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What Causes Mindless Eating?

Nov 8, 2010

Learning what causes mindless eating is a good first step in changing your eating patterns. It is easy to be on automatic when it comes to food. You eat at set meal times, choose the same foods repeatedly, snack to feel better emotionally and/or eat your meals while engaged in other activities. These habits combine to create weight issues or health problems for some people.

Here are four causes of mindless eating:

1. Eating at Set Meal Times

The way your life is structured, you may be eating your meals at set hours. Maybe your job demands that you take your lunch break at noon each day. Or, you sit down to eat with your family at a set time each evening. It is common for people to eat at set times even if they do not feel hungry. One way to deal with this is to ask yourself when you sit down at each meal whether you are truly hungry. It is healthiest for your body and for weight management purposes to avoid eating if you are already full.

2. Eating while Doing Other Things

One of the common habits for many people is to eat while doing something else. You may eat dinner in front of the television every night. Or, maybe you eat your lunch while surfing the net. Eating as part of a social activity is also another way that mindless eating occurs. When your mind is on another activity, you may not be tuned into whether or not you’re overeating or if you are chewing your food enough.

3. Eating to Feel Happier

Another cause of mindless eating may be stress or depression. You may have comfort foods that you resort to when you are stressed out or feeling sad. Many people do not realize when they reach for potato chips or chocolate that they are indeed eating to feel better emotionally. Keeping a food journal is helpful because you may recognize patterns in your eating behavior. Do you always get the urge to eat before engaging in a particular task or going into a stressful weekly meeting?

4. Eating to Fill the Time

Eating when bored is another example of mindless eating. This can take place alone or when you call up a friend to go out for a meal or snacks even if you are not hungry. Anytime you eat when you are not hungry is an example of emotional eating. Food in these instances is fulfilling a purpose other than meeting your hunger and providing nourishment.

The best way to eliminate mindless eating is to ask yourself questions when you reach for snacks or sit down at a meal. Are you truly hungry? When you are in the middle of a meal, check in with yourself to gauge if you are already full. Tuning into your body’s needs, over time, will lead to establishing mindful eating patterns.

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