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Avoiding Mindless Eating Traps

By Jessica Charbonneau, LCSW


If you have mindless eating habits, they are going to remain exactly the same unless you become aware of them.  Only once they are in our consciousness can we start to think of creative ways to change them.

To make our hectic over stimulated lives simpler our minds often take advantage of any and all shortcuts.  For example, have you ever noticed, when looking for silverware, your hand will automatically gravitate towards the silverware draw.  If you rearrange your kitchen, your hand will still travel automatically to the old location until new shortcuts are formed in your brain.  Our brains make connections between events and we have to work hard to break old connections to form new ones.  Similarly, if we practice mindless eating in certain places, our brains are likely to subconsciously remember this and we may find ourselves eating out of habit instead of hunger.  Mindless eating is more likely to occur in the same place, over and over again.  Routines can feel safe and secure but we need to break out of routines and engage in new behaviors both before and after meals.

Here are some suggestions for how to avoid common mindless eating traps: 

  1. Never eat in front of the television, computer screen, behind the wheel of a vehicle or while talking on the phone.  These are some of the most notorious locations for mindless eating. 
  2. Try creating a mindful eating haven in your home, somewhere away from the refrigerator, phone, television and other distractions.  Remove any clutter that could distract you.  Even objects like phones and clocks should ideally be moved elsewhere.  Light a candle.  Use your good china or table linen. 
  3. Before you begin eating, put all the food you plan to eat out on the table so you will not have to return to the kitchen or get up in the middle of your meal. 
  4. Learn to relax and breathe between each bite.  Begin your meal with a pause and end your meal with a pause.  Slow down and enjoy your meals in a mindful way.
  5. Pay attention to what situations tend to act as cues that entice you to eat without thoughtfulness. 
  6. Identify the places where you are more likely to eat mindlessly.
  7. Do you follow the same routines after meals?  Do you leave dinner and immediately turn on the television?  Try taking a walk or reading a book.  Challenge yourself to break out of these behavior patterns. 

Most importantly, have compassion for yourself!  Some of these habits have been present in our lives for a long time.  It is hard work to break old connections and to make new ones.  Nobody is perfect. Take each day as a new opportunity to avoid mindless eating traps.