Mindless eating can be defined as eating food without paying adequate attention to -what and how much and at what time -it is being eaten. We make many decisions about our food choices per diem sometimes unconsciously and falling victim to our taste buds. We have about a total of approximately 10,000 taste buds that are located along the tongue, palate, pharynx, and larynx.

Our unconscious mind, normally speaking, refer to mindless eating, which may cause us to overeat, promoting weight gain and other life-threatening diseases viz. Heart disease, Hypertension, Stroke and Cancer.

Eating mindlessly, also undermines weight management efforts by causing people to eating too much, making poor food choices, and losing touch with feelings of hunger and satiety [feeling full].

The Effects of Serving Size: Visual cues affect decisions around how much to eat and drink. A tall skinny glass easily looks fuller than a short, wide one, so more tends to be poured into a shorter glass. Portions that are the same size will look smaller on a large plate than on a smaller one, leading to larger portions being served when a plate size is bigger.

Putting food on a small plate has the opposite effect; the portion looks larger and for many, the meal is over when the plate or bowl is empty so making these small changes can be helpful for healthy eating.

Friends and Family members influence eating: We, the people, are influenced by the eating habits of those with whom we eat. In one study, when two friends restricted the amount of food, they ate without telling a third friend, the third friend also ate less. Conversely, diners eat more when the people they are eating with consume large portions.

Environmental Changes to reduce Mindlessness: A series of small changes to one’s environment can reduce mindless eating and its effects on food intake. These can include switching to smaller plates and bowls; using tall, thin glasses; measuring and serving appropriate portions; and being aware of the influence of others at mealtime.

Use visual reminders: Behavioral scientists believe one of the main reasons people overeat is because they rely on external rather than internal cues to decide whether they feel hungry or not. Unfortunately, this leads to eat more than you need to. Use visual reminders of the foods and drinks you consume to help you stay mindful of how much you’ve already consumed.

Favor smaller portions: Favoring smaller portions or packages can help you reduce the number of calories you consume by up to 25% without even noticing it. It will not be out of place to mention that we need to keep in mind what is, known as the portion size effect, otherwise it may contribute to significant weight gain over time.

Use smaller plates and taller glasses: Replacing large plates with smaller ones and wide, short glasses with tall, thin ones are two easy ways to reduce your portion sizes and limit the effects of mindless eating.

Studies suggest that people tend to eat 92% of the food they serve themselves. Therefore, reducing the amount of food you serve yourself can make a significant difference in the number of calories you consume. One easy way to reduce portion sizes is to use smaller plates and thin and taller glasses. Simply using 9.5-inch (24- cm) plates instead of 12.5-inch (32-cm) plates can help you easily eat up to 27% less food.

Therefore, pick wide, short glasses to help you drink more water and tall, thin ones to help you limit alcohol and other high-calorie beverages. Decrease variety of food: Reducing the number of food items and different varieties of the same food class you’re exposed to, will help prevent you from eating more junk food than your body can tolerate. For example, if for desert there are 5 items, then we consume more [ by 20%] as compared with one item.

As per medical experts, this happens due to “sensory-specific satiety” phenomenon. The basic idea is that your senses tend to get numb after you’re exposed to the same stimulus- the same flavors- many times. Having a wide variety of flavors in the same meal can delay this natural numbing, and thereby pushing you to eat more.

To make sensory-specific satiety work for you, try limiting your choices. For instance, pick only two appetizers to start with and stick to it. Keep in mind that this school of thought mainly applies to junk food only. Eating a variety of healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts, is immensely beneficial to your health.

Keep, tempting treats, out of sight: Keep some foods under cover or out of sight. Rightly they say “out of sight, out of mind”. This helps in avoiding mindless eating. Scientists believe that seeing food, pushes you to consciously decide whether to eat it or not. Seeing it more often increases the chances you’ll choose to eat the food. That is the reason, why many stores exhibit numerous things near the cash register area.

Increase the inconvenience of eating: Take the convenience out of eating. Adding extra steps will allow you to turn a mindless eating behavior into a conscious choice, reducing the chance of overindulgence. If you keep late night snack out of your bed room, chances are you will eat less, because you get time to re-think. In some houses, there is a rule that, food will be served on the dining table only- not bed room; this inconvenience promotes eating less. The more work is needed to eat a food, the less likely you are to eat it.

