Are you aware of what you last ate or how much? Think about the last time you were watching T.V. and sat mindlessly eating. Sometimes we do this and can’t believe we ate “the whole thing”. We may not even remember if we even enjoyed the taste of the food. Often we feel guilty or ill after eating so much. The term to define this type of behavior is mindless or distracted eating. Not only can this be dangerous to your health but it is likely to become a habit. Unless we try to correct this behavior this may become the norm.
We make many food decisions every day. Research shows we make as many as 200 overlooked food decisions each day. An overlooked decision is one made without being aware we are making them. The decision about what to eat, how much to eat, or whether to even eat is based on habits or what we do most days. Other things that impact the decisions are seeing or smelling foods and what is available. The decisions are often influenced by external environmental cues. Often we operate on auto pilot, not even aware of our moment to moment choices or actions.
Suggested action steps to improve these eating habits or distracted eating include:
v Try to minimize distractions when you eat. Don’t have the T.V., computer, cell or smart phone on, or be reading the newspaper when eating.
v Eat at the table and be sitting down.
v Don’t eat while working at your desk or while driving.
v Sit next to the slowest eater at the table and pace yourself by using them as a benchmark. Slow down and enjoy every bite of your food. Make your meal last at least 20 minutes.
v Use smaller bowls or plates. People eat up to 60% more when using larger tableware.
v See what you eat. Don’t eat out of a bag or package, put it on a plate or bowl.
v Keep the tempting treats at the back or the cupboard or refrigerator and wrap them in foil.
Making deliberate decisions rather than acting without thinking it through is crucial. Mindless eating is something most people do at some point, but thinking your choices through and being more mindful can make a huge difference in your health and overall diet.
Source: eXtension, Mindful Versus Mindless Eating, January, 5, 2011.
Author: Liz Smith, F.C.S. Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension.