Mindless eating is the consumption of excessive amounts of food even when you are not hungry. Mindless eating may be due to certain factors like disinhibition, distraction, lack of awareness, etc. Some people may eat mindlessly if they are emotional (emotional eating).
Mindless eating would have become your routine unknowingly, but with proper diet and awareness, you can stop it and keep your body healthy. Here we have come up with answers to your common queries – What causes mindless eating? How to stop mindless eating? and What happens when you eat mindlessly? So, Stay with us!
What Are The Common Causes Of Mindless Eating?
Numerous factors contribute to mindless eating. Some of the most common are:
- Eating for Enjoyment and Comfort
The food is delicious. It makes us feel joyful. But this doesn’t mean you have to keep on eating. The first cause of mindless eating is when food becomes your comfort zone.
Suppose you had a long stressful day that is troubling your night's sleep. At this time, your search for calmness and relaxation could direct you to the fridge, where you end up eating your favorite chocolate fudge, or ice cream, or any other eatables.
You ate this not because you were hungry but because the fullness might make you comfortable at that particular time. This kind of mindless eating can also be denoted as “Emotional Eating.”
The other cause of mindless eating is distractions. Distractive eating is even worse. In the world of social media, scrolling has become our primary activity. Chilling on Netflix or other OTT platforms before bed has become common nowadays, and having snacks by the side, ufff!! That is the source of distractive eating!
Sometimes you are with your friends or families and plan a movie night and bring a large packet of fries, chips, or flavorful popcorn. You cannot avoid snacking at that time, but all you need is awareness.
- Environmental cues
Environmental cues are also one of the factors of mindless eating. Our eating habits depend on where we are and with whom we live.
If you are going to a movie theatre, the vibe will make you purchase a bag of popcorn, a packet of fries, or grab any of your favorite eatables despite a lack of hunger. Wanting to enjoy and celebrate by eating tasty food is not bad. But, there comes mindless eating in between when you eat food even when you are not hungry.
Environmental cues make you eat more without letting you listen to your real hunger and satiety. These cues give you a path and guidance on when and what to eat at that moment. You keep on eating and eating as much as you like.
This overconsumption of eatables leads to bloating, digestive infection, and obesity. So, be aware of your food consumption and don’t let environmental cues hamper your health and fitness journey.
- Peer pressures
We are somewhere, somehow encircled by that friend, relative, or colleague who always asks to try the food no matter whether you want to taste it or not. They will force you to go for one bite and feed you the entire plate even if you are not in the mood to give it a shot.
When you eat food despite not being in hunger, then it is mindless eating. We eat forcefully because we do not want to make others feel bad, which is okay sometimes. If this happens every day, then dude, give it a pause. Peer pressure does not stop. We could eat because we were told to do so.
- Eating schedule
Eating on time is a good habit only if you know when you feel hungry. Many people go to dieticians and ask about the schedule they must follow to stay healthy. They eat breakfast, lunch, evening snacks, and dinner at a particular time each day.
They follow routine blindly because they think they are supposed to do so. Guys, this is not correct. You cannot stay healthy with these blind eating habits. Firstly, you have to listen to your body and respond accordingly.
I am not saying that you should not have an eating routine. Eating routine is good when it matches your biological clock. Avoid sticking to the blind routine and modify it a little the way it suits you.
Boredom is one of the major causes of mindless eating. It is more habit-driven than anything else. It occurs for different reasons, such as to fill up the void, sometimes as a defense mechanism, or maybe because of learned behavior.
Food helps us escape a sense of aversive self-awareness and also be used as a weapon to cope with boredom. In our childhood days, we had a habit of roaming around the kitchen to eat something.
When we finish our homework or complete any school projects, or sometimes we do not have anything specific to do, we head towards the kitchen or pantry in search of tasty snacks or food. It has become our habit to eat when there is emotional turbulence.
Many believe that food brings satisfaction, so whenever they are bored or feel low, they consume something. Let me tell you, it may help you feel good and satisfied for a short period, but you will regret it.
You are not eating because of hunger but to escape boredom. So guys, change your habit of escapism. Be thoughtful about your emotions. Do not feed your boredom with food. Try to be productive and reduce your boredom.
How to Avoid Mindless Eating?
There are many steps you can take to avoid mindless eating. Some of them are:
- Try to purchase food items in small packages- when you go to the grocery store, buy small or individual-sized packages for yourself. These portion-controlled packages make you less likely to consume extra in one go. According to researchers, people tend to eat more when served extra food. When served double-size food to eat, most of them eat around 35 percent more. Hence, trick yourself and buy small packages.
- Use small plates and bowls to eat- We humans tend to eat food items with our eyes means first we see whether the bowl is fully loaded or half. So, instead of using big bowls and plates, go for smaller ones. It signals to our brain that the food is sufficient for their hunger.
- Maintain distance from your favorite food- Do not buy too much of your favorite food. If you continuously buy unhealthy food, you will never be able to stop mindless eating. Keep your distance from it. It does not mean you need to eliminate eating those for a lifetime. Treat yourself to your favorite dishes only on occasions.
- Try to buy the foodstuff from the shop mindfully- Prepare a list before going to grocery stores as it will help you avoid purchasing extra food materials. Most importantly, it will also help you save money.
- Avoid multitasking while eating- According to doctors and nutrition experts, we should avoid eating food while multitasking. We must concentrate on chewing and mostly on tasting it. It helps us to feel more satisfied, and we are aware of how much we consume. You are more likely to lose weight over time without worrying about counting calories if you eat mindfully.
