Do you always think of every food decision you make? How often do you actually engage your mind as you serve large portions of food on your plate? What about eating the exact thing the person next to you at the restaurant is eating without any thought? Sometimes such habits just develop uncounsiously.
Eating behaviour expert, Brian Wansink, says that the mind makes food-related decisions more than 200 times a day- and surprisingly many of them without pause for actual thought.
Fitness cannot be fully achieved when you are always ordering chips at the restaurants simply because the person next to you on the queue also ordered chips. Fitness not only requires you to exercise but also be practise mindfulness by having control over the amount of food on your plate to snacking decisions, and other nutrition-related behavior.
This article explores mindless eating as compared to fitness to help you establish and keep healthy nutrition habits. You will learn what exactly mindless eating means, what causes mindless eating, whether eating healthier is better than exercise, and whether you can lose weight with mindful eating.
What does mindless eating mean?
Mindless eating as the name “mindless” means is essentially eating without making any thoughtful decisions about what and how you are eating.
Mindless eating can make you eat foods very high in calories without your knowledge because really all you focus on is be in the mood for food. It extends to not being aware that you are eating, being disengaged mentally and psychologically in the eating process, and losing focus or concentration on your eating.
Mindless eating can negatively impact your weight loss goals. Extra calories can find their way into your diet and consequently the body without your control or knowledge.
With mindless eating, you will be unable to stay on track of your weight loss goals as you will burn fewer calories than what has actually gotten into your body leading to weight gain.
What causes mindless eating?
As discussed briefly above, mindless eating can be caused by a number of other factors such as:
This is when you eat when you are not hungry. Disinhibition can be caused by boredom for example. You can continue eating even when you get full. In other cases, you can find yourself bored and all you want is your favourite snack to “wipe” the boredom away.
This can best be explained as absent-minded eating behaviours.
When your mind is not present or even involved in the eating process which starts with the choice of food to food preparation, and finally eating, you essentially would not be mindful of your eating.
You should concentrate and get your mind engaged in the eating process.
Distractions can be caused by watching television, listening to radio or podcasts, engaging in involving conversations and being stressed. Behaviours such as talking on the phone or playing computer games while you eat also make you lose focus while you eat.
How about eating food based on your emotions or other snap-like factors such as seeing food on television?
Impulsive eating involves using your emotional impulse to eat. For example, you mindlessly eat because you are stressed. Or you simply eat to comfort yourself after stepping on the weight scale only to see no change in the measurements yet you have been exercising for ages!
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is essentially letting your mind be involved in your eating process. It goes to simply yet ignored eating habits such as paying attention to your hunger, type of food craving, general cravings, your average diet, eating frequency and your eating motivation.
For example, you should be keen on how you feel before, during and after eating. Mindful eating also means not eating for the sake of it but eating because you are hungry and concentrating on basic things such as how you bite your food to how you chew it.
Can I lose weight with mindful eating?
Yes, mindful eating can help you lose weight and be in better shape mentally, psychologically, and physically.
Steps to a healthier eating habit
i. Assess your hunger. How much hungry are you. Are you very hungry or slightly hungry? This should determine the amount of food you should eat. Serve portions that you can finish. As you progress with eating, keep on reassessing your hunger, when you feel you are slightly full, stop eating. This prevents you from overeating. Eating blindly can easily lead to overeating.
ii. Slow down on your eating pace. Avoid eating fast to concentrate more on your eating. Concentrate on your chewing to make sure the food is properly chewed before swallowing it.
iii. Stay focused. Guard your concentration. Avoid things that can distract you when eating. Make sure your concentration is not shifted from eating to something else like watching TV.
iv. Check what your diet comprises of. Is it high in calories, moderate in calories or too little calories?
Is eating healthier better than exercise?
Healthy eating and exercise complement each other. When healthy eating and exercises are adhered to, fitness and weight goals will be realized seamlessly.
Exercise helps you burn calories by boosting your metabolism. Watching your diet alone won’t burn fats for you. Other benefits of exercising regularly are sustained weight loss and control, reduced risk for chronic diseases, strength, self-esteem and body image. Exercises also lead to healthy psychology levels in check because you refresh your mind, body, and soul when you adopt a lifestyle of exercising.
What you eat matters whether you want to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain or achieve your fitness goals. For you to lose weight, you need to watch your calorie intake. However, it’s prudent to be aware foods have different calorie levels and different amounts of nutritional values.
The benefits of mindfully watching your diet are similar to those of exercise. They include reduced risk to chronic illnesses, help in weight control, improve your skin and brain health, and improve stress management.
What you eat makes you!
But how you eat also determines how fitness goals outcome.
You need to practise mindful eating for better satisfaction and better health outcomes. Mindful eating entails watching your nutritional needs and subsequently choosing healthy foods at all times. Mindful eating also entails not getting distracted as you eat because you may end up under-eating or overeating. When you feel full, stop eating.
Mindless eating will get you gaining excess weight that you honestly do not want to subscribe to. Eating mindlessly can also lead to overnutrition or undernutrition- both of which put you at eating disorders and other diseases. Do not let environmental settings affect your choice of food- for example, being at a fast-food bar and restaurant several days per week can make you always rely on foods with high-fat levels.
Regular exercise and healthier eating habits are essential components for sustained weight loss and general body fitness and health. There is no two-way about it. Weight loss and maintaining healthy body weight will require you to eat healthy food, monitor energy levels in the food you eat, create a mindful eating habit, and staying physically active.