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Overcoming Mindless Eating: Guest Blogger

Multi-talented health coach, cookbook writer, wellness speaker, and founder of Walker Well-Being, Tammy Walker is all about making long-term healthy choices. It can be incredibly difficult to make positive food choices all day long (our sweet tooth tends to go into overdrive come 3P.M.), so this week Tammy is lending a hand and sharing her favorite healthy lifestyle tips on our blog.

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One of the biggest roadblocks to managing your weight has zero to do with what you eat and everything to do with how you eat. If you’ve ever sat down with a giant bowl of pita chips only to “come to” minutes later reaching into a pile of crumbs (you know what I’m talking about), then this applies to you. 

Mindless eating is when we eat while distracted, hurried, or in a state of stress or high emotion. It’s also when we overeat without realizing it. Let’s look at what’s really going on in three situations that commonly lead to mindless eating and five techniques you can begin practicing today to become a more attentive eater.

Distracted Eating

Eating while checking email, engrossed in Mad Men or otherwise multi-tasking often leads to “falling asleep at the plate.” When you’re not fully mentally present while eating, you’re far less likely to notice taste or pleasure. Your brain doesn’t detect satisfaction or fullness, so it keeps sending the message “feed me!”

Stress Eating

It’s no coincidence that late afternoon and evening are primetime for mindless overeating, since that’s when stress levels tend to be highest. A hectic, non-stop day gets your fight-or-flight stress response humming. This releases hormones that trigger food cravings, compromise digestion (ugh, upset stomach), and propel you to eat too fast.

Emotional Eating

Using food to take the edge off anxiety, boredom, or sadness is never satisfying or pleasurable beyond the first couple of bites. Caught in a reel of worry and negative thoughts, your brain doesn’t register the “reward” it usually gets from food, so it continues sending you signals to go back for more, all the way to the bottom of the pint of Cherry Garcia.

5 Techniques for Mindful Eating

  1. Slow down. If you normally clear your plate in 10 minutes, stretch it to 20.
  2. Limit distractions while you eat (TV, phone, computer). Focus on the food itself. Notice taste, texture, smell, colors. It feels weird at first, but it works.
  3. Only eat when sitting down, preferably at a table. This limits autopilot snacking and kitchen drive-bys.
  4. Take five slow, deep breaths before eating. Nature’s tranquilizer!
  5. Rank your hunger from 1-10 when you feel the urge to eat (10 is stuffed, 1 is starving). If it’s over 5, try another activity you like instead. Take a walk, paint your nails, do some yoga stretches, etc.

Relax, forgo the soda, and instead learn how to brew the perfect cup of tea.

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