Do you find yourself eating in front of the TV even though you’re not hungry?  Perhaps you saw a commercial on some yummy food that made you want to eat.  I love watching the food shows like “You Gotta Eat Here” and “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”.  They eat such delicious foods that I probably wouldn’t allow myself to eat but I feel I’m eating them through osmosis which makes me happy.  But I actually want to eat something when watching those shows.  I try to choose something healthy, but I’m not even hungry.  I just want to eat.  Just having the visuals is all you need to make you think about eating, such as walking past a bakery and looking at all of the wonderful baked goods in the window.  Do you stop in and buy stuff or do you keep walking?  Other cues make us think of food such as smells.  Who doesn’t love the smell of bacon or garlic and onions sautéing in a pan?  Even certain sounds such as popcorn popping can be a trigger (let alone the smell of popping corn).  There is food everywhere and when it’s easily accessible, you can unconsciously put it in your mouth.  Think about being at a party where there’s bowls of chips or nuts all around you, or even a smorgasbord of food on the table.  When you munch mindlessly, you don’t realize how much you’re eating.  Sometimes I say to myself that if I were to put everything I munched on at that party on a plate, I think I would be surprised how much it amounted to.   Perhaps you’re an emotional eater.  Emotional eating means that you eat for reasons other than hunger.  You may eat because you’re sad, depressed, stressed or even lonely.  Or you may use food as a reward.  Food can be soothing and distract you from what’s really bothering you.  If you are an emotional eater, you are probably not listening to your body’s natural hunger and fullness signals.  You may need more than you want or need.  Emotional eating can also interfere with making healthy food choices which can cause you to gain weight.

Learning what causes mindless or emotional eating is a good first step in changing your eating patterns.  Some health professionals will tell you to use a hunger scale.  In other words, rate your hunger from 1-10 before you eat and if your hunger is below 5 then perhaps you should re-think eating.  Really?  I suppose this is a good idea but when it comes to mindless eating, you are rarely hungry.  You just want to eat.  You could also write a food journal and write down everything you eat and maybe how you are feeling when you eat.  Who really takes the time to do this?  They are both fantastic ideas but not practical for most of us.  So, let’s look at some easy ways to control that endless eating.

One thing my sister and I have told people to say before they put things in their mouth is “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels”.  It’s surprising how well this has worked for many of our clients over the years.  It makes you think that you are going to feel bad after you eat something you shouldn’t be eating.  It is going to take you farther from your weight loss goals.  Here are some tips that could help you stay in control of when and how much you eat.

  1. Use a smaller plate: You’ve heard that your eyes are bigger than your stomach so take heed to this. Using a smaller plate will help you eat less because you don’t have as much room to put a lot of food on it.  The bigger the plate, the more food.  Some people eat until they’re full but others eat until their plate is empty.  If this is you, definitely use a smaller plate.
  2. Keep munchies out of reach. If you have a candy bowl on your desk, you will mindlessly munch on them throughout the day whereas if they are out of reach, not only do you not think about them, you are unlikely to get out of your chair to walk to the bowl.
  3. Stay away from the buffet table at parties or where they have munchies. I know I am guilty of mindless munching if they within reach
  4. Always have cut up veggies in the fridge so if you must munch while watching TV, they are already prepared and ready to eat. If I want to munch, I know I’m too lazy to take the time to clean and cut veggies so I always have them in nice cold water in the fridge
  5. If you must have potato chips, put a few in a bowl and put the bag away. You’re in trouble if you bring the whole bag with you and sit in front of the TV mindlessly eating them.  I guaranteed you will eat more than you think
  6. Just don’t buy the snacks you shouldn’t eat. If they’re not in your house, chances are you won’t go out to the store to pick them up.  I know myself, if it’s there, it’s going to be eaten.  Why else buy them?
  7. Stay hydrated. Sometimes when you think you’re hungry, you are actually just dehydrated.  Drinking at least 8 ounces of water prior to eating will help you to eat less

I am the first one to admit I love to munch.  The key is to keep it controlled and to have healthy munchies prepared and on hand.

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