Mindless Eating

You’d think that it would be difficult to just eat mindlessly without regard to what you are doing, but I know from personal experience that it is all too easy to eat and eat and eat without consciously paying attention to how much you are consuming.

Case in point: I was notorious for finishing off food from the bottom of chip bags, leftovers in the refrigerator and even the kid’s birthday and holiday candy. There were many occasions where John or my oldest daughter would say, “Where are the ______?” I’d exclaim that I had no idea when I was feeling particularly honest or just fudge the truth and say, “I threw them away because they were old.” Both would look at my skeptically, as even my 6 year old knew that the brownies I had just made the day before weren’t already old.

I also was terrible about sitting down to watch television or fold laundry with a bag or box of food in my lap. I’d rip open the box lid, uncrinkle the waxed paper surrounding the cookies or crackers and begin eating one after another. Sometimes I’d glance into the bag or box and be surprised by how little was left. Then I’d tell myself, “That’s it.” I’m done. But before I knew it, my hand would be back in the bag for more.

Time after time I was surprised that I had eaten so much food throughout the day. Mountains of cookies would disappear without a trace, except for chocolate crumbs on the carpet and another pound on the scale. I spent countless dollars trying to replace food that I shouldn’t have eaten and didn’t want John to find out about. If I realized I had eaten the two bags of sour cream ‘n onion potato chips, I’d load the kids into the car to buy two new bags before John got home so he wouldn’t think I was a pig.

You would think that I would have learned not to take the chip bag with me around the house, but no. I just carted the food with me, munching as I went, leaving crumbs like Hansel and Gretel.

When I tried good programs like Weight Watchers, the leaders talked about mindless eating. I’d nod my head in agreement with her wise words and then promptly forget them that evening before the television.

The time I finally lost weight was the time I got a good handle on the mindless eating. Sure, getting rid of the chips and not buying cookies helped – but what helped more was being aware of what I was doing. There were times when I would find myself munching on food without counting the cost. Instead of continuing to eat, I’d put the food away and remind myself I wasn’t hungry right then.

This time of year in particular, it is very easy to mindlessly eat. A handful of chips here or two or three pieces of candy there can add up to some serious calories when taken regularly over the whole season. I’m still wary of mindless eating, as it is such an easy habit to get into, and a difficult habit to break and keep broken.

How do you do at mindless eating? Is it harder this time of year?  Diane

22 thoughts on “Mindless Eating

  1. Miz says:

    it’s interesting (to me :)) that even in this time of year I dont revert back to mindless eating.
    That said I still end up with crap in my belly (can I say that?) that I dont really love in the name of (inlaw) frazzle.

    the only big difference is as Im chomping away on the 8 millionth handful of special!nut!mix! I am also chanting in my head: good lord Im a wee bit stressed 🙂

    not too different.
    but the foodinmouth does help me —PREVENT ME —- from t alking sometimes which is my goal 🙂

    ahh the holidays!

  2. Diane says:

    One very big reason so many enter into mindless eating is stress. Our bodies are designed for survival, and part of surviving is eating actual nourishing foods. Modern food manufacturing methods have taken previous nourishing substances and altered them into things that our taste buds say our food , but without the actual nutritional value, make out bodies starve. In response, because there is little nutritional value in what has been made to taste very good, our bodies demand we find real food to give real nutrition, and demand that we eat more . Mindless eating results. If we stop, go back to what is real nutrition ( something cavemen would be able to find, produce and eat), suddenly you would be getting actual food with real nutrients ( nature is not stupid), and the mindless eating/binge eating/emotional eating stops. Holidays or not.

  3. Karen says:

    I am horrible with it – especially when I am reading or watching TV. The only thing about this time of year that makes it worse are the all-day get-togethers with family where the food is sitting there for hours and hours and it is at hand to nibble.

  4. blackhuff says:

    Mindless eating – I remember doing this. I just wonder why did I do that? Was I bored? Or was it a habit?
    I am glad that these days I can say that this mindless eating is something of the past and these days I don’t do that anymore. When I sit in front of the TV and do get a craving, I either find something to do with my hands or I drink some water.

  5. Jody - Fit at 53 says:

    Diane, this is so many people’s prob….

