Mindless vs. Mindful Eating: What You Need to Know

healthy eating and portion control almonds

Take the happier, healthier approach to eating and exercising now that the new year is here!

With weight loss on resolution lists everywhere, it's crucial to not only eat better, more healthy foods, but really get to the root of why weight loss has previously failed. Without learning that, you're doomed to repeat mistakes of the past.

The answer is relatively simple, and this theory is one that will help you all year long: you can eat mindlessly or mindfully.

Mindless eating means you're eating food just because you see it. We've all done this before. We may not necessarily be hungry, and it may not be time to eat, but we grab a handful of chips while watching the game simply because they're there. We grab some chocolate in the afternoon at work while on the computer just because it's there. We don’t think about putting the food in our mouths; we just do it. And we do it without thinking - without being mindful.

Mindful Eating

In other words, it means paying attention when you eat! When we focus our attention on what we're eating, we can make better choices. It's not a habit that's easy to adopt. A lifetime of mindless eating, snacking, and even drinking isn't going to go away with the snap of a finger. Instead, keep the following things in mind as you seek to better your health - and pause before you take your next bite!

  • Portions. Think about what it feels like when you're satisfied - this should dictate your portion size. Research has shown that the more food we're served, the more we eat, so pack a little less on your plate. Follow the plate method and make sure each bite of food counts. Slow down when you eat and avoid rushing through your meal or eating with the TV on - this can also help your body naturally control portions. Did you know - It actually takes 20 minutes before your body's satiation signals make their way to your brain, so sit down, relax and truly savor your food.
  • Hunger Cues. You may not be physically hungry at dinner time, and that’s ok! Listen to your hunger cues. Do you need to clean your plate or can you stop when you feel satisfied? When you do this, your body naturally regulates. Reset your eating schedule and focus on eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're full. You should feel full, but not stuffed.
  • Plan, Pack, Prepare. Always have something on hand for those times when you are truly hungry and can't get to a healthy choice. This is when convenient and healthy options, like homemade trail mixes, fresh fruits, and Greek yogurt, are helpful.
  • Log It. If mindful eating is new to you, take a few days and write everything that you eat down on paper. This will illustrate and highlight your personal habits and areas for improvement. You can do this with paper and pen, or use one of the many food log apps available on your smart phone.
  • Focus. Sit down when you eat, listen to yourself chew, turn off all electronics, eat slowly and finally enjoy your food one bite at a time!

Eating healthfully is not very difficult. It just takes some thought, some time, and some mindfulness!

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, Triathlon Coach


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