Mindless Eating: It’s The Easy Way Out


It should be hard to eat mindlessly shouldn’t it?

I mean, eating takes a bit of effort. You have to pick up the food with your fork, spoon, or fingers. You have to put it in your mouth. You have to chew.


That takes some effort – right?mindless eating

That takes some deliberateness – right?

Well, eating does take effort and you do have to be deliberate about chewing, but the act of eating is definitely easy enough to be mindless – if you are not careful.

My History with Mindless Eating

I know from personal experience that mindless eating is way too easy. I was a master at eating, and eating, and eating and paying little attention to how much, or even what, I was consuming.

In fact, I was a master at mindless eating during my high school years, my college years, and the first 10 years of my marriage. I guess in some ways I am still a master at it, because I still have to be aware of the foods I am eating and not fall into the mindless eating trap.

Here’s an example for you. I was famous for eating half a chip bag before I realized it was gone, finishing off all the candy in the children’s Christmas stockings, or eating large quantities of ice cream while watching television.

I always felt embarrassed when John would come home from work and say, “Hey, where are the Ritz crackers we just bought yesterday?” I would shrug, but I knew where they were. I had finished off the last sleeve and half while standing in the backyard watching one of the girls swing.

I ate watching television, folding laundry, or talking on the phone. I’d grab the food, begin eating, and before I knew it, a whole lot of it was gone. Sometimes I was surprised at how little was left. I’d feel guilty and tell myself, “I’m finished eating for the day. But by the time dinner came around, I was eating large quantities of food again without even tasting it.

The Surprise Factor

I was often surprised I ate so much each day. Eating takes effort, but mindless eating seems to take no effort at all. A dozen cookies could disappear and leave a pound on the scale in their place. I spent a lot of money replacing food that I shouldn’t have eaten in the first place and I constantly felt frustrated by how heavy I stayed, even while dieting.

You would think that I would have learned not to take the cracker box to the laundry room or couch, but I didn’t learn. I walked around with food, leaving little cookie or cracker crumbs much like Hansel and Gretel did.

When I dieted, which was frequently, I would read books that talked about mindless eating or listen to my Weight Watchers leader explain how to avoid mindless eating. I’d agree silently that mindless eating was bad, but promptly forget the words of wisdom before the evening was over.

So what changed for me?

I realized that I had to get a handle on all my bad habits, including mindless eating. Of course not having a bunch of junk in the house helped immensely – but what was even more beneficial was developing an awareness of my eating patterns.

Because after all – mindless eating is just that. Mindless. Not much awareness involved in mindless eating.

Here are five tips to help you overcome mindless eating:

1. Never eat directly from the box, ice cream container, chip bag, candy container. (Or just avoid those unhealthy choices all together!)

2. Place a measured portion on your plate to help train yourself to be satisfied with just one helping at a time.

3. Stay in the moment while you eat. Don’t get distracted by conversations, television programs, or other things.

4. Chew your food slowly and thoroughly.

5. Analyze how you did after each meal. Ask yourself how aware of your food intake you were and what you could have done differently. Ask yourself if you really tasted and enjoyed each bite.

It is very easy to mindlessly eat and takes an effort to be mindful about your food consumption. A handful of pretzels here or five or six Hershey kisses here can add up to serious calories day after day. I still watch myself for mindless eating patterns, because they are easy to have and difficult to break.

How do you do at mindless eating? What are some tricks you use to combat the tendency? Diane

Photo Credit: www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Master Isolated Images

8 thoughts on “Mindless Eating: It’s The Easy Way Out

  1. Kellie says:

    I’ve found that eating at the table and only at the table (or a table) and removing myself from the television, computer, my phone, etc. is the only way I can stay tuned in to eating.

    I have also discovered that if I pre-plan my meals for the day, I am less likely to step outside of that. I’m mindful before I start eating. If that makes sense.

    Great post, Diane! 🙂


  2. Leah (Goodnight, Cheese) says:

    Definitely agree with not eating from the box. The other thing that helps, for anyone who tracks their food, is to track the food before you eat it. I’m less likely to grab an extra handful of popcorn if I know that I’ve already written “2 cups” or whatever into my tracker. Maybe it forces me to remember that that extra handful would mean I need to add more calories/points/carbs/whatever to the entry, whereas it’s easy to forget that extra handful when you write it down after.

    My office has a candy bowl that’s filled with mini chocolates one or two times a day. If I was walking back from the bathroom and saw that it had just been filled, I would grab one without even thinking about it. For this situation, I had to just go cold turkey, and think “I never eat from the candy bowl because it’s never worth it – it’s always mindless and I never enjoy it and sometimes I forget about it two minutes later.”

  3. Janis says:

    I think that’s part of the problem with pre-prepared and processed food as well. It’s easier to make it mindless because there’s no chopping, cooking, sauteing or anything involved. Just rip open the bag and shovel. Almost the only kind of food you can eat mindlessly is junk food — cookies, chips, shelled nuts, little chocolates. Everything else involves some kind of significant preparation or cleanup afterwards.

    I remember making a related remark to my mom when we were skyping recently. We both love pistachio nuts, and I remarked that I would never buy a bag of them already shelled because it would be too easy to just dig in and grab a handful of them and shove it in. In the shells, you have to exert effort to eat each and every one of them, which is a nice bottleneck to keep a person from eating too many.

  4. Sandy says:

    I’ve noticed I mindlessly eat everytime I enter the living room. I guess its the idea of relaxing in front of the tv. IDK. I’ve just noticed I snack more when I’m in the living room or when I stay up very late. So I’ve tried to go to bed earlier, which doesn’t always work but when I’m watching tv, I’m struggling to stay out of the kitchen. Work in progess, I guess.

  5. Anne says:

    Great timing Diane. I lost so much weight and developed some bad habits again, mindless eating. Its prompted to put the brakes on quick smart and think about everything I put in my mouth.

  6. David says:

    I avoid unplanned eating/snacking by brushing my teeth when I’m done eating my planned meals for the day.

  7. Bob Flynn says:

    I find myself munching at work or watching television after dinner. The excuse at work is that I don’t want hypoglycemia to “kick in”, but I have no excuse after dinner except “my mouth wants more, even if my stomach doesn’t”. Thanks for the tips, Diane, I will definitely stop eating out of the carton/bag, and begin to ask myself if I have enjoyed every bite. But… how do you do that when you are distracted? For example, if you read while eating lunch, or are engaged in conversation with John and your (amazing) kids?

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