Chances are that if you are a United States citizen then you, yes you, are a mindless eater.
What is a mindless eater you might ask? A mindless eater is anyone that eats their food without consciously paying attention to the act of eating. They don’t pay attention to the tastes, smells, textures, or visual appearance of the food they are eating, and they most certainly don’t pay attention to their satiety levels when eating.
A mindless eater eats until the food is gone and never really taps into the sensations of eating. Put the food in your mouth, chew, swallow. Repeat steps until the plate, bag, or container is empty. This is the mindless eaters creed.
The funny thing about it is that a ton of people don’t think they are mindless eaters. When Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating and professor of consumer behavior at Cornell University, performed studies on American eaters he found that everyone exhibited mindless eating behaviors despite their feeling otherwise.
He performed numerous studies in his restaurant/lab to see if we are mindless eaters. One of the studies involved an endless bowl of tomato soup. He had a booth in the restaurant set up for four patrons. Two of the seats had normal bowls of tomato soup while the other two had tubes attached to the bottom of the bowl underneath the table and were set up to imperceptibly refill with more soup as the patron ate. In essence, it was a bowl that could never be emptied.
Even though the patrons all said that they ate until they were satiated they found that those with the endless soup bowls consistently ate up to 73% more!
Clearly they were eating until they found the bottom of the bowl, but soon felt so stuffed that they set their spoons down and called it quits.
In another study they asked Parisians when they knew they were done eating. The top three answers they received were:
1. When they were no longer hungry
2. When the food no longer looked good
3. When the food no longer tasted good
They then asked the same question to Chicagoans and these were the top three responses:
1. When the food is gone (empty plate/bag/container)
2. When the show is over
3. When someone else around me is done
This is a huge issue because something that everyone and their dog knows is that portion sizes have grown exponentially through the years.
Say hello to KING-sized candy bars, SUPER-SIZED combo meals, muffins the size of your head, and popular shows like Man vs Food where the host travels the country taking on food challenges like eating a 7 lb. burrito.
If we all eat until the food is gone and we live in this super-sized environment what is going to happen to our waistlines?
No wonder why two out of three Americans are overweight!
Mindless eating is clearly not helping us.
If you want to get to your body’s ideal weight, the answer isn’t through some fad diet. The answer to your problem is through eating more mindfully. Parisians eat all kinds of carbs and fatty foods, yet they don’t have the obesity problem that we have because they stop when they are satisfied. They stop when their bodies. They don’t end up chronically overheating by always going for the empty plate or bowl.
So if you want to reach your ideal weight without restricting certain foods, the solution is quite simple: you need to go from being a mindless eater to becoming a mindful eater.
The process of becoming more mindful is not one that can be attained overnight. Rather it is something that must be woven throughout your life through continual practice.
To help you begin this process, I am going to list a very helpful mindful eating practice that will greatly aid you in this process of becoming more mindful with your eating.
But before I do that, I gave a presentation on simple techniques that you can use right now to reduce your caloric intake and have better control in those situations that you tend to be more mindless than others. I break down the top six environments where people tend to be mindless eaters and give simple steps that can be taken for each one to immediately stop the overeating.
CLICK HERE to watch the presentation.
Applying the techniques I showed in my presentation will ensure immediate results in being able to reduce overeating.
However, you will still want to develop the ability to eat mindfully. Doing so will give you the confidence to be able to eat what sounds good to you and in the amounts that your body tells you. This will lead to a healthy relationship with food and a healthy weight for the rest of your life. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Here is a simple and common mindful eating exercise that will solidly set your feet on the path of becoming a mindful eating master:
Imagine that you are a visitor from another universe, and you have just met a friendly human, who has presented you with an interesting morsel of food. Because your task on this planet is to gather information to take back to your home planet, you must carefully inspect and then consume this food to learn as much about it as you can. In the following order:
1. Hold the food item in your hand
2. Look at the food item, noticing any details about its appearance (such as
color, size, texture, contours, etc.). Imagine that you have never seen this item before.
3. Bring the item close to your nose, and carefully smell it. Take at least a minute to do so. Notice your body’s reaction to this prolonged exposure to the food item although you
haven’t begun to eat it.
4. Place the food item in your mouth (but don’t chew or swallow!)–run your tongue over
the item, noticing flavors, textures; explore the sensations of holding this item in your
5. Continue holding the food item in your mouth and observe your experience of doing so (but don’t chew!)
6. Make the decision to chew the item, and then to do so, trying to chew as slowly as possible.
7. Swallow the food item.
8. Note any lingering taste in your mouth from the food item.
9. Observe any reactions (thoughts, feelings) to your experience of consuming the food item or to completing this mindful eating exercise.
If you were going nuts during this exercise, if your mind was all over the place, or if you couldn’t last longer than a few seconds before swallowing, then I am sorry but you have no hope.
Just kidding. The first time I did this I think I might have lasted a full ten seconds before swallowing. But now I can fall asleep with the food still in my mouth.
No. Just messing again. I am no expert mindful eater, but after a lot of practicing I find myself enjoying food way more and am way more in tune with my satiety signals than ever before. I can even be mindful and sense my body’s satiety signals after just having a few gummy worms, which is huge because if you know me gummy candy is my weakness (my kryptonite).
Note for those with babies and toddlers:
If you want to watch an expert at listening to satiety signals you have to go no further than your little one in the high chair. Notice how they will absolutely pound the food at times and then will hardly even touch their food at other times.
They only eat when they are hungry and they stop when they are satisfied.
For example, the other day our little one was pounding his food so I gave him some more on his tray. He kept eating until he had three little pieces left. He picked one up in his hands, started towards his mouth and then stopped, put it back on the tray and was done. He was satisfied and no longer needed to eat.
He left three little pieces of food on his tray and even stopped in mid-air with one of those pieces. Who does that? No one leaves three little pieces on their plate. We would just eat those last little pieces until our plate was clean and then we would be done.
When was the last time that you stopped in mid-air with food and then set it down on your plate, leaving a few small pieces because you felt satisfied?
Little ones are expert mindful eaters. Observe them the next time you eat. They are experts in action and cute as all get out. You can learn a lot from them.