Most of us hardly say no to food, even if we just had a meal thirty minutes ago. ‘Just one more bite..; A few of these won’t hurt..’ these are a couple of the statements used to justify such eating habits. These habits may signal what is known as mindless eating. It is a practice that happens whenever we eat what we want without paying attention to how much food we consume. Although it seems straightforward, trying to stop mindless eating is no easy task. An important question is, can you stop mindless eating? Considering this possibility, what are the best techniques on how to stop mindless eating?
In this article we will go over some expert-approved techniques on how to stop mindless eating. These methods are pretty straightforward. That said, we urge you not to be fooled by their simplicity so much so that you overlook their benefits. Secondly, we advise you to go through these techniques with a professional for your utmost safety.
So, How To Stop Mindless Eating?
You can without a doubt stop mindless eating so long as you uphold the proper techniques. Most people stop this habit for a while but then go into remission after some time because they did not implement long-term solutions. Here are some of the long-term and science-backed techniques to help you stop mindless eating:
Developing New Coping Skills
The primary reason why most people indulge in mindless eating is because of factors such as stress and anxiety. Food is the number one therapy for most people’s problems. The problem is, food does not solve any of these problems.
Instead, you may end up with increased problems such as an increased risk of obesity as a result of increased food consumption, and especially with junk food. Experts advise you to dig deeper and come up with strategies to deal with your problems. Some of the recommended methods to help deal with stress and anxiety include (1):
- Talking to a friend or a professional about the source of stress
- Going for a walk to help clear your mind
- Engaging in a leisure activity, such as swimming
- Hanging out with close friends to help manage stress
- Getting in touch with our loved ones to help develop positive emotions
Read More: Mindful Eating: Tips, Techniques, And Benefits Of This Practice
Eating Fiber-Filled Foods
Another technique you can embrace, to stop yourself from mindless eating is focusing on fiber-filled foods. Fiber is an example of a plant carbohydrate that helps in keeping you fuller for a longer time. Eating both soluble and insoluble fiber increases satiety, and helps keep you from overeating (8).
The recommended daily amount of fiber varies according to your caloric needs. Women whose daily caloric needs are 2, 000 are advised to consume 25 grams of fiber. On the other hand, men with similar calorie needs are advised to consume 38 grams of fiber every day (9). Some of the most fiber-filling foods you can add to your diet include (8):
- Oats and oat bran
- Whole grains
- Lentils, beans, and peas
- Whole fruits, such as berries and fruits with peels
- Sweet potatoes and other starchy vegetables
- Dark leafy vegetables like kale and spinach
- Nuts and seeds
Eating A Protein-Rich Diet
Eating a protein-rich diet can also prevent mindless eating, as it creates a longer-lasting sense of fullness (8). Experts advise you mainly have a high-protein breakfast because it reduces the effect of the hunger-regulating hormone ghrelin (8).
Talk to an accredited dietitian or nutritionist before making such changes to your diet plan. They will advise on the best way to incorporate high-protein foods into your diet without resulting in any harm. Some healthful and high-protein foods to consider include (8):
- Peas, lentils, and beans
- Lean beef and lamb cuts, poultry, and fish
- Kefir, Greek yogurt, and other high protein yogurts
- Seeds and nuts
- Protein powders
- Broccoli and other high-protein vegetables
- Fat-free or low-fat cheese
- Several types of milk
Tracking Your Diet
You can also put an end to mindless eating by tracking your eating habits throughout the day. All you need is a food journal or a food diary in which you record everything you have had throughout the day. Detail everything in pen and paper.
As a worthy alternative, download a diet tracking app that keeps track of whatever you eat in an entire day (8). You are advised to look at the app or diary to determine what and how much food you have consumed.
Such analysis helps in shedding light on two aspects. For one, it enables you to determine if you are practicing healthy eating. The consumption of healthy foods characterizes healthy eating. Secondly, the analysis helps track your eating patterns. They can either be classified as mindful or mindless eating patterns.
Insight on your eating habits helps create awareness of how you indulge in mindless eating. For example, you may recognize that mindless eating arises from eating less fiber-filled foods. In this case, you may make changes to your eating plan and incorporate more fiber-filled foods (8).
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Dehydration can also lead to overeating. Unfortunately, most people easily mistake dehydration for hunger, which explains this leads to mindless eating. The key to avoiding mindless eating is hydrating frequently.
If you feel hungry, have a glass of water. If after thirty minutes you are still feeling hungry, now have some food. You can always flavor your water using mint or lemon to help you hydrate frequently.
Avoiding Eating By The Clock
Some people believe that you have to eat lunch as soon as the clock strikes noon. Similarly, others believe that you must have dinner by the time the clock is striking eight. In this case you will find yourself eating even when you are not hungry. As a result, you tend to end up overeating or indulging in mindless eating.
According to WebMD, you don’t have to eat by the clock. Instead, you should pay attention to your hunger patterns and only eat when your body denotes hunger (10). This technique will help you avoid overeating, which may compromise your weight loss results.
Changing Your Circle
It is hard to avoid mindless eating if you are always around a circle of friends hanging around in restaurants. You will most likely give in to temptations to try new foods, even if you are not hungry.
Again, you may have a circle that is always partying and eating. It will be hard to resist giving in to food urges with such a crowd. The only way you will avoid overeating, in this case, is by removing this temptation. It does not mean cutting out the friendships entirely, but try suggesting other activities you can do together that don’t involve overeating.