Slowly eat your food: Slowing down your eating speed is an easy way to consume fewer calories and enjoy your meal better. Medical experts believe that taking at least 20–30 minutes to finish a meal allows more time for your body to release hormones [ leptin] that promote feelings of satiety i.e. fullness. Slow eaters tend to eat less, feel fuller, and rate their meals as more pleasant than fast eaters.

The extra time also allows your brain to realize you’ve eaten enough before you reach for that extra serving.

Eating with your non-dominant hand or with a baby spoon reduce your eating speed and can make this tip work for you. Chewing more often [ at least 20 times per bite] can help as well.

Unplug while you eat: Eating without using your TV, computer, or smartphone may help decrease the amount of food your body needs to feel full and satisfied. These gadgets distract us in succession. Eating while you’re distracted can lead you to eat faster, feel less full, and mindlessly eat more. For instance, people watching television while eating their meals ate 36% more pizza and 71% more macaroni and cheese.

Longer distractions extend the amount of time spent eating, making you more likely to overeat. In addition, eating while distracted may cause you to forget how much you’ve consumed, leading to overeating later in the day.

Choose your dining companions wisely: When dining in groups, it is wiser to sit next to people who eat less or at a slower pace than you. This can help prevent overeating. As per recent surveys, sharing eating with just one other person can push you to eat up to 35% more than when you eat alone. Eating with a group of 7 or more people can further increase the amount you eat by 96%. Experts are of the view that when we eat with family or friends, we spend more time in eating. So extra table time is the culprit.

Eat according to your hunger signal: When hormone Ghrelin is released by the walls of the stomach, we start feeling hungry. Wise people rely on internal cues of hunger rather than external ones – like clock time or surrender to the taste buds-to decrease the likelihood of eating more than your body needs.

Beware of health foods: Learn to read the product labels. Manufacturers are out to befool you and sell their products and go laughing all the way to the bank. Not all foods labeled as healthy are good for you. Focus on ingredients rather than health claims. Human beings have the tendency to unconsciously overeat foods that are considered healthier, or compensate for them by having a side of something less healthy. This is commonly known as the “health halo” also. Steer clear of the effects of the health halo by picking items based on their ingredients rather than their health claims. Also, remember to pay attention to the side items you choose.

Buying in bulk and stockpiling foods: Stockpiling foods increases the likelihood of overeating. Instead, get in the habit of buying only what is necessary for the week under reference.

Maximize food volume: High-volume foods help you feel full for longer period of time and decrease food intake at the next meal. Eating fiber-rich foods is an easy way to do this.

A smart way to add volume to your meals without increasing the calorie content is to pick high-fiber foods with a low calorie density, such as vegetables. Fruits with low GI index and nuts in moderation with ample protein for feeling full is the key. Extra fiber and water add volume, which stretches your stomach, helping you feel fuller. Fiber also helps slow down the emptying rate of your stomach and can even stimulate the release of hormones that make you feel satisfied.

A good rule of thumb to maximize food volume is to fill at least half your plate with vegetables at each meal. To consume vegetables in raw form or steam or blanch form is excellent. Tadka.com

Conclusion:

We can classify eaters in two categories. One type is Eat to Live and second type is Live to Eat. If you belong to first category, chances are you will healthy. If you qualify for the second category, then , time is opportune to transition from mindless to mindful eating.

Kindly try some of the simple tips mentioned above. In doing so, you can definitely improve your overall health and even lose weight in a way that feels acceptable and can be maintained over the lane of time.

Time is ripe for you to consistently eat food rich in lean protein, unsaturated fat and low in carbohydrates. For the best results, take a healthy decision and apply them consistently for around 9 weeks — the average time it takes to create a habit. Then healthy eating, will be a routine for you.

Wish you enduring success, dear folks.

Prof. Surinder Kochhar (Shaun)
LPN, FCN, M.Com, CAIIB, DIM A freelance writer with 36 Years Exp. A Health Coach of University of Victoria