A great place to start when trying to overcome mindless eating is to keep a record of the foods you eat, your hunger level, and your thoughts and feelings pre and post consumption. This can be a little bit daunting at first, so we've created a simple template to help you get started - check out our homepage for the download!
Further to this, there are a lot of other influencers when it comes to food choice, and if mindless eating is a real struggle it pays to not just think about the types of food you're eating (the what) but also why, how, when and where you are eating. There is so much more to eating than just simply satiating your hunger, and by considering these questions it may help you identify particular challenges about your food environment and come up with suitable solutions. Think of it as taking stock of your health inventory.
Ask yourself what the reasons are behind your eating patterns? Is it simply that you are hungry? Or maybe you're full, but the food tastes sooo good you just need to have a little bit more...Bored?...Stressed? ...Sad or lonely? ...You want to treat yourself? ...Or maybe sometimes you just keep eating and don't realise how much you've had? Or don't even realise you are actually eating?
If this sounds familiar then it might be time to start making a physical record, not just a mental note, of all the reasons you put food in your mouth. Also consider what your go-to foods are in different situations. If you're stressed do you crave sweet foods? If you're depressed do you go for deep fried snacks? When it comes to overeating, or mindless snacking, the foods that foster addiction most tend to be things that contain little fibre but added sugar, salt and/or oil - the processed stuff like chips, cheeses, chocolates, pastries, lollies and soft drinks. Unfortunately its a bit of a double whammy when it comes to these types of foods, because not only are they addictive and high in calories from the added fats and sugar, but they are also low in fibre - meaning you need to eat more than you would a higher fibre foods in order to feel full. Basically your body has been duped and its fooled into eating more calories before your brain finally gets the signal 'hey you're full now, time to ease up'.
Now its time to ask yourself how are you eating? Do you eat in a rush or do you like to take your time over a meal? Not only that, but what are the different ways you seek out food in order to feed yourself? Are you actually in control of what you eat or does someone else do the cooking for you? Do you cook at home most nights or do you tend to eat out a lot? Do you bring food from home, stop at the grocery store, or go to the fast food chain just down from your office for lunch and snacks? Do you cook for a family that dictates the types of foods you eat? These are important questions to consider, as this exercise might help you to identify if other people's preferences influence your intake in a positive or negative way. You may also be able to seek out foods in ways that are more conducive to reaching your health goals.
Hopefully this short post gives you some helpful tips for identifying the context of your eating decisions. Self awareness is the first step in understanding your food environment and how it influences you, and what's awesome about that is with awareness comes the opportunity for change - so bust out that pen and paper and start taking some notes. Mindfulness takes time and it comes with practice so don't be put off if you don't change the world overnight - the most important thing you can do is just start. And be sure to check in for part 2 of this blog post coming your way real soon!