How many us think we are just eating for the sake of it? Or just eating because we are in a certain environment…. why do we eat popcorn at the cinema when we are not even hungry? Because it’s warm, salty, buttery, tastes good?
Dr. Brian Wansink has named this behavior “mindless eating”. It makes up a significant portion of why we eat, and how much of it we end up eating. According to Dr. Wansink we rarely stop eating because we’ve eaten enough. External cues in our environment are usually things to stop us eating. Like a clean plate or our friends have stopped eating.
We overeat due to cues and signals around us that tell us to eat. We don’t just pause after each bite and contemplate whether we are full. We are always looking for cues that we’ve had enough. Dr. Wansink states the best diet is the one we don’t know we are on.
Here are a few small tips to create new eating habits…
1 Smaller plates. In every experiment, even ones where participants know they are fooling themselves, people eat less when they use smaller plates.
2 Divide every meal in half. Put half aside. Eat the first half guilt-free, then ask yourself how much you want the second half and why. There is no wrong answer, just a moment of aware reflection where there was only mindless eating before.
3 When you eat, just eat. Sit down at a table. Face way from any distractions. Turn off your phone. And think about eating a bite. This is hard and rarely sustainable, but it’ a great exercise if you want to see what “just eating” feels like.
4 When you have a snack, plate it. This makes snacking more inconvenient, which means you’ll do it less.
5 Put everything you want to eat on the plate. That way you see everything you want to eat before you eat it.