Mindless eating is a major culprit in the obesity epidemic in the United States.
If you are tired, bored, stressed, anxious, mad, lazy, sad or even happy, you probably reach for the bag of potato chips that has been calling your name all afternoon. You decide to eat it while watching TV and before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole bag of Cheetos!
Sound familiar? You are not alone!
Many people emotionally (over)eat (triggered by hormones) and don’t actually listen to their physical cues for hunger, such as needing fuel to begin your day, energy to have a productive day at work, and nutrients to power through your workout. Unhealthy habits, low willpower, and hormones (like cortisol) trick your brain into believing you’re hungry when in fact, ghrelin, the hunger hormone, is actually responsible for sending messages from your stomach to your brain, telling you, “I need food!”
What to do to combat emotional eating:
Come up with a plan of action. “If X happens, then I will do Y.” For example, if your partner offers your nachos and cheese during movie night, have your celery and hummus ready to enjoy instead. If you are out to eat with a friend, and she orders a large sundae, you can ask for slices of apples and nuts for the side and eat that instead.
Try the “surf the urge” technique: Wait 20 minutes before allowing yourself to eat the food you crave. After you set a 20-minute timer, think of surfing the highest wave—just to come crashing down, ready for more. The idea is to replace your snacking and mindless eating with other (healthy) habits. If you still want the food after setting the 20-minute timer, try going for a walk, meditating, practicing yoga, calling a friend, journaling, blogging, reading a book, drinking infused water or tea, writing down 5 things you are grateful for, or chewing on herbs or minty gum. If the feeling of hunger still does not pass, your body most likely needs the fuel for energy.
When you eat your snack, eat with a fork using your non-dominant hand and drink water between bites (8 oz. before the meal, and 8 oz. after the meal). Savor each bite and chew your food 15-30 times before swallowing. It should not take you less than 20 minutes to consume a meal. Your snack should not take less than 15 minutes to eat, and should contain half of a serving of your protein needs and half of a serving of your complex carbs (veggie/fruit) or healthy fats.