullness signals. By creating more awareness of how food makes us feel, mindful eating can help to enhance the mind-body connection to help better manage our eating habits. In fact, mindful eating has been shown to promote weight loss, better mood, more energy throughout the day, and help promote improved wellbeing overall.
What is the difference between mindful eating and dieting?
The idea behind mindful eating is that a slower, more intentional way of eating may help you enjoy food more and choose healthy foods more often while also reducing overeating. Whereas, dieting is about controlling what we eat so we can achieve a calorie deficit. Here are some key differences between mindful eating and dieting:
- What you eat
- How you eat
- Practiced long term
- Focuses on internal sensations (i.e. hunger, fullness)
- What you eat
- How much you eat
- Followed for a short period of time
- Focuses on external results (i.e. weight loss)
Do you eat mindfully or mindlessly most of the time?
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are curious about whether you are a mindful eater or mindless eater:
- Do you eat when you are bored or emotional?
- Do you feel uncomfortably full after each meal?
- Do you eat with electronic devices present?
- Do you finish your meals very quickly?
If you answered yes for all or most of the above questions, then you may be a mindless eater.
Tips to practice mindful eating
If you are trying to break free from mindless eating, here are some mindful eating tips that you can start practicing today.
Tip #1: Take a few deep breaths before eating
This helps to calm the mind so you can focus on the act of eating. It may also be helpful to stop and consider the health value of each different piece of the food on your plate. The best rule of thumb is to eat foods in their most natural form for the best health value.
Tip #2: Create more body awareness
How are you sitting? How is your posture? Are you relaxed? Are you tense? Uncomfortable? Acknowledge your surroundings, but learn to tune them out. Focusing on what is going on around you can distract you from the process of eating and take away from the mindfulness experience.
Tip #3: Tune into your hunger
How hungry are you on a scale from 1 to 10? Are you ravenously hungry to the point of discomfort? Are you very hungry or only a little hungry? Are you eating because you are actually hungry or is it that you are bored or need a distraction or think it’s what you should be doing?
Tip #4: Slow Down
Eat more slowly and take your time chewing your food really well before swallowing. While you are eating slowly, enjoy the color, the flavor, texture and the aroma of the food you are eating. Keeping your fork or spoon down while you are chewing the food or even using your less dominant hand.
Tip #5: Focus on how your experience shifts moment to moment
Do you feel yourself getting full? Are you satisfied? Listen to your body cues, take your time, stay present and don’t rush the experience. Mindful eating plays a big role in your gut health. This can be used as a tool to fix your digestive problems.
Mindless Eating and Gut Health
Eating mindlessly without paying attention to what and how much you are eating can negatively impact gut health by contributing to bloating, gas, heartburn, and even indigestion. This is often because eating too quickly does not give your brain enough time to process that you are full, which not only leads to overeating and uncomfortable digestive symptoms but can also contribute to weight gain over time. On the other hand, mindful eating may help to improve gut health not only by increasing awareness of hunger and fullness signals, but also by helping to reduce stress. This is because stress can contribute to inflammation, and many studies have shown that mindfulness may reduce digestive symptoms, especially in people with IBS and ulcerative colitis.
The practice of mindful eating can reap great benefits when practiced regularly. Think of mindful eating like exercise, the more you can do it to slow down and listen to your body, the greater satisfaction you will experience from your food and the greater control you will have over your diet, nutrition habits, and overall health. If you are struggling with gut issues and are unsure how to start your gut healing journey, I have a FREE guide called “Fix Your Gut” that you can download right here. This guide gives you a step by step framework to start your gut healing journey on the right track.