I have heard the phrase “I just wasn’t thinking” many times in counseling, which may make us think, are there times when eating is just automatic? You may reach for something to eat and before you are aware of it, the whole bag of chips is gone or that carton of ice cream or cookies are devoured.
As much as we would like to think that our eating is an automatic function, as is our breathing or our heartbeat, unfortunately it is not. We actually decide to eat.
According to Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Mindless Eating, the average person makes over 200 decisions regarding food daily. It’s not just if we eat but what we eat, when we eat, where we eat, etc. Those decisions happen, for some people, as if it were out of their control.
If you feel as if your eating is sometimes automatic it may be because you are not fully aware of your thoughts at the time. You may be more focused on other things like talking with friends, watching TV, reading the paper. You may look down and see that the plate of food is gone and yet you cannot remember eating that food or even tasting it, let alone really enjoying it.
During your weight loss process we need to bring the focus back to what you choose to eat, when you eat it, and where you eat it and sometimes the length of time it takes you to eat it.
A few suggestions on how to be more mindful of your eating include:
- Determine if you are really hungry. Using a hunger scale may be helpful. When did you last eat? Drink some water to eliminate the possibility that you are just thirsty.
- Plate your food. Placing all the food you plan on eating onto your plate helps you visualize what you are eating and the amount you are eating.
- Clear the table of extra food. Leave serving dishes back in the kitchen and not on the table to minimize mindless second helpings.
- Individualize your portions. If you eat out of prepackaged foods buy the small individual sizes or prepackage the larger ones into individual serving portions. Keep all the wrappers in front of you so you can see the actual amount that you have consumed.
- Keep your distractions to a minimum while you are eating. Eliminate eating at your work desk or in front of the TV. Eat only at a pre-designated area such as the kitchen table or break room.
- Slow down your eating. Chew each bite with the intent to taste each mouthful of food, enjoying the smell and texture.
- Pay attention to your hunger signals throughout the meal. Try and stop eating before you feel full. Remember it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that you have eaten.
- Lastly, but most important, is to journal your food intake. This creates an awareness of the amount you eat and your eating patterns.
When we eat, where we eat and what we eat are decisions we make throughout our day. Let your counselor help you modify these decisions so you become more successful in reaching your goals.
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