Ever find yourself finishing the pumpkin pie or eating a bag of chips when you’re not even hungry?
If so, you are not alone! Many individuals are victims of mindless eating that can lead to
unnecessary weight gain. You can turn mindless eating into MINDFUL eating during this holiday season by simply using a few of the strategies listed here - that may even lead to weight loss when practiced consistently.
Awareness. The key ingredient that helps people change behavior is awareness. When you are aware of what you are doing, and potential triggers for a behavior you hope to change, you become enabled to make a change. Ask yourself if certain emotions trigger any overeating or eating when you are not hungry. For example, feeling anxious, angry, bored, sad, lonely or frustrated may cause you to grab different types of food (i.e., salty, sweet, creamy, crunchy, etc.) that may comfort you, depending on the emotion you are experiencing at the time.
There may also be triggers in your immediate environment. Things like having fresh baked cookies or leftover pie easily available on the counter may not be so helpful. Having foods out of sight may help remind you to intentionally plan a snack or dessert. For some, keeping a journal of your eating throughout the day is helpful; describing what you ate, how much, and making note of whether you were actually hungry, or eating because you were bored, for example. It's crucial not to be judgmental of ourselves, but instead during this process, look at ourselves and ask, "Hey, what's happening right now?" When we have awareness and understand what's happening, we can look at our behavior and then initiate change.
Decrease your triggers. After you have recognized what your major triggers for mindless eating are, its time to take action. This may be removing the candy bowl or cookies from the counter.
Remember, the purpose here is not to make the cookies or candy a "forbidden food" but instead decrease the likelihood of overeating by grabbing "just one" - which may turn into more. Planning a time in your day or week that you will include these foods with lunch, dinner or at snack time can help decrease feelings of deprivation (another culprit for overeating).
Be mindful when eating. The Center for Mindful Eating, http://www.thecenterformindfuleating.org/principles, defines mindful eating as:
Find a time in your week to sit down and plan out your meals and snacks. Also, its important to plan meals that include an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Not eating enough at meal times can often set a person up for mindless grazing and overeating. A great example of this is on Thanksgiving. Skipping breakfast or not eating enough to eat to "save up for" the Turkey dinner. By the time the Thanksgiving meal is ready, you may find yourself overly hungry and set yourself up for mindless overeating. Another example is when individuals pack a "lowfat/diet" frozen entree for lunch with nothing else. Many of these meals do not contain enough protein or calories to meet an individual's energy needs. For example, adding a greek yogurt, salad or fruit, and a treat from Halloween in your lunch bag will help ensure you feel satisfied and able to get back to your day, without frequent trips to the snack bin.
Changing your eating behaviors to decrease mindless over-eating is possible! Remember to be patient with yourself as it is a process.
Getting support from a registered dietitian at EnlightenU Nutrition Consulting can help you ensure you reach your goals in a healthy and positive environment - while still living and loving your life!
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Val Schonberg is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian who specializes in weight management, sports nutrition, disease