5 ways to stop mindless eating

5 ways to stop mindless eating

Busy schedules filled with school work, meetings, taking kids to different activities and dashing to appointments leave many with little time to actually sit down and eat.

While eating on the run may seem like the only option, this habit may be hurting your health, according to research published in the Journal of Health Psychology.  Eating “on the go” could lead to weight gain and obesity in people who are dieting.

“The study backs up the fact that mindless eating can lead to weight gain, which has been something we’ve known for years,” says Dr. Jennifer DeBruler, medical director for Advocate Medical Management at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “We need to allow our body to process the food we’ve eaten and send the signals to our brain centers that makes us feel full.”

Approximately 60 adult women who were either dieters or non-dieters were randomly placed into three separate groups and assigned different ways to eat a cereal bar. One group watched a  five-minute TV clip while eating, another group walked along a corridor while eating, and the third group ate while having a conversation with a friend.

After eating the cereal bar, the participants completed a brief questionnaire and an unsupervised taste test in which they were told to “eat as much as you like” of the chocolates, carrot sticks, chips and grapes.

The results found that dieters who ate their cereal bar while walking ate five times more chocolate than the other study participants.

“This may be because walking is a powerful form of distraction which disrupts our ability to process the impact eating has on our hunger,” lead study author Jane Ogden said in a news release. “Or it may be because walking, even just around a corridor, can be regarded as a form of exercise which justifies overeating later on as a form of reward.”

The findings support the idea that higher levels of dietary restraint could make people more susceptible to the effects of distraction.

Rosemary Mueller, a registered dietitian with Advocate Weight Management in Libertyville and Park Ridge, offers tips to help prevent “mindless eating:”

  1. Plan out your food intake each day
  2. Consciously try to choose enjoyable and nutritious food
  3. Pack snacks in containers that limit how much you eat
  4. Recognize and honor the physical feeling of fullness/satisfaction
  5. Make a list of what you need to buy at the store each week

“If we don’t take the time to slow down and pay attention, we may try to duplicate the eating experience again later,” says Mueller. “The temptation is to think that ‘what we eat on the run does not really count,’ but I tell my patients that food has two purposes – nutrition and pleasure. Being present and aware of eating contributes to that pleasure principle.”

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.