Overcoming Mindless Munching
by Bonnie Church CNC, CLC
To read my monthly wellness column go to www.aawmag.com
To order my reccommended Life and Wellness Coaching Guide click here.
Does this describe you?
- You get an ice cream cone and before you realize it all you are holding is a sticky napkin.
- You open a bag of chips before a TV show and the next thing you know you are rummaging for the broken chips at the bottom of the bag.
- That bag of Hershey Kisses you hid in your desk drawer is empty and you just opened it a few hours ago.
- You are generally the first one finished eating at a meal with friends.
- At social functions, you gravitate to a position as close to the finger foods as possible.
If so, you might be a mindless muncher.
Mindless munching is destructive for several reasons:
- Eating snacks foods through the day keeps your blood sugar elevated, raising your insulin levels. This sets in motion cravings and fat storage.
- Eating fast can prevent you from getting the full nutritional value of your food. Research indicates that when your mind is tuned out during mealtime, the digestive process may be up to 40% less effective. This can contribute to digestive distress, such as gas, bloating and bowel irregularities.
- When you munch mindlessly, you eat more. There is a reason for that. Disappearance of hunger happens shortly after you start eating, but it takes some time before you have the experience of fullness. The less you eat during the time that it takes the stomach to notify your brain that it is full, the less you will overeat.
The Good News! Unlike other bad habits that are overcome through agonizing deprivation, overcoming mindless munching actually increases the joy of eating. To cure mindless munching, simply slow down and savor your food.
TIPS TO HELP YOU STOP
- Restrict your eating to the kitchen table or the lounge at work. Don’t sit in front of the TV and computer with food. Once eating is under way, the brain has a key role to send out a signal when fullness is approaching. If the mind is "multi-tasking" during eating, critical signals that regulate food intake may not be received by the brain. If the brain does not receive certain messages that occur during eating, such as sensation of taste, it may fail to register the event as "eating". This scenario can lead to the brain continuing to send out additional signals of hunger, increasing the risk of overeating.
- Stop starving yourself of calories and food groups in an effort to suddenly lose weight. Extreme dieting leads to rebound eating and weight gain. You should eat healthy foods from all food groups in moderate amounts throughout the day.
- Cultivate serenity in your life. The hormones of stress trigger food cravings.
A simple breathing exercise can be done almost anywhere, takes no equipment and little time, but can dramatically reduce your stress levels. It is a natural tranquilizer.
Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise.
- Exhale completely through your mouth as though you are squeezing out the last bit of toothpaste from the tube.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose filling your abdomen and upper chest.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Do this at least 3 times a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep.
Savor your food.
- Divide your food in half. Eat half of what is on your plate and wait 5 minutes before you eat the other half. This will give your body an opportunity to feel full. Once finished, do not eat anymore food for at least 10 minutes.
- Lay down your eating utensil between bites and chew your food slowly. Try eating with chop sticks or the non-dominant hand
- Don’t dive in. When your food is brought to the table, look at your plate. Note the colors, textures and fragrance.
- Sensually savor the first bite of food. Chew it slowly and completely. Think about the flavor and texture. Observe how it feels in your mouth. Starting slowly will help set the pace for the entire meal.
Suggested resource to help you overcome your munching- ‘Mindless Eating, Why we Eat More Than We Think’ by Brian Wansink PhD and Coach Lydias No-Nonsense Guide to Getting Off Your Butt, Out of Your Rut and On with your Life by Lydia Martinez and Bonnie Church.