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4 Simple Tips To Overcome Your Mindless Eating Habits

4 Simple Tips To Overcome Your Mindless Eating Habits

In today’s modern world, where everybody is addicted to instant gratification, mindless eating is incredibly common.

Mindless eating is defined as eating food without paying adequate attention to what and how much food is being eaten. This is linked closely to eating out of boredom, or eating just to fill time – often times these two ideas are talked about as one and the same.

The role of visual cues

The underlying commonality here is that we aren’t always conscious of how much we’re eating. For example, consider this study on bottomless bowls done by Brian Wansink, author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think”. In this study, 54 participants were given 18 ounce bowls of soup, but half of the bowls were designed to partially refill so that the amount of soup in the bowl decreased at a slower rate.

On average, the people with the normal bowls ate 8.5 ounces of soup, while the participants with the sneaky refill bowls ate 14.7 ounces of soup. That’s a whopping 73% more soup eaten by those with the refillable bowls. Wansink and his research group found that the group with the refillable bowls didn’t notice that they ate more soup, nor did they feel more satiated than those who only ate 8.5 ounces.

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Wansink concluded that “people use their eyes to count calories and not their stomachs. The importance of having salient, accurate visual cues can play an important role in the prevention of unintentional overeating.”

Why do we do this?

When food is available, we naturally eat, in case of a famine in the future.

At the most basic primitive level, our brains are hardwired to do one thing – survive. Even if we don’t immediately need the energy, when food is available we eat anyways and store the energy for later as body fat. That’s why having some body fat is healthy, and actually necessary for survival. That’s what makes it so hard to get to low body fat levels – your body doesn’t want you to starve.

Food Addictions

Aside from the survival aspect of mindless eating, there’s a psychological mechanism at play here as well. As I mentioned earlier, we’re addicted to instant gratification and stimulation – and that’s what eating provides: stimulation. Whether it be visual stimulation from the television, the high you get from drugs, or the satisfying taste of food, these are all types of stimulation, that appeal to our senses and hormones.

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All of these things appeal to our senses and trigger hormones in our body such as dopamine and serotonin that give us feelings of enjoyment and makes our brain say “give me more!” That’s why it’s so easy to end up binge watching netflix, become addicted to drugs, or continue to put your hand back into that bag of potato chips.

Obviously there are different levels of addiction, but they are all based on the same principle of stimulation and subsequent hormonal response.

How to overcome mindless eating habits

We need to focus on eating mindfully, to prevent the habit of mindless eating. When we eat while we’re distracted, we end up in the mindless eating trap – I’m sure most everyone can relate to this.

When you’re watching TV and snacking on pretzels for example, you might get really caught up in the TV show and just keep eating the pretzels right out of the bag without thinking about it. Another classic example is the giant bag of popcorn at the movies that you end up eating more of than you realized.

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Fortunately, there are a few ways we can help combat this common problem of mindless eating.

1. Focus on the feel of the food

Avoid eating in front of the TV and instead focus on being in the moment and being conscious of exactly what you’re eating.

Chew your food slowly. Focus on the taste and the texture of the food you’re eating and how it makes you feel. You’ll find that this will help you eat slower, which will make you more aware of your feeling of fullness and your ability to put down the fork and say “okay that’s enough.”

2. Avoid trigger foods

One thing you can do to minimize mindless eating is to keep snack foods tucked away, instead of in plain sight. Or better yet, just don’t buy snack foods – they won’t be around at all! Trigger foods like chips or biscuits are often the subject of mindless eating.

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Think about it. The more readily available something is to us, the more likely we are to eat it. If that guilty pleasure snack food is sitting on the counter-top staring at you in the face, you’ll be more likely to eat it, than if it’s still hidden in the back corner of your cupboard shelf or preferably left at the grocery store itself.

3. Visual cues for portion control

Another strategy to combat mindless eating is to monitor your portion control more carefully. Similar to the endless soup bowl principle above, controlling the perceived amount of food you eat can have a impact on satiety as well.

Try using a smaller plate – the same amount of food will look like more on a smaller plate than it would on a bigger plate. Subsequently, you’ll feel like you’ve eaten more food when you use the smaller plate and thus feel more full.

4. Listen To your body

Pause for a second to take a deep breath and focus on how you feel. Are you really still hungry? Focus on your body and how you feel. If you find that you really are still hungry, then by all means eat more! There’s nothing wrong with that.

But really take a minute to contemplate it. Being able to distinguish whether you’re really still hungry or you just want to stimulate your sense of taste more will help you stop the mindless eating.

