Mindless eating: why it happens and how we can prevent it

Today I want to bring up mindless and mindful eating. Mindless eating is a big contributor to the large population of overweight and obese people today. A book called Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life says it perfectly.

“Most of the time, we are eating on autopilot, eating on the run, eating our worries or anxieties from the day’s demands, anticipations, irritations, and “to do” lists.  If we are not conscious of the food we eat, if we are not actively thinking about the food, how can we taste it and get the pleasure of eating it?”


Slide 1Has it ever happened to you where you get sidetracked while eating – say by a book, the television, or a phone call – and the next thing you know all of your food is gone? This is mindless eating and can lead to eating hundreds more calories than intended.

For example, let’s say you are looking for an after dinner snack. Almonds sound like a great option – they’re filling, high in protein, and contain some healthy fats. You bring the container to the sofa and begin watching TV. Without realizing it you eat about 1 cup of almonds before the next commercial. This is only about 4 handfuls… and 4 times the recommended serving size. Without noticing (or probably even tasting the almonds) you consumed about 650 calories. An additional 650 calories each day can potentially lead to a weight gain of a pound a week (52 pounds a year).

So how do we prevent mindless eating? We turn to mindful eating. Mindful eating is exactly what it sounds like – it is paying attention to what you are eating, how much you are eating, and your body’s response to the food.

This can be tricky because there are so many obstacles in our culture. We have large portion sizes when eating out, save money when buying in bulk, have busy schedules that require convenience foods, and have an increased plate size.

In the 1950’s the average plate size was 9 inches – our plates today average about 12 inches. When we have a bigger plate in front of us, our first instinct is to put more food on it to fill it up. So before we even begin eating, we are already setting ourselves up to eat more.


Here is an 11″ plate vs a 9″ plate. 


Our bowls today also lead us to overeat. Take a look at the bowl below, and keep in mind that this was not the biggest cereal bowl in my cabinet. I went ahead and marked where particular measurements landed. Now let’s think about things we typically put into bowls. My favorite is ice cream. A serving size of ice cream is 1/2 cup. If I am using this bowl to serve myself, I’m probably not going to feel satisfied with the bottom of the surface being barely covered. In fact, if I don’t use measuring cups, I will probably serve myself closer to 1 1/2 cups.20170228_094658


Most of us need some tips to encourage mindful eating. Some of my favorite are:

  • Eating at the kitchen table with no distractions
  • Eating with your non-dominant hand
  • Filling your plate and leaving extra food on the kitchen counter, not the table – remember you can always go back for more if you’re still hungry
  • Measuring portion sizes and eating off a plate instead of out of the bag
  • Saying that you don’t need bread or chips and salsa before a meal
  • Sharing your entrée with a friend
  • Waiting 20 minutes before snacking to see if you are actually hungry or just bored

Do you have any other mindful eating tips? Leave them in the comments below!

Mindless Eating.jpg


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