Mindless Eating: 3 Reasons Why it Happens and How to Break the Cycle

Mindless Eating: 3 Reasons Why it Happens and How to Break the Cycle

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to eat endless amounts of popcorn while in the movie theater? One hour later and BAM- you've put down 1500 calories of buttery goodness and you don't feel a thing?

Or... maybe you come home from a stressful day of work, plop down on the couch to watch your favorite show and eat a whole bag of chips without blinking an eye?

How about after an emotional blow out you plow through boxes of chocolate (and bottles of wine) not to even feel it touch your stomach? (Well maybe you end up at the toilet at some point)

How does this happen? When you sit down with that boring meal of chicken, rice, and broccoli you feel SO FULL...

Mindless Eating Impacts Nearly Everybody

Mindless eating seems to be a typical trend amongst busy Americans between college schedules, work deadlines, parenting, trying to stay fit and maintain a social life.. there is barely enough time to do these things well, nevermind sitting down and actually think about eating and what you're putting into your body! 

As America’s obesity rates continue to rise, this isn’t only a problem that affects only certain people...mindless and emotional eating is a struggle that can affect anyone who eats food.

What's worse, is most people aren't even aware how bad the problem is - nevermind how to stop it, or why it started in the first place!

Where does it come from?

Believe it or not, a lot of our eating habits, tendencies, preferences, beliefs came from our adolescent days and watching our parents, taking part in their actions, and eventually we continue these throughout our adult life.

It certainly evolves and branches out as years go on, but deep down a lot of these patterns are subconscious from many repetitive behaviors.

If you weren’t exposed to a whole lot of different foods while you were younger, you more than likely aren’t into trying new, funky dishes.

You may have a habit of rewarding yourself with food after accomplishing something, which is potentially rooted from how your parents raised and praised you as a child.

Can it be fixed?

Is it a habit and pattern you can ultimately break? Is it something you learned, or is there something else behind it?

When it comes to creating any kind of change, whether it be in your nutrition, your actions, thoughts etc...it all comes down to ONE thing first, that is having awareness.

The issue behind all of your mindless eating encounters is not being aware as to why it happens, then repeating the same patterns over and over. Which leads you to thinking that this is just ‘’how you are.’’

Mindless Eating Reason #1 - Lack of Awareness

Lacking awareness, or better yet, not being in tune with ourselves in how we are feeling mentally, physically and emotionally throughout the day.

In all the scenarios above, we are lacking connection with how we are feeling inside, and like most of our days we are fulfilling life outside of ourselves and forget to be aware of what is going on inside.

Which can result in looking for comfort after that stressful day, being distracted, and not really addressing our needs so quick fixes of highly processed foods with carbs and fats gives us temporary satisfaction after the days come crashing down on us.

The fix?

Start practicing awareness around how you are feeling throughout the day.

Stressed? Anxious? Hungry? Thirsty? Need to walk for a second? Take a few moments to tune in with what you need for a moment rather than letting it all pile up.

While reaching for comfort in food, start creating pause points such as asking yourself if you really need the bag of chips, or an actual meal?

Finding yourself in the kitchen or on the couch with your hand in a bag? Walk away for 5 minutes, assess what is going on and come back to it with more intention and mindfulness into what you are doing.

Most of the time we mindlessly eat because it's easy, comforting and a normal behavior.

But once you start intentionally thinking and bring your awareness to what is going on, you can mindfully make a decision instead and break that behavior.

Mindless Eating Reason #2 - Lack of Intention

Where are all my mid-day or night time snackers at?

While most think it’s just because we love food and can’t stop reaching for the Oreos, a lot of it actually has to do with lack of intent and thirdly, structure in our meals; composition and timing wise.

Like above, we aren’t aware all day until we come home and are ready to eat anything and everything. This can lead to overeating and eating the wrong foods (aka whatever is there and easy).

Or if you find yourself not really sitting down to eat, having a put together meal of carbs, fats, and proteins you’ll probably just find yourself grazing all day mindlessly.

Mindless eating is exactly that, mindless, meaning there is no intention into our meals.

The Fix?

To start reversing this issue, start putting intention into when you are eating by making a schedule and plan on when to have meal times rather than skimping and grazing all day or bombarding yourself at night.

If you have too, set alarms on your phone to remind you when to eat and draw your attention into putting intent on eating.

Practice being present while eating, sitting down, phone put away, chewing and tasting your food.


Mindless Eating Reason #3 - Lack of Structure

Thirdly, start putting structure into knowing WHAT you are eating.

Most individuals don’t really have an idea on what is actually in the food they are eating (or lack of).

The Fix?

Start understanding what composes of your meals by breaking down and asking yourself "where is my carb, fat, protein and fiber coming from?"

Understanding what composes of your foods and how those macronutrients serve and make you feel will help you better understand structure to keep you most satisfied and content with food and end reaching for more oreos.

If you are like most individuals, you are probably lacking protein within your diet which plays a large role not just in muscle building for those heavy weight lifters, but creating new cells for virtually everything from your hair, nails, skin, tendons, ligaments, bones and many metabolic processes within the body.

Eating enough protein can also create satiety, and less tendencies for the mindless munchies.

Struggling with meeting higher protein? Whey isolates or protein powders are a great option to add into your intake for an easy, quick surge of protein.

End your mindless eating by bringing awareness, intent, and structure into your day to day life and watch your progress shift, your mindset strengthen and your metabolism skyrocket. 

-Sarah Poulin

Sarah poulin is a fitness and lifestyle coach with 7+ years of training, degree in dietetics, certified personal trainer and national level physique competitor. She focuses on the mental and habitual side of wellness.

She helps women build a lifestyle to "Fit Fitness Freely" into their lives through mindset, relationships & confidence in order to create personal freedom & fulfillment

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