Could you be drinking or nibbling half of your daily caloric intake and not even be aware of it? It happens more often 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 Starbucks treat, and then a box of crackers to end your crazy day.
I have heard many people say that they hardly eat at all and still gain weight, but chances are that your brain is not registering all your nibbles and sips, and 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, like a whole bag of chips. Those small handfuls of food at irregular intervals are nudging you on to eat something bigger and more satisfying.
Two: We don’t taste the flavours when our attention is on something else. Have you ever been in the situation where you couldn’t remember if you ate lunch or not? 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 higher priority task, so we’re eating on auto-pilot, not even aware of the speed at which we are shovelling food into our mouths.
Three: We tend to seek options that take little time and effort. 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 our poor choices! 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. The guilt and disgust we feel is not pleasant, 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. 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.
For one week, try writing down all the liquids and snacks you eat, 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 little 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.