How to stop mindlessly eating

Susannah Hickling 10 December 2020

Here's how mindful eating could be the key to ending junk binges

Are you trying to manage your weight or a health condition like diabetes, but find yourself guzzling a tub of ice cream or a jumbo bag of crisps? Here’s how to really focus on your food so that you eat the right things in the right amounts.

 

Unplug those gadgets

It’s too tempting to scroll through your phone as you munch your meal, but it can make for mindless eating. Studies have found that we can put away as much as a whopping 25 per cent more calories if we fixate on a phone, tablet or television at the same time. Worse still, there’s evidence that you eat more later in the day.

So put down the devices and eat at a table—preferably with a partner, friend or the whole family. And if you’re dining alone, simply be more mindful of the food in front of you. As a result, you’ll eat less and enjoy it more—we promise.

 

Beware the "healthy" option

Do you have a tendency to brand food good or bad and opt for pre-packaged, supposedly healthy foods like cereal bars and low-fat ready meals? These meals and snacks aren’t always as nutritious as you might think, even if they seem to correspond with your diet.

 

Stop right there!

To be really aware of the food you’re eating, pause halfway through your meal and ask yourself if you’re still hungry or whether you might be close to being full. Are you enjoying the taste and the texture of what you’re eating, rather than just packing it away?

I once went to a French wedding where the guests consumed six courses over six hours, with a break for entertainment between each one. I never felt bloated or even full. There was something about the slow pace of the meal that made it more satisfying but less overwhelming. It takes around 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full and so if you eat more slowly you tend to eat less and feel ready to eat again sooner. You’ll also enjoy your meal more.

Of course, it’s not often you get to go to a six-course wedding reception, but the same principle applies whatever the situation: it’s good to pay heed to the rhythm of your meal by stopping to talk or by chewing more slowly.

 

Know what you’re really hungry for

It may not be food. It’s very easy to use food—cooking or consuming it—as a distraction from stress and a busy life. If you do find yourself grazing or overeating, stop and ask yourself if you are bored, worried or depressed. Once you identify the reason behind your mindless eating, you’re in a better position to put a stop to it.

 

Go on the snack attack

Coffee and biscuits, or a chocolate bar, especially at work, can lead to piling on the calories. Consider going for a stroll or doing some breathing exercises instead. 

Read more: How texting could improve your health

Read more: How not to get lonely when you're home alone


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