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Posts Tagged ‘Mindless eating’

Under the Influence

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Stuff out there can make us crazy in here. What I mean is really a couple of questions. Why did you just eat 4 Lindt truffles from the glass bowl on your desk? Why did you buy a large popcorn at the movies just half an hour after dinner? Why did you serve yourself such a large bowl of ice cream? And here comes the guilt – see what I mean?  Stuff out there tempts us, crazy thoughts whirl.

Nutrition Action newsletter this month highlights my nutrition-undercover-hero, Brian Wansink. He’s at Cornell and he does some zany research projects. Mostly not to uncover cues that send us to overeating fast food or wolfing it down or even eating food that isn’t tasty but to CHANGE that. Over the course of the next few days, I’m uncovering these change tactics for you right here.

For today, the focus is on Brian’s statement, “It’s easier to change the environment than to change your mind.”  So many reasons for over eating:  I’m bored, sad, mad, glad, stressed, starving, phenomenal taste. Why then would we overeat if we’re not hungry?

Dr. Wansink gave very fresh popcorn to a group of moviegoers. He gave very stale popcorn to another group at the same theater. These people had just eaten dinner so were not hungry.  In essence, he gave them bad food when they weren’t hungry. Even so, people ate 34% more from the bigger bucket; 45% more from the larger bags. When asked if the size of their bucket influenced the overeating of stale popcorn, they replied, “No, how could it?”

Moral of the Story:  Your mind is made up – those external cues (buttery smell of popcorn) get you every time.  So……get the smallest popcorn.  Reduce portions at dinner – eat an appetizer instead of an entree paired with a salad.  Avoid alcohol during dinner – save your glass of wine for an after-movie dessert (alcohol reduces inhibitions and leads to the munchies). Change your environment!



Thinking big? Plate small!

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Overeating is not just an activity spurred by hunger.  According to researcher Brian Wansink, the size of our plates and serving utensils contribute to the bulge of our waistline.  Nutrition experts served themselves 31% more ice cream when they were given a larger bowl and 14.5% more when using a larger scoop.  You’d think nutrition experts would know better.

When food is in plain sight – and is physically closer to us – we eat nearly twice as much.

And family style dining, where all the pots and pans and bowls brimming with supper are on the table, eating seconds is almost a guarantee.  A group of folks decided to make environmental changes – those like serving food off the counter instead of the table, moving a candy dish further away, and using a smaller plate lost 1 1/2 pounds per month.  The comparative group who made diet-related changes only, like eating oatmeal for breakfast, GAINED 2.5 pounds per month. (more…)

Mindless Eating

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon. You need something sweet so you head to the donut shop and drool as you smack away in chocolate covered heaven.  Now, it’s 9:30pm, you’re in your 3rd hour of T.V.  After fighting this endlessly nagging voice to grab a bowl of ice cream – or cereal – or chips and dip, whatever it is that calls to you in the night – you just do it. 

Potato Chips

We all have our own personal motivations and incentives for holding on to mindless eating.  We deserve this donut.  We rationalize the ice cream before bed is because we ate less at dinner, so we have cause to eat more.  Even though deep down, we know it isn’t the healthiest or best choice for us physically and for our self-esteem, there is something about the process that we need.  There are some positives to us in mindless eating that we are very reluctant to lose. 

Simply put, it is ‘pleasure’ among a host of other emotions.  There is joy and contentment, even fun, in having ‘forbidden’ foods that taste yummy, tickle our tongues and please our palettes.  And often, mindless eating soothes our emotions – stress, anxiety, depression, sadness – when nothing else seems to.  We’re bored, angry, trying to be perfect (and losing that game), or in social situations.  Psychological as well as physiological needs surface when choosing foods at various times of the day, and even during varying times in our life. 

In order to stop mindless eating, it’s critical that we figure out why we do it; after all, we know it’s no good for us.  We need to understand the feelings we have that help us determine when and what to eat – we also need to develop a keen sense of what exactly is the function of our mindless eating and what we can substitute for it once we get that figured out!

One way to begin the conversion of mindless to mindful eating is to create a list of the good and not so good things about mindless eating.  In other words, the pro’s, or positive aspects of eating mindlessly as well as the con’s, or negative aspects.   Take a few moments and honestly think about what you would miss if you didn’t have mindless eating.  Make a list of the reasons you enjoy mindless eating.  An example could be, “Mindless eating helps me unwind after a long and stressful day.”  Or, “Mindless eating lets me eat foods that are no-no’s.”  A con might be, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing – I feel so fat,” or “I am so ashamed of myself for pigging out senselessly.” 

Reflect truthfully upon your answers – in yoga or meditation, or quiet reflection/journaling, or while taking a leisurely walk, and you might be surprised at the answers you find.  After this portion of the exercise, you may be in a better position to understand the cues your feelings give you – and begin to make some changes that leave you in a better state of mind.