Have you ever opened a bag of chips, popcorn, or cookies and then… poof! The bag is empty, your belly hurts, and you have no idea how it happened. This is known as “mindless eating,” and it’s something that Americans in general have been struggling with for decades.
A lot of this overconsumption is connected to our portion sizes. Portion sizes have climbed exponentially over the past 20-40 years. Our typical portions are often up to 3x bigger than the portions that Americans ate in the 60s/70s. Serving dishes have increased right along with portion sizes, which also contributes to overeating. Studies have shown that regardless of what the food is, if people are presented with a large, full plate, they’ll likely eat it all. One of the biggest remedies for mindless eating, then, is serving with smaller dishes. Use salad plates for entrees, and skinnier, taller glasses for drinks, and you’ll trick your mind into thinking you’re consuming more than you actually are.
Aside from using smaller dishes, here are a few ways to stop mindless eating:
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! One of the most important things we can do for our bodies’ overall health is to drink enough water. Thirst can oftentimes appear as hunger, so make sure you’re drinking enough throughout the day. If you feel the need to eat shortly after a meal, try drinking a glass of water instead. If you’re still hungry 20 minutes after you finish it, eat! If you aren’t, it was just thirst, not hunger.
- Eat SLOWLY. Our stomachs can’t really keep up with our mouths when we eat quickly, so oftentimes we eat way past the point necessary to make us full. This not only adds on extra calories, but also contributes to that slow, sluggish, bloated way you feel after eating too much. At your next meal, try cutting each bite individually, and chewing each for at least 5 seconds. You’re likely to get full much more quickly than if you sped through your meal.
- Get rid of distractions while you eat. Turn off your tv and your phone, and sit down to eat. Focus only on eating – what you taste, what you smell, and how each bite feels in your mouth. We’re much more likely to overeat when we have our attention on the tv or our noses buried in our phones.
- The term, “out of sight, out of mind,” is true, especially when it comes to our eating habits. Move the cookie jar off the counter and into a cabinet. Replace it with a fruit/veggie bowl, and you’re well on your way to making better snack choices throughout the day. In today’s fast-paced world, we go for what is most convenient when it comes to food. Having fresh snacks in plain sight makes us much more likely to snack on them than on the cookies hiding in the cupboard.
- Place just as much emphasis on WHY you’re eating as you do on WHAT you’re eating. Are you eating because you are bored? Stressed? Celebrating something? Pay attention to why you are filling your stomach with food. If it isn’t because you’re hungry, put down the fork. We’re all guilty of eating more when we really don’t need to – maybe it’s the second plate at a holiday dinner or the pint of ice cream on the couch after a bad day. Think about these meals before you eat them, and decide if they are really what your body needs. Odds are, they aren’t!
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