    Like you, time & practice has helped me get past this. I eat consciously, know what I am eating, pay attention, measure it out.. & if I don’t, I know it & own it.. luckily that is not that often!

    Savor what you are eating at the time & slow down. Lots of times, people eat so fast & pay so little attention, even if it is a goodie that by the time they are done, they can’t even remember how good it was.. that ain’t good!

  6. Dr. J says:

    I will do this with popcorn! I plan for it, and stay within my daily calorie limits. It’s only plain air-popped popcorn so it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

  7. Jane says:

    You’re so right about stress being a factor in mindless eating. Mindless eating always rears its ugly head when I am in the midst of preparing a large meal for guests. Why? The food is there (I am usually preparing it), and I have to be in the house–in the kitchen specifically–so proximity is also a problem. This has been a habit of many years for me, and that’s why holidays are often the time when I get off track. This year I’m buying more prepared foods. I hope that helps.

  8. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    Yes, mindless eating is what got me in a lot of trouble, too. And I sometimes find myself eating mindlessly when I’m stressed. I think, unfortunately, a lot of people feel a lot of pressure and stress this time of year (it really shouldn’t be that way!). That’s why I think mindless eating can be more of a problem. Plus, it’s especially easy to end up eating quite a bit of food “without noticing it” at parties…

  9. jessey says:

    I found myself mindlessly eating on Saturday – the culprit was the big batch of homemade Chex Mix on the counter – but there was other grazing as well – part boredom, part holiday stress. So yesterday I forced myself to be conscious of my eating and to only eat my normal weekday foods and it really helped.

  10. Yum Yucky says:

    You post makes me realize that I’m much stronger and discipline than I was last year. Mindless munching was a big time issue. But now? Not so much. I feels so free to be more in control of my eating!

  11. Cilla says:

    I used to be a stress/angst/emotion-driven mindless eater. We have a snack box at work and some days I’d be surprised to find my wallet $10 lighter and see five chocolate wrappers in my office trashcan.

    But I’ve been very stubborn and disciplined since making the lifestyle change. The fact that I account for what I eat by counting calories probably helps a lot with conscious eating. I also don’t leave bowls of sweeties or munchies lying around. I have to be very careful of the buffet and snack tables at parties and functions this time of year.

  12. Taryl says:

    My trick to avoiding mindless eating is a simple one and usually works (except, on occasion, with things like licking the spoon while cooking) – I log my food before I enter the kitchen, so as soon a the food comes out of the cupboard I have a pre-chosen portion in mind. I don’t leave the kitchen with the bag or random items I haven’t already allowed myself.

    It’s not foolproof, but it works well enough often enough to keep me on track.

  13. 'Drea says:

    It’s definitely harder this time of year. I think Christmas is an even bigger issue than Thanksgiving because people are giving sweets as gifts. That’s in addition to the one day big feast. Yowza…

  14. Leah says:

    Mindless eating is definitely something I still struggle with. I’m not struggling with it any more this time of year than normal, which tells you that it’s always hard. *sigh*

  15. John says:

    I was hoping not to be back in the habit of mindless eating but I am…again. Funny how the day I come back here you cover one of my worst habits right now.

    It’s definitely harder for me this time of year. Spring to fall I can kill lots of hours with a round of golf. It’s hard to kill 4 free hours this time of year when you’re going to freeze your butt off….potentially 🙂

  16. Tami says:

    I usually do pretty good with this. I have rules about eating only when sitting down, only eating food out of a dish, not munching while I cook and so on. That helps me a lot!

  17. Sheri says:

    mindless eating….this was so me! I still catch myself doing this sometimes. I try to get a handle mentally on it and ask “why are you eating?” The answer back is usually because I want too!

    Thankfully I don’t do this that much, but when I do I feel so bad and guilt ridden. The good news is I can always start over the next day. 🙂

  18. Joan says:

    Like Sheri, “mindless eating”, especially while reading (usually junk food for the brain, like celeb mags or murder mysteries) is my favorite way of zoning out. I do it much less often than I used to, but I find it almost impossible to eradicate this behavior completely. I’ve tried telling myself that I could eat it if I owned it, but it is physically impossible for me to set pen to paper and write things down. I’m playing games with myself…

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