Mindlessly eating is when we eat without thinking about what we are doing. (Emotionally eating is eating to change the way we feel. It’s eating when we’re not actually physically hungry.)
Below are 17 tips to help you stop and overcome mindlessly eating.
(At the end, you’ll find two very useful questions to help you change the way you think about emotional and mindless eating.)
1. Finishers: We love finishing things! That’s why it’s so hard to leave things on our plates; like that last bite we don’t even want. Our clue that we are done eating is that our plates are clean. Try leaving a piece of food on your plate. Even better? Start with less. We can’t eat what’s not there.
2. Perception: In a study when people thought they were drinking “cheap” wine, they ate less and stayed at dinner shorter. But the group with the “good” wine (they were the same exact wines) stayed longer and ate more and said the meal was better. The lesson? Don’t always judge a wine bottle by its label or a restaurant by its exterior.
3. Eating: The first bite is always the best so try to reduce your portions. Out to dinner? Tell them to pack up 1/2 of your food for home even before they bring out your plate to the table. Say no to bread. This way you don’t even have to look at it. (Here are tips about the best restaurant options for healthy food.)
If you have to constantly look at it, you’re going to keep asking yourself the question, “Do I want a piece? Do I really not want a piece?” Save yourself. At home, put food in the back of cupboards. Make it harder to get to. The idea is to make it harder to do the things we don’t want to do, and easier to do the things we really want to do.
I love places like Costco…but we have to be careful. It helps to take Costco size things and put them in smaller containers. In general, when food is out of your sight – it’s out of your mind.
4. Awareness: Are you really hungry when you eat? If you’re not hungry but choose to eat anyway — say out loud, “I’m not hungry but I’m going to eat this anyway!”
5. 20 percent: Try adding 20% more veggies to your plate and take away 20% of the entree.
1/2 plate: Try making half of your plate veggies. I find that eating veggies and salad with each meal really helps me to feel full.
6. Forgotten: There was a great study where 1 group of people ate chicken wings and their bones were kept in front of them. In the other group, the plates were cleared every 15 minutes or so.
Who do you think ate less? The group who saw all of their bones.
Bonus: You can do the same with wine. Always serve new glasses of wine and be sure to leave the old glasses out and the bottles too! *This can apply to any food that leaves evidence.
7. Just cut it: Mindless eating is when you eat and are no longer hungry. The “I’m full but I can eat more.” Be satisfied and just say, “Done!” (Ginny has a great story about how a custom diet helped her stop making poor food choices and lost 33 pounds. If you’ve ever wondered, “What should I eat when losing weight?” take a look.)
8. See all you can eat: Like the chicken wings – serve yourself in the kitchen and try to eat in another room. With snacks always pour or put the snack into something. Otherwise, the hand always reaches into that bag, without even realizing it.
9. Servings: We generally eat 92% of what we serve ourselves. Obviously, we aren’t feeling whether we are hungry or not. We’re judging by our plates.
Trick: Use smaller plates, dishes and glasses. Sounds silly but it does work.
10. Chop sticks: It takes 20 minutes to digest and realize the effects of the food you ate. Hence, you keep eating when you are no longer even hungry.
Solution: Make it harder to eat. Use chop sticks, eat with your other hand (and laugh a lot!).
Bonus: Try pacing yourself with the slowest eater at the table. Put your fork down after every bite. And try starting last and finishing last.
11. Groups: When you are with 1 other person you’ll eat 35% more, with a group of 4 it’s 75% more and with 7 or more it’s 96% more! Be careful next time you’re in a group.
12. Nice restaurants: You are likely to eat more with low lights, soft music, muted colors and an attentive wait staff. Use the staff to learn more about how the food is cooked and ask your server about which dishes are healthiest. (Read more about how to prevent temptation while out to eat.)
13. Distractions: If you eat while you work or read or watch TV, or do anything in addition to eating, you’re going to eat more. Smell the roses. Live in the moment. Taste your food. Pretend you’re a food critic and have to write a review of the taste, texture, smell, etc.
14. Brands: We experience them as better because we expect them to be better. Set your expectations low and all food tastes better.
15. Perceptions: Add two words to any dish and people will think the food is really better. Calling peas, “Power Peas” encouraged kids to eat nearly double the amount they usually do.
Great bonus! Spend the last 15 minutes of prep on your food in the kitchen during a dinner party and people will think you are working hard and the food will taste better to them.
16. The health halo: Watch out for Subway or any other “healthy” eateries. Most people, because they think they are eating healthy, will get a soda (plus a refill), cookie and chips and the most unhealthy sandwiches. The calories will add up and before you know it, you’re “healthy” meal isn’t so healthy.
17. Business parties: Only 2 items of food on your plate at 1 time. Chow down on healthy food first like veggies. While talking set your food down so you don’t mindlessly munch. When you enter the room, remind yourself of the purpose: Business or food?
*18. Habits. Excellence is simply a habit.
Start now. Not later. Consistency is the key to looking sexy and staying healthy. MBT-ers know that getting the body we want and being healthy and fit is about 3 things: Eating right. Exercising. And doing those two things consistently.
Two Powerful Questions to help you change the way you think about emotional and mindless eating:
1) “Am I using this food or am I eating this food?”
2) What’s really bothering me? What am I really hungry for?
Adam Gilbert is the founder of MyBodyTutor.com, an online program that solves the lack of consistency faced by chronic dieters. Sign up for his free mini course on weight loss, and follow Adam on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.