Read More: Mindfulness For Beginners: Learn To Navigate Your Inner World
There is an assumption, especially among weight watchers that skipping breakfast will lead to weight loss. The reality is that skipping breakfast only makes you indulge in mindless eating throughout the day.
Experts state that when you wake up, the blood sugar your body needs for various body functions tends to be very low (2). The only way you can replenish these blood sugar levels is by eating your breakfast (2).
Unfortunately, many people skip it, perhaps due to their busy schedules or belief that it will prompt weight loss. This is not the case. With this in mind, to ensure you stop mindless eating, especially at work, have your breakfast.
Note that you can always carry it to work in case you have a busy morning. Alternatively, you can plan and have it on the way to work. Remember that breakfast does not always have to be tea or coffee. You can opt for other filling foods such as oatmeal and smoothies.
You may also indulge in mindless eating when you do not plan for your meals. You find that you always settle for anything when hungry, and especially if you have not planned for your meals. By the time you are done preparing your meals, you are already full yet still continue eating.
The key to avoiding mindless eating is planning (5). You can prepare your meals ahead, especially if you have a short lunch break. Do not wait until you are hungry to start planning for what you are going to eat.
Instead, you are advised to plan ahead as it helps you be aware of the food options you are also considering. You can talk to a licensed nutritionist to obtain help on meal prep for the week or interested days.
Finding Something To Do
Most of us also give in to mindless eating when we have nothing to do (6). As mentioned earlier, food is the number one therapy for most people, including those who are bored. You will most likely ignore healthy eating or adhering to your daily calorie intake when eating out of boredom.
Try and find something to do instead of being lazy around the house. For example, you can read a book as it helps draw your attention away from food. Similarly, you can play some basketball as it enables you to stay away from the fridge and shifts your attention to the game.
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Most people fall for foods that have been labeled as healthy or low-fat. There is a belief that regardless of how many healthy or low-fat foods one consumes, one is eating healthy. These deeply held beliefs are what trigger mindless eating (3).
Just because hummus and carrot sticks have been deemed healthy snacks does not mean you can eat an unlimited amount. Remember that each food contains calories, and overeating such foods will increase your daily calorie limit. Talk to a healthcare professional for more insight into how to determine healthy foods and the appropriate ratios.
Practicing Mindful Eating
Another technique that can help with stopping night eating or in stopping overeating is mindful eating. Mindful eating is a healthy eating principle that experts recommend for individuals who are struggling with binge eating. It entails the following:
Mindful eating encourages individuals to eat slowly, regardless of how hungry they might be. The faster you eat, the more likely you are to choke and the less likely you are paying attention to the food (4).
Eating faster will not give you time to savor the food. Instead, you end up eating faster and with more portions. Try to slow down if you want to reduce or avoid your behavior of mindless eating.
Eating Without Distractions
Most of us tend to have our meals while watching television or flipping through our phones. Although it seems harmless, these distractions have consequences as they lead to mindless eating. You end up eating a lot of food because you are not fully immersed in your dining experience (4).
Similarly, you indulge in mindless eating because you tend to ignore your fullness signals. The best thing you can do whenever you are having your meals is keeping these distractions at bay. Keep your phone away and the television off until you have finished with your meal.
Enjoying The Food
The other principle of mindful eating is enjoying your food. You get to feel fuller faster when you enjoy every bite. The quicker you feel full, the less likely you are to engage in mindless eating and overeating (4).
Practicing Portion Control
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges that large portions on your plate can lead to mindless eating (7). The rationale behind this is that you ignore your fullness hormones, focusing on clearing your plate.
The CDC states that this behavior unintentionally makes you consume more calories, leading to excess caloric intake (10). Below are some tips to help you practice portion control and fight mindless eating according to the CDC (7):
- Splitting an entree with your pal when dining out. The CDC states that most restaurants serve more than the recommended serving on one plate.
- Using small plates when serving food. The larger the plate, the more likely you are to serve more food.
- Using measuring guides and cups when cooking. Make sure you measure your ingredients to fit the number of people you are cooking for based on the recipe’s recommendations. You can always reduce the measurements if you are only preparing dishes for yourself.
- Eating snacks after dinner. Most people tend to snack before dinner, especially when the hunger spikes are uncontrollable. People forget that these snacks also have calories and will less likely reduce their dinner food portions. As such they end up overeating. Try to snack after dinner instead, if indeed necessary.
- Eating from a plate instead of a container. Do not eat straight from the food containers or packages. This method does not allow you to account for how much of the food you are consuming. Instead, serve the food on a small plate and enjoy it.
The Bottom Line
Mindless eating is common among most people everywhere. Although most people do not know it, it poses numerous health risks such as excessive weight gain and increased obesity risk. There are several tips on how to stop mindless eating, as recommended by experts. These include eating breakfast and more fiber and protein foods, hydrating, practicing mindful eating and portion control and tracking one’s dietary pattern. Be sure to consult with a nutritionist and healthcare provider before making any major dietary changes.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Break the bonds of emotional eating (2020, medlineplus.gov)
- Breakfast: Is It the Most Important Meal? (2021, webmd.com)
- Compulsive Overeating and How to Stop It (2014, webmd.com)
- Eat Mindfully (2021, webmd.com)
- Healthy habits for weight loss (2020, medlineplus.gov)
- How do I stop stress eating? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- How to Avoid Portion Size Pitfalls to Help Manage Your Weight (2021, cdc.gov)
- What are the best ways to stop overeating? (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Why do we need dietary fiber? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Why Mindless Eating Can Pack on Pounds (2008, webmd.com)