Food for thought on ‘mindless eating’

If you struggle with mindless snacking, Tanja Shaw offers these five steps to help curb the habit.

  • May. 2, 2014 1:00 p.m.
Look at your food journal to ensure that you are providing your body with enough nutrition.

Look at your food journal to ensure that you are providing your body with enough nutrition.

Last week, while on a morning run, my running partner and I were talking about falling into bad eating habits.  Like many people, we both struggle with snacking.  I’m not talking about the healthy planned snack of half an apple and a handful of almonds.  I’m talking about the mindless and impulsive eating.   The late night rummage through the cupboards in search for something satisfying, or a few handfuls of cereal here and there, or a few bites of a leftover peanut butter and jam sandwich.  In my friend’s case, it was a handful of chocolate covered blueberries while making supper, followed by a few more handfuls while doing the dishes.  Throughout the evening there would be a few more ventures into the kitchen for more. Hungry?  No.  Bored?  Definitely.

The problem is not the type of food that was eaten; chocolate covered blueberries, peanut butter, or any food for that matter, can be part of a healthy diet.  The problem is the way they are consumed.  Here’s why.

We mentally think they ‘don’t count’ because it’s just a few here and there (a few blueberries, just a lick of the spoon, and so on).  So even though the mindless eating can add up to a meals’ worth of calories during the day, you won’t register that you consumed the food.

Mindless snacking does not satisfy the emotional need to enjoy food.  Food is more than fuel and nourishment; we are meant to enjoy food.  Most people get a lot of pleasure out of good food.  But popping a few candies while you stand at the cupboard or while your mind is preoccupied on something else is not satisfying.  You’ll just want more.

The tough part about mindless, impulsive snacking is that many people feel that they are unaware that they are doing it.  If you struggle with mindless snacking, follow these five steps to help curb the habit.

1. Keep a food journal.  Most people have heard this advice before; and many people decide they do not need to for their own ‘unique’ reason (I don’t have time, I’m not writing it down but I know what I’m eating and so on).  If you are already keeping one, great, keep going.  If you’ve kept one in the past you already understand the benefits.   If you want to improve your eating habits, start tracking. Save yourself time by committing to track your food right away instead of thinking you can do it in your head, realize that it doesn’t work, and then starting a journal weeks later.

Track what you eat, how much you eat, and how you are feeling.  A food journal is simply to provide a written account of what you eat.  It does not judge you or measure your self worth.   Do not ‘not write things down’ because you don’t want to record the handful of chocolate blueberries you ate.  Write it down, and write how you felt (bored, stressed, anxious, happy, etc.)

2. Look at your food journal to ensure that you are providing your body with enough nutrition.  The purpose or the food journal is to build awareness into your eating habits, and to ensure that you are eating enough during the day to fuel your body.  Sometimes, if you find yourself standing in front of the fridge after dinner, you may actually be hungry.  Look back at your food journal to see if you have eaten enough during the day to nourish your body.  Did you eat enough protein, fat and fibre?  Did you eat enough calories?  Did you wait ‘til 2pm to eat your first meal and now are trying to compensate?

What you ate earlier in the day will effect how you feel later on in the day.  A food journal can help determine if you are actually eating enough for your activity needs.

3. Alter your environment to give yourself the opportunity to stop and think.  When it comes to mindless and impulse eating, time is your friend.  Time to think critically can quash your many episodes of impulse eating.  To give yourself time, you will need to make your indulgences and somewhere that makes them somewhat inconvenient to access.  At work, simply putting the treats a few steps further away may be enough to deter mindless eating.  It is a lot easier to snack on cookies or salted peanuts when they are on your desk than if they are in another room.  At home, put treats in a top cupboard so that you need to get a step stool to access them.  Sealed containers, or bags with tight knots, can also work.  In my experience, the freezer doesn’t work too well.  Frozen treats are still tasty, and the freezer is so close to the fridge!

Having treats further away does not mean you cannot have them, it just means that you will have the opportunity to think about what you are doing before you have them.

4. Stop and Think.

Now that your treats are somewhat inconveniently stored, you have time to stop and think.  Ask two simple questions before indulging.

1. Do I really want it?

2. Is it worth the calories?

You may even want to write these questions on a note on your treats as a reminder.  If you answer no to either questions, stop and decide to pass on the treat.  If you truthfully answer yes to both questions, go to step 5.

5. Indulge and enjoy with gusto.

If you decide that you really do want it, and it is worth the calories, then go ahead and enjoy.  But enjoy with gusto.  Don’t waste the flavours and textures of your favourite treats by scarfing them down while watching TV or standing at the counter, or sneaking a few bites of dessert after everyone else has had some and you’re putting it away in the kitchen.  Portion out a serving, eat it slowly and enjoy every single bite.   Eat enough so that you feel satisfied, and then stop.   Do not feel guilty.  Do not feel like you’ve wrecked your diet.   Food is meant to be enjoyed- so enjoy it!

Tanja Shaw is the owner of Ascend Fitness Inc., a private training studio.  Tanja and her team of expert fitness professionals work to inspire and educate Chilliwack residents to make positive and power changes in their lives through physical fitness and sound nutrition.  For more fitness tips go to www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com.

Just Posted

Rohan arul-Pragasam, Chilliwack School District’s interim superintendent, has been appointed superintendent of schools effective June 15, 2021. (Chilliwack School District)
Interim position becomes permanent for Rohan Arul-pragasam at Chilliwack School District

Arul-pragasam said he was ‘humbled to continue as a steward’ in new role as superintendent of schools

PlanCultus was adopted in 2017 as a guiding document for Cultus Lake Park. (Cultus Lake Park Board)
More affordable housing options could be coming to Cultus Lake Park

Online survey opened on June 14 to gauge opinion on plaza redevelopment eyed for Village Centre

The Abbotsford International Airshow is back for 2021 with the ‘SkyDrive’ concept.
Abbotsford International Airshow returns for 2021 with ‘SkyDrive’

New format features a drive-in movie type experience, show set for Aug. 6 to 8

A young couple walks through the Othello Tunnels just outside of Hope. (Jessica Peters/Black Press)
Hope’s Othello Tunnels fully open to the public

Geological testing proved the area safe enough to open for the first time in more than a year

Raeya Evie Duncan was the 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital for the month of May. She is seen here with her parents Alysha Williams and Andrew Duncan on June 12, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Baby boom in Chilliwack as record number of infants born at CGH in May

‘COVID babies are coming out,’ says dad of 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital last month

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read