Top 5 Reasons Why We Mindlessly Eat

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Have you ever grabbed a bite to eat without even being hungry? Or thought to yourself why am I eating this, I just ate not too long ago? Well you’re not alone; many people every day partake in mindless eating or unnecessary eating without even realizing it.

The average person makes around 250 decisions about food every day and out of these 200 + food decisions, most of them we cannot really explain. Most of us don’t overeat because we’re hungry; no we overeat because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, and cupboards and containers. All these are contributors to my top 5 reasons why we mindlessly eat. These are my top 5 reasons why we mindlessly eat and solutions to overcome them.

1. Boredom - When boredom sets in most turn to food or activities incorporating food to overcome that boredom, which is because preparing the food or eating it gives us something to do instead of just sitting around doing nothing.

Solution – When you’re bored distance yourself from available food sources and find something productive to do that keeps you active and away from easy, available food. 

2. Stress – Most of us eat when we’re feeling stressed, this is because in our minds it’s a way of relieving stress or distracting us from it when instead all its really doing is making the unwanted calories add up.

Solution – Whenever you’re feeling stressed, take a break, breathe and relax. Do something to take that mind off of what is stressing you out. I suggest going for a walk, exercising, or going to see friends and family to do something that is not focused around food or whatever is causing you stress.

3. Environment - Environment plays a big role in unnecessary eating and this because the society we live in today uses food to advertise just about anything. For example when we go to sporting events or tailgating what is the one of the things we associate with that? Food! Or what about when we want go out with family or friends, we usually do something involving food.

Solution - Start with something simple. Throw out all your junk food and snacks and replace them with healthier options. Those cookies or chips that you have lying on the counter, switch them for fruits. When you mindlessly eat, you’re more likely to eat the very first thing you see then actually weighing your options (no pun intended). 

4. Emotions – Have you ever heard the expression, “Eating your feelings?” Well this is true. When we’re sad we eat, when we’re excited and celebrating we eat, or as mentioned above we eat when we’re bored.

Solution – Don’t use food as a coping tool or a use of celebration. Instead do something that you enjoy to cheer you up when you’re feeling down or to celebrate. For example if you love to shop, go shopping. If you’re a runner, go for a run; just don’t get caught in the food trap. 

5. Seasons - Most people don’t think of seasons being a cause for unnecessary eating, but we associate certain foods with specific seasons. Perfect example during the winter and holidays people start to get less active because it’s colder outside and consume more sweets, like Christmas cookies, fudge, and candies. How about the Spring and Summer months, when it’s nice outside and we are more active, but now we’re going to fairs, football / baseball fame and getting into the greasy and deep fat fried foods.

Solution – No matter what season it is always be aware of your environment and what foods are going to be more readily available and influencing your mind. The main idea it to be conscious and smart about what you’re putting into your mouth and to think, instead of you mindlessly eating whatever is available and easy.

Research by Brian Wansink, PhD, and a Cornell University researcher shows just how much these top 5 reasons can really factor into our mindless eating. For example one of his studies involved different sizes of party bowls filled with Chex Mix showed that people eating from the larger bowl, took on average 53% more Chex Mix than people eating from smaller bowls. This accumulates to about 205 extra calories! This is because at an early age it’s been ingrained into our minds not to stop eating once we’re full, but instead to stop eating when our plates are empty.

Nutritionist and dietitians suggest that when you feel like eating a snack, keep in minding the 5 Ds: delay, determine, distract, distance, and decide. Waiting before eating reminds you to be mindful about your snack and actually thinking about whether you are hungry or not forces you to consider what exactly you are putting in your body. If you’re not hungry, distracting yourself with something else or distancing yourself from the food may help you avoid the temptation of eating.

So remember to stop, think, and be smart about what you’re about to eat instead of just eating what easiest and available.

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