- Choose snacks that take little effort to eat- Try to go for snacks that take little extra time to eat. For example, pistachios or fresh cherries can be a good option for your snack time. This will help you eat mindfully.
- Look for healthier options to satisfy your craving- If you are one of those people who love to eat chips, fries, and cookies every time to satisfy your cravings, you have to look for better options. If you are a fan of crunchy and crispy snacks, try carrot sticks with peanut butter, a handful of almonds, walnuts, or nuts.
Start Your Journey With Mindful Eating
Mindfulness means to be aware of one's physical, emotional, mental, or cognitive state, and the events and environment experienced in real-time. If someone is mindful, one lives, enjoys, and pays attention to the current moment without being judgemental. Mindful eaters are those people who are fully conscious of their food habits during a day, month, or year.
Tips To Follow During Mindful Eating
- Distance from distractions: Distractions or an unhealthy food environment cause mindless eating. To avoid mindless eating and introduce mindless eating, you must create healthy habits and health goals. Keep nutritious food and snacks at home. Throw away oily, greasy, refined, and highly-carb-contained food items. Try to avoid going out for food and eat out less. Save your cravings for occasional and festive days. Purchase fancy bottles so that you drink more water instead of carbonated drinks. You can also join a social group that promotes healthy eating and helps you avoid unhealthy food environments.
- Be thoughtful about the food and its origin: Think about the food. Every food has a story to tell. Consider how some fruits and vegetables have grown from the root, how they arrived at your table, and the process of making that dish delicious. This will help you know whether you are consuming healthy or not and whether it is worth eating or not. You will get to know all the answers related to food.
- Build healthy eating vibes: Switch off your television and all the other distractions that disrupt healthy eating vibes. Place your electronic gadgets such as mobile phones, laptops, headsets, and even your music player in your other room. While eating, there should not be any such distractions. According to studies, distractions cause overeating and may even lead to obesity. Try to plan your dinner at home with your family members and enjoy.
- Never ignore your feelings while eating: It is imperative to know yourself and your feelings. We are humans. We are known for our emotions. So, there should be no way to avoid it. If you know how you feel in the present moment, you may also find the root cause of it. When you avoid your feelings, you fall prey to overeating which may cause critical health diseases. Therefore, listen to your instinct. Find out the way to respond in a healthy way instead of eating. Question yourself whether you are hungry or just eating to feel good.
- Do not be in a rush, Slow down: According to professionals and researchers, our body takes twenty minutes to realize that the tummy is full and satiated. Therefore, eat your food slowly. Take time to chew and eat your food slowly. Do not try to swallow all at a time. Take a pause, chew and enjoy each bite of the food items.
- Keep food journals: Make notes of the food and drinks you consume daily. This will help you know which food items are consumed by you. And you will also be able to differentiate the food with macronutrients per the requirements.
- Keep track of the food amount you are consuming: This will help you intake the correct portion and size of food. You will also avoid extra consumption of food and overeating.
- Always pay attention to your hunger: You should know and understand your body signals. If you are not sure about whether you are hungry or not, you can create a hunger scale to know your hunger.
- Sit down while eating: When you sit down to eat food, you should be present at the table physically and mentally. Be focused, and eat slowly and mindfully. When you are in a rush and eat while standing, your body does not get the right amount of nutrition it requires. You may end up eating less and more without acknowledging your craving. Hence, it is advised by doctors and nutritionist professionals to sit and eat mindfully.
- Evaluate your lifestyle: Lifestyle plays a significant role in determining whether we eat healthily or survive on oily and refined food items. When you go to bed late at night, you are most likely to eat unhealthy food because your body releases hormones responsible for making you crave sweets and unhealthy food. Focus on your sleep patterns, eat healthily, and lead a good life.
Does Mindful Eating Exercise Help Me?
Mindful eating exercises help you deduce your mindless eating habits and can keep you healthy. Here I have brought some easy mindful practices that will guide and help you enjoy the most of life.
- Create illusion and go dark- Visuals invite more hunger. When you consume food, try to close your eyes for around 1-2 seconds. Removal of visual cues will help you make the food less tempting. By this, you can easily focus on what you are eating and enjoying.
- Trick your taste buds and throw a curveball to it- If you eat something tasty, for example, a chocolate fudge, from the first bite, you crave more because your taste buds recognize the new sensation. It quickly adapts and becomes used to the following taste. This first bite traps you and can make you fall for overeating. So, to avoid falling prey to tasty foods, trick your tongue and eat something that tastes very different. Now, allow a moment, then eat that fudge back. You will see the changes that the food you like will also not taste good. Hence, you will avoid eating your favorite chocolate fudges.
- Don’t let food stop your healthy lifestyle- Take matters into your own hands and eat accordingly. We human beings are capable of controlling our desire, and we can focus on our mindful approaches. Try to slow down your cravings sometimes by dominating yourself not to eat. Be a conscious person.
If you still find it difficult to control, do not waste your time and consult your doctor, dietician, and therapists as soon as possible. They will help you work on developing healthy and good food habits.
Mindless eating is an unhealthy habit; it provides the means to escape reality by disconnecting food, mind, and body. Digestive infection, obesity, and overeating are the cause of mindless eating. Sometimes it brings the feeling of regret.
One should follow the path of mindful eating to be on track with the fitness journey. It helps you be aware of yourself and your health. We indeed live in a materialistic world. Our lifestyle, mindset, and even our food habits vary too. It is okay to be you. But make sure you follow food discipline and awareness to keep your body healthy.