Many people report mindlessly snacking on food in their fridge or pantry without even realizing they’re doing so. You might be wondering, “How is it possible for someone not to realize they’re eating?” The best analogy I can use is your daily drive to work. You drive the same route every day; you know exactly where you’re going, which turns to make, and how traffic will look. It becomes so routine, you don’t think about it anymore. You might not even remember making the drive because you’re on ‘autopilot.’ Mindless eating is the same idea – eating without paying much attention to what you’re putting into your mouth. Frequent snacking becomes so habitual you don’t realize you’re doing it anymore. When you don’t pay attention to what you consume, it’s easy to consume twice as many calories as you need. This brings me to the topic I’d like to discuss today: Mindful eating. Mindful eating is the practice of being aware of everything you put in your mouth and the surrounding circumstances; meaning, you’re actively paying attention to why, what, where, and how much you’re eating.
The next time you eat a meal, I want you to ask yourself the following questions:
-Why am I eating? Are you eating because you’re hungry or are there other triggers?
Not sure if you’re really hungry? You can do something called ‘The Apple Test.’ Ask yourself, “Would an apple satisfy my physical hunger right now?” If the answer is no, then you’re probably not hungry. You need to identify the reason why you want to eat. If you’re feeling bored, try to find a non-food related activity to distract yourself.
-What am I eating? Am I eating healthy food that will nourish my body? Or am I eating food that tastes good, but does not offer much nutritional value? This may help you identify unhealthy foods you’re consuming.
-Where am I eating? Am I sitting at the kitchen table? Eating food in front of the T.V. or while working can cause you to overindulge because you’re distracted.
-How much am I eating? Is my portion size the right amount to satisfy my hunger? Will it leave me overly full?
The purpose of asking yourself these questions is to identify situations that may lead you to overeat. If you’re unsure how to prevent yourself from overeating, I’ve included some mindful eating techniques you can practice:
- Sit down at the dinner table during meals and turn off the T.V
- Give yourself at least 20 minutes to finish a meal and stop eating when you begin to feel full
- Place your fork down between bites
- Sip water throughout a meal to increase fullness
- Stay out of the kitchen to reduce the urge to snack throughout the day
- Plan meals ahead of time; create a grocery list of foods that you enjoy but are also healthy
- Learn the calorie content of the food you frequently consume to determine how those foods fit into your daily calorie allowance
As with anything else in life, mindful eating takes practice. Remember what Megan said in her last post: Be positive about yourself, practice your new skills, and be patient!
-Crysta Baldwin, MS, RD, LD