Last year the book club on the Bucks Campus read and discussed “Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink. Even if you haven’t read the book, I am sure you can admit that some of, if not most of, your eating is mindless. This could mean not fully recognizing what or how much you are eating, and not feeling fully satisfied from meals or snacks. Dr. Susan Albers, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic lists these examples of Mindless eating and its consequences on her website (eatingmindfully.com)
- Eating until you are too full and then feeling guilty
- Emotional eating – eating when you are bored, stressed or anxious rather than hungry
- Grazing on food without really tasting it
- Mindlessly munching on snacks while zoned out in front of the TV
- Eating a meal at the same time each day whether you are hungry or not
- Skipping meals, not paying attention to your hunger signals
Other examples include eating at the movies, eating while doing work (at work or home) or while in your car, eating standing up, and not only in front of the TV but also while reading a newspaper, magazine or while on your phone. Even when having family meals, many people are on their phone texting or browsing the internet. This disconnect causes us to overeat.
I want to preface the next segment by reminding everyone that I love food! Being a dietitian doesn’t mean eating salads all day and just having more willpower than others to stay away from “bad” foods. I prepare foods that I enjoy in a healthful and flavorful way so that I can look forward to a meal or snack, enjoy it while I am having it, and feel satisfied after. I even eat Christmas cookies, too!
When it comes to the holidays, many people have it in their mind that it is normal to overeat, eat things that are not very healthful, and graze on foods without tasting it. We also typically are in situations where there is an overabundance of food, causing us to eat the foods we enjoy in excess or even eat foods we don’t really enjoy just because they are available to us. This leads to the first bullet Susan Albers highlights above. Do we really enjoy eating those foods in that quantity if we feel uncomfortably full and as if we shouldn’t eat the next day? That is not true enjoyment. Before the main meal and after on holidays, we often have appetizers, treats, and things to munch on laying around, leading to the third bullet above, grazing on food without really tasting it. If you really like gingerbread cookies, by all means have one! What you want though is to eat it mindfully, and then you may not even want a second! Try to be more mindful for the duration of the holiday season, and hopefully through 2016, too!
Mindful eating has been researched and shown to decrease stress, thereby decreasing further emotional eating. It has also been found to aid in weight management without restriction. Sounds like a winning mentality to me! If you are the type of person who has “dieted” many times in the past and you want to learn more specific ways to eating mindfully for your own body and situations, I highly recommend the book “Intuitive Eating” by two Registered Dietitians, Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN, CEDRD, FADA. Their philosophy is not just to help those who overeat but is even used in eating disorder clinics around the world.
Don’t want to get that involved? Try Susan Alber’s 10 day Mindful Eating Challenge. Why wait until the New Year, when you can start today?