How To Stop Mindless Eating
We’re all been there: Setting the intention to have one potato chip, only to find ourselves with an empty bag 10 minutes later, clueless about what just happened.
There is nothing wrong about snacking when you need a little energy boost and eating when you’re hungry is, of course, a good idea. However, when eating turns into mindless eating and it leaves you feeling crappy, then it’s time to pause and reconsider your eating behaviour.
If you struggle with mindless eating then I have 2 practical tips for you.
DO A BODY SCAN
DO A BODY SCAN
Before you reach for the food of your choice, you can do a quick body scan. This is something I’ve picked up from the wonderful practice of Intuitive Eating. I recommend performing this scan before eating, so you can regain awareness of your body and tune into your appetite signals.
It looks like this:
Take a moment to mentally scan the different aspects of hunger, which are outlined below. Many people think that hunger only resides in the stomach, but it doesn’t. Hunger can affect many areas of the body and mind. Assessing how you feel in regards to your mood, energy, head, body and stomach can help you decide whether you need to eat, or not.
How are you feeling? Cranky? Irritable? Grumpy? Or calm, at peace and content? Low blood sugar and hunger can make us feeling on edge so if you notice that your mood is a little low, perhaps it’s good timing for a piece of fruit or some nuts.
Are you feeling full of energy or are you feeling sluggish, a bit bleh, sleepy and it had nothing to do with your night? We all know that feeling when we have no energy, and a snack was exactly what we needed to perk up. Or maybe you’re energy levels are fine and you don’t really need to reach for food. Feel into it.
Are you dizzy, light headed and having difficulty concentrating? If you’re experiencing any of these sensations, you might be hungry and a meal could sort you out. Or perhaps you feel switched on and can think straight? Perhaps your blood sugar levels are be fine and you can carry on with your day.
Do you have an empty growling stomach or does your stomach feel comfortably full? Take a minute to feel your stomach and what it’s telling you.
If you scan your body from head to toe, how do you feel, overall? Comfortable? Uncomfortable? Pleasant or unpleasant? Without judgement, simply notice the general feeling you have in your body, which can help guide you in your snack decision.
Consider all these elements together and see what you find!
All of these sensations are of course not only determined by our hunger and blood sugar levels, as many factors affect our mood and energy levels. However, this quick body scan can help you tune in with yourself and check if some food would do you good, or not.
Is it time to eat? Then read tip number 2!
TIP 2: MINDFUL EATING
Mindful eating can help to make conscious food decisions, increase awareness around bodily cues (e.g. hunger and fullness) and our ability to respond appropriately to them. Mindful eating can assist you if you have a hard time noticing when it’s time to eat and time to stop eating.
How to eat mindfully:
Chew properly: Eating fast can lead to uncomfortable fullness, as we don’t give our bodies enough time to detect that food has arrived. Chewing slowly increases the eating time frame, plus, it increases the amount of time spent enjoying the taste, smell and texture of food. This, in turn, will activate satiety signals in the brain, which makes us more likely to stop eating when needed.
Put your fork down in between bites: If you’re really hungry, it can be easy to obsessively eat one bite after another with no break in between. Try this instead: After a bite, put your fork down, chew, swallow and take a deep breath before taking another bite. This helps to raise our awareness, calm down and become centred in our bodies.
Look at your food: Sight is an important part of food satiety. By looking at the food on your plate (or hand), you brain receives signals that food is present, which has a calming effect. Take a moment to appreciate all the colours, textures and shapes of your food or snack and acknowledge the amount of food which will soon be in your stomach. This helps to activate areas of the brain which signals fullness.
Honour your body: Once you’ve eaten, do a quick body scan again. How do you feel now compared to before you ate? Honour how you feel and take a moment to acknowledge the physical sensations you have.
Applying these practises will greatly improve your eating and snacking behaviour and you’ll be more likely to feel content and at peace around food. This does take practice though, so be gentle and kind with yourself during the process! So many of us have busy lives and we’re not always able to eat mindfully - and that’s OK. But when you can, bring your awareness to eating and slow down. You’ll enjoy food much more!
FREE BONUS: If you’d like more free content regarding healthy eating practices, make sure to download my free guide “How To Heal Your Relationship With Food” HERE.