In the five years I’ve been seeing clients and leading group classes, one of the most common questions I get is how to stop eating mindlessly. Here I’m sharing my ten tips to quit this bad habit.
Reasons to Eat More Mindfully
We’ve all been guilty of eating mindlessly at one time or another, but for some of us, it can be a daily occurrence (I’ve totally been there).
Scarfing down lunch while glued to a computer at work, shoveling in endless spoonfuls of something while watching TV, inhaling a meal while transfixed to my phone and answering emails, wolfing down something out of the container while standing at the kitchen counter.
With our hectic lives, it’s so easy to gulp down our food without paying attention to it, which leads to overeating, perpetual hunger, and feeling less satisfied. Ultimately, this also leads to weight gain.
My Experience Eating Mindlessly
Growing up, we never just ate – there was always a TV show on or a comic or newspaper to read. As I got older, I replaced them with emails and instagram. While I’m much better than I used to be, if I’m stressed or overwhelmed and in need of a distraction, I do sometimes catch myself eating mindlessly.
I will bring my lunch to my desk so I can work while I eat. Even though I’m doing this to be more efficient, I’m always ultimately so much less productive. And then I’m hungry a couple hours later, because it feels like I never ate!
Sometimes I get a dark chocolate bar for a 3pm snack, and again, if I’m shoving it in my mouth while I type, I polish off the entire thing — and still want more. Yet, if I go for a walk and sit in the sun to eat it on a bench – or simply just go in another room and break off a piece or two to eat it there and then go back to work, I’m fine.
Conversely, when I invite friends over for dinner or am on a date with my boyfriend, I find myself taking my time to eat, and really being present. I find I end up feeling satisfied with less food.
10 Tips to Stop Eating Mindlessly
When we eat mindfully, we eat less, and enjoy it more. So, here are 10 tips to stop eating mindlessly.
- Only eat when sitting at a table: No longer eat while standing, driving, or on the run. Your body will digest the food better and you will be more mindful and satisfied if you sit at a table to eat. This will take a little concentration and practice at first, but make it a rule, and stick to it.
- Allow adequate time to eat: Don’t scarf down your meal in 5 minutes. No matter how busy your day is, schedule at least 30 minutes, and if you can 45 minutes to an hour for lunch. Take a break from work, allow your brain to recharge. Get some fresh air or go for a stroll after you eat.
- Focus on eating. Don’t sit at your computer, check your phone, read, or watch TV. Simply eat. If you’re working from a cafe, close your computer and flip your phone over until you are done eating. If you want to watch TV, give yourself at least 15-20 minutes to eat at the table before you sit on the couch and turn on the TV. If you usually eat in your car or on your commute, get up earlier to have a peaceful meal.
- Savor each bite: Inhale before and as you chew each bite to really savor the flavors, as much of what we “taste” is actually what we smell. Practice chewing slowly until the food is liquified, instead of giving it only 1-2 chomps before swallowing. You’ll find you’ll taste even more nuanced flavors when you do this, and it also better prepares your food for digestion (reducing the risk of gas or bloating).
- Put the fork down between bites. Chew each bite well, don’t shovel it in and swallow. Take a bite, put the utensils down, chew until the food is liquefied, swallow, then pick up the utensils for your second bite. Repeat.
- Eat with your less dominant hand: If there are no chopsticks in site, simply swap your fork to your less dominant hand. If you usually keep your fork in your right hand, swap it to the left. Eating with a knife and fork – instead of just a fork, may also slow you down.
- Replace mindless snacks with a walk or a tea: Oftentimes we turn to food when we’re bored or overwhelmed and in need of a distraction, despite not being hungry. If you suspect this may be the case, instead of heading to the kitchen, take a quick 5-10 minute walk to clear your head and get some sunshine. you may realize that simply a break and fresh air was all you needed. Conversely, if you need *something” while you’re watching TV or at your desk, turn to a warm cup of herbal, green, or matcha tea instead.
- Never eat out of the container: No matter how tempting it may be, make it a rule to always put whatever you’re eating on a plate. When we eat out of the container, we are inclined to overeat, yet when we put a serving of it on a plate instead, we are more likely to be satisfied with just that.
- Keep junk food out of sight: Hide the candy bowl and purposely walk the long way to avoid the vending machine or pastry shop. When it is out of sight, it’s much easier to keep it out of mind.
- Elevate your eating. Eating is an important part of our day, so be sure to make the ritual warm and welcoming. Eat off of nice plates. Make sure you have a comfortable table and chairs to eat at. Invest in nice tableware to brighten and beautify the experience, so that your kitchen table/dining room is an inviting place to be, and so that you’ll want to linger, instead of eat and run.
Have any of these tips helped you eat more mindfully? Or, do you have another tip to share? Leave a comment below!
If you’d like accountability and support to quit mindless eating and develop healthy eatings that stick, check out my Nutrition Course.