How To Stop Mindless Eating That is Sabotaging Your Recovery

pic 2One of my favorite websites is Authority Nutrition.  It reliably has interesting articles on important topics, and always includes all of the citations referencing the scientific support.  On May 9, 2016, they published an article entitled 13 Science-Baked Tips to Stop Mindless Eating.   There were lots of good, science-based, suggestions on how to modify bad eating habits.

According to Authority Nutrition, the average person makes more than 200 decisions about food each day.   I bet that people trying to give up a substance, like alcohol or drugs, probably make 2,000 decisions a day about food, given that it is quite common to substitute our attention on other substances in recovery.   I have no scientific basis for this statement, but it makes sense to me.   The article points out that we are only aware of a small number of these decisions.  The rest are made by our unconscious mind and are the primary reasons for “mindless” eating.   At Spiritual Adrenaline, we prioritize begin open-minded and willing to modify what we are eating and when to achieve our individual goals and to enhance, rather than undercut, our recovery.

I picked my favorites out of the full list of thirteen tips and highlight them below:

Use Visual Reminders: People tend to rely on external, rather than internal, cues to make decisions on when they are hungry and full.   For example, in one test, researchers had two test groups.  Both groups were given unlimited chicken wings to eat while watching the Superbowl.   The only difference was that while one group had the remains of the eaten wings taken away while the other group’s remains were allowed to pile up.  The group with all the bones remaining on their table ate 34% fewer chicken wings than the group that had the table cleared.   Following the evidence and conclusions of this and other studies, the message is to keep evidence of what you are eating in front of you so you cannot underestimate, consciously or subconsciously, the amount that you are actually eating.

Smaller Packaging Makes a Difference: Numerous studies prove this point.  For example, in one study, two test groups were each given cans of Pringle potato chips.  One group had a normal can of Pringles, the other had cans with every 7th or 14th chip dyed red.   The group with the red chips ate between 43-65% fewer chips than the group with the normal can of Pringles.    In another study, two groups were given M&M’s.  One group had a half-pound bag and the other had a one-pound bag.   The group given the larger bag ate substantially more than the group with the smaller bag.  Your take away is that portions matter.  Be very conscious of this and avoid super-size packaging and buying in bulk.

Decrease the Variety in Your Personal Menu:  According to studies in the article, people with more variety in their diets tend to eat 23% more than people who eat the same foods regularly.  This is due to what scientists call “sensory-specific satiety.”    By reducing variety, at least temporarily as you attempt to modify your nutrition, you will be enhancing the likelihood that you can reduce weight, lean out or achieve other goals.  My diet is modified every couple of months.    In between, I eat the same foods almost every day.  It makes it easier to reduce sensory-specific satiety, saves time shopping for food and makes food preparation more streamlined.  My diet is quite boring compared to most people’s.  But over time, I have adjusted and the diet allows me to accomplish my training goals much more easily.

Increase the Inconvenience: The more difficult it is to actually get the food, the less likely we are to eat it.   In a study, researchers had three control groups made up of secretaries.  The first had candy on their desk, the second had some in a drawer and the third had candy placed six feet away from their work station.   The secretaries ate an average of 9 candies a day when it was placed on their desks, 6 if it was in the drawer and only 4 if they had to walk to get the candy.    When I was trying to modify my diet, I made sure not to buy certain foods that would sabotage my goals.  Without the food in my apartment, I just did not eat it.  I absolutely refused to leave my apartment late night to go shopping, and over time, the urge went away.  I also used this trick to help quit smoking.   I would leave my cigarettes in the mailbox downstairs to avoid smoking in my apartment in the evenings and overnight. Based upon my personal experience, this tool works effectively.

Unplug While You Eat: Watching TV, listening to the radio, playing a computer game, texting or word processing while eating all increased the amount of food eaten by participants in numerous studies.   The studies showed that people watching TV ate 35% more pizza and 71% more macaroni and cheesethan folks solely eating these foods without being involved in any additional activities.  The studies also showed that the length of the show or movie mattered.   For example, study participants watching a 60-minute show ate 28% more popcorn than those watching a 30-minute show.

Choose Who You Eat With: Studies prove that when eating with one other person, we tend to eat 35% more than when we are eating alone.  Eating in large groups of seven or more further increases the amount we eat by 96%.    Notably, the numbers went up more when participants were tested eating with family and friends. That increase was attributed to the longer time spent eating with family or friends.   So the length of time that you are at the table matters.   The researchers recommended sitting next to slow eaters or people who normally eat less than you.   As much fellowship in twelve step communities revolves around diners, pizza, and often involves comfort foods, this suggestion is of particular import.

 

For the full article and list, visit: www.authoritynutrition.com/13-tips-to-stop-mindless-eating.  We would love your feedback on this and our other posts.   Email me at: tom@spiritualadrenaline.me.

 

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