By Abra Pappa for NutritiousAmerica.com
Have you ever sat in front of the TV with a full pint of ice cream and before you know it your spoon is scraping the bottom of the container, yet you have no memory of tasting beyond the first five bites? Or, how about that full bowl of popcorn that you were just going to have a few nibbles of, why is there nothing but salt and butter residue on the bottom of the bowl? How did it happen? How did you go from knowingly consuming a few bites to unknowingly finishing the entire thing? This, my friends, is mindless eating. Mindless eating is one of the biggest dietary pitfalls that keeps you trapped in an unhealthy relationship with food and your body.
Mindless eating happens for a variety of reasons, from eating out of boredom to eating out of sadness. The eating functions to block an uncomfortable emotion and as its name suggests it happens without any awareness at all, it is of course, mind-less.
Mindless eating is best addressed with a good healthy dose of mindfulness. Bringing a sense of mindfulness to all instances of eating can literally stop the compulsion in its tracks. Geneen Roth, New York Times Bestselling author and weight loss guru, says it best, “Awareness and compulsion cannot coexist.” As we begin to tap into awareness, or mindfulness, eating compulsion can begin to subside.
As it turns out, tapping into mindfulness can be as simple as the ‘ol switch-a-roo.
In a recent study from the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers looked at how certain habits can encourage mindless eating. Findings showed that if participants snacked with their less dominant hand they ate 30% less than snacking with their dominant hand. Thirty percent less is easily hundreds of calories saved simply by snacking with your opposite hand!
When you are using your less dominant hand you are forcing yourself to pay attention more, (and perhaps clean up the mess of food that your less capable hand is flinging all over the place…) and the act of eating is suddenly not so mindless.
Something as simple as snacking with your left hand if you are a right-y or your right hand if you are a left-y can help pull the focus from WHAT we eat to HOW we eat. Oftentimes it is HOW we eat that is more impactful on our long-term health and weight loss goals. While most diets focus on shifting the type and quantity of foods we eat, a mindful approach to eating focuses more on the how and why we eat. Mindful diets work to avoid getting lost somewhere in calorie and point counting, instead working to create long term healthy habitual food behaviors.
Ready to jump on the mindful diet? Try this exercise:
Take a bag of chips (Enjoy this, I would typically never start an exercise with… take these chips…), sit down at the dinner table and focus on every single bite you take. Focus extremely hard engaging all your senses. How does the chip feel in your hand? What does the chip smell like? What is the chip like in your mouth? Focus on the oil in your fingers, how the salt burns your mouth, and the way the genetically modified potatoes (sorry, had to do it) get lodged in your teeth, keep focusing. As soon as your mind begins to drift away, focus back in on the chewing, come back to the chip. It’s pretty darn hard to eat an entire bag when you are only focused on the eating.
Now, try eating a bag of chips in front of the TV, turn your mind off, drift into TV land, and I will bet you you will consume 50-75% more than you would if you were being mindful. Actually, I don’t have to bet, research has proven this very thing.
Next time you reach for a snack, mindfully reach for it with your less dominant hand. Maybe you can write a little note on your dominant hand that says: “try the other hand, or sit on your dominant hand every time you eat, or wear a super fashionable glove only on your dominant hand so all the eating has to be done with your non-gloved hand. When your friends ask you what in the world you are doing, simply reply, “I am being mindful.”