Summary:

Start implementing some of these strategies into your daily routine today, to combat the mindless eating phenomenon.

  • Don’t leave the bowl of candy on the table or the packet of chips on the countertop – hide them away or don’t buy them at all.
  • Use smaller plates, bowls, and portion sizes – trick your brain into thinking you ate more than you did.
  • Eat slower and listen to your body – put your fork down between bites and make sure you’re eating because you’re hungry, not just because it tastes good.

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Andrew Schutt

Personal Trainer

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Last Updated on October 23, 2018

Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer And Happier, Mentally

Science Says Knitting Makes Humans Warmer And Happier, Mentally

My mother was a great knitter and produced some wonderful garments such as Aran sweaters which were extremely fashionable when I was young. She also knitted while my father drove, which caused great amusement. I often wondered why she did that but I think I know the answer now.

Knitting is good for your mental health, according to some research studies. The Washington Post mentions a 2013 survey of about 3,500 knitters who were asked how they felt after a knitting session. Over 80% of them said they definitely felt happier. It is not a totally female occupation as more and more men take it up to get the same benefits. Harry Styles (One Direction) enjoys knitting. So does Russell Crowe although he does it to help him with anger management!

The Neural Knitwork Project

In Australia, Neural Knitworks was started to encourage people to knit and also become aware of neuroscience and mental health issues. Knit-ins were organized but garments were not the only things created. The knitters produced handmade neurons (1,665 of them!) to make a giant brain. The 2015 project will make more neural knitted networks (neural knitworks) and they will be visible online. You can see some more examples of woolly neurons on the Neural Knitworks Facebook page.

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While people knitted, crocheted and crafted yarn, they listened to experts talking about mental health issues such as addiction, dementia, depression, and how neurons work.

The knitting and neural connection

The human brain has about 80 billion neurons. Learning new skills, social interaction, and physical activity all help to forge neural connections which keep the brain healthy and active. They are creating networks to control movement and make memories. The knitters learn that as they create the woollen neurons, their own neurons are forming new pathways in their brains. Their creations are mimicking the processes in their brains to a certain extent. At the same time, their brains are registering new and interesting information as they learn interesting facts about the brain and how it works. I love the knitworks and networks pun. What a brilliant idea!

More mental health benefits from knitting

Betsan Corkhill is a physiotherapist and has published some results of completed studies on her website, appropriately named Stitchlinks. She conducted some experiments herself and found that knitting was really helpful in reducing panic and anxiety attacks.

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“You are using up an awful lot of brain capacity to perform a coordinated series of movements. The more capacity you take up by being involved in a complex task, the less capacity you have for bad thoughts.”- Betsan Corkhill

Knitters feel happier and in a better mood

Ann Futterman-Collier, Well Being Lab at Northern Arizona University, is very interested in how textile therapy (sewing, knitting, weaving and lace-making) can play an important role in mood repair and in lifting depressive states.

She researched 60 women and divided them into three different groups to do some writing, meditating and work with textiles. She monitored their heartbeat, blood pressure and saliva production. The women in the textiles group had the best results when their mood was assessed afterwards. They were in a better mood and had managed to reduce their negative thoughts better than those in the writing and meditation groups.

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“People who were given the task to make something actually had less of an inflammatory response in the face of a ‘stressor’.” – Dr. Futterman Collier

The dopamine effect on our happiness

Our brains produce a chemical called dopamine. This helps us to feel happy, more motivated, and assists also with focus and concentration. We get a boost of dopamine after sex, food, exercise, sleep, and creative activities.

There are medications to increase dopamine but there are lots of ways we can do it naturally. Textile therapy and crafting are the easiest and cheapest. We can create something and then admire it. In addition, this allows for a little bit of praise and congratulations. Although this is likely not your goal, all these can boost our dopamine and we just feel happier and more fulfilled. These are essential in facing new challenges and coping with disappointment in life.

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“Sometimes, people come up to me when I am knitting and they say things like, “Oh, I wish I could knit, but I’m just not the kind of person who can sit and waste time like that.” How can knitting be wasting time? First, I never just knit; I knit and think, knit and listen, knit and watch. Second, you aren’t wasting time if you get a useful or beautiful object at the end of it.” – Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, At Knit’s End: Meditations for Women Who Knit Too Much.

If you thought knitting and textiles were for old ladies, think again!

Featured photo credit: DSC_0012/Mary-Frances Main via flickr.com

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