Could you be drinking or nibbling half of your daily caloric intake and not even be aware of it? It happens more than you realize! A latte here, a handful of jellybeans there, a couple of Hershey kisses as you pass by a co-worker’s candy bowl, pop with your lunch, a mid-afternoon “energy” drink, and then a box of cheese crackers to end your crazy day. I have heard many people say that they hardly eat at all and still gain weight, but there could be a possibility that your brain is not registering all your nibbles and sippies because we are distracted by something else.
There are four reasons for this.
One: Highly processed, sugary carbs aren’t PHYSICALLY satisfying. Our bodies don’t feel full unless we consume a sizable amount. Therefore if you aren’t keeping an eye on how much you are eating while you are watching a movie on Netflix you may find yourself shocked that you polished off the whole bag of potato chips.
Two: It is also less satisfying because we don’t taste the flavours when our attention is on something else. We are usually eating or drinking these high-sugar or salty snacks (high glycemic foods) when we are distracted or preoccupied. Our eating and drinking becomes mindless as the brain is more focused on the task of whatever takes the priority. Have you ever been in the situation where you couldn’t remember if you ate lunch or not? We often are eating on auto-pilot, not even aware of the speed at which we are shovelling food into our mouths. At the end of your meal you may feel unfulfilled prompting you to look for something in the vending machine to satisfy you.
Three: We tend to seek options that take little time and effort. Anything that involves a little work and demanded our attention will usually result in you taking the time to enjoy it, which leaves you feeling satisfied. Since we make so many decisions throughout the day, by the time we get home we just want the food to jump out of the fridge and down our gullets. We don’t care about the consequences at that point.
Four: We don’t want to remember it!! The guilt and disgust we feel is not pleasant! We want to avoid the scolding critical voice in our head that tells us that we are failures who have no self-control or discipline. It feels awful. So we pretend it didn’t happen. It’s business as usual, and no one needs to know. Unfortunately, when the weight-gain appears and that mentality continues and we like to think it came out of nowhere.
So what can you do to curb these habits? I am not a fan of counting calories, but I think it can be helpful in creating awareness if we do it as a short-term exercise. My husband did this with a financial app as he wanted to be made aware of where most of his spending went other than to the necessary bills. This helps us understand patterns, and patterns tell us a lot about ourselves. When we recognize our patterns, we can start understanding the reasons behind them. If we don’t like the outcome of our patterns then we can start planning on how to change them.
For one week, try writing down all the liquids and snacks you had throughout the 7 days, and you will have a clearer picture of what you are actually putting down the hatch every day. The purpose of this exercise is not to make you feel bad, but so that you can see where you may be consciously (or subconsciously) blacking out some nibbling activities. If you were to add it up altogether, you may even be fairly shocked. Cutting back on one unhealthy snack food a day can make a big difference at the end of the month.
Mindless eating is just that – eating without thinking. Food is very accessible and serves many purposes for us but it can come with consequences if we aren’t fully attentive. Whether you call it mindful, conscious or intuitive eating, you should try stay fully engaged when you’ve got food in your hands or on your plate. It not only provides more pleasure and satisfaction, but it also helps you make better future decisions. Sit down, turn off that screen and savour the moment – take some time this minute to do something your future self will thank you for.
Treena Wynes is an award-winning author. She wrote two books, Eating Myself Crazy: How I Made Peace With Food (and How You Can Too) and Am I The Only One? Struggling Being A Teen. Her passion is to reveal the true underlying reasons for unwanted eating habits and eliminating the dieting mentality. www.treenawynes.ca