Whether you’re at your computer chomping on a bag of pretzels or watching television shoveling spoonful after spoonful of ice cream into your mouth, mindless munching is one surefire way to pack on the pounds. In fact, just mindlessly eating 100 calories a day, the equivalent of a large apple or a palmful of almonds, can lead to gaining up to 10 pounds in a year.
To prevent this mindless eating weight gain, put into practice these five ways to beat unintentional extra calories.
1. Never get too hungry. The more powerful your stomach growls, the more likely you are to ravenously consume a surge of calories before your body and brain can register that you’ve had enough. Therefore, aim to eat every three to four hours with meals and snacks comprised of healthy carbs, good fats and a lean protein.
2. Eat with your stomach, not with your eyes. Our eyes can be truly deceiving when it comes to monitoring how much we feel like we should eat and how much we actually need to it. Portion sizes have increased in size over the years, just like our waistlines. To avoid this, check in with yourself every five minutes during a meal. Set your fork down and take a 30 seconds to determine if you are still hungry or if you’ve had enough. Aim to eat until your 80 percent full – any more will make you feel stuffed and any less will make you feel deprived.
3. Eat only when you’re hungry. Food is much more than just a biological need; it is tied to a host of complex emotional and social patterns that can lead to eating for the wrong reasons. While food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, eating to numb out the pain of a stressful day at work or a bad break-up can result in much more than just a tight pair of jeans. It can lead to an unhealthy relationship to food. To prevent this downward cycle, ask yourself if you are truly hungry the next time you are about to mindlessly reach for something. Let hunger determine when and how much you eat, rather than your mood.
4. Know your trigger foods. We all have them – those foods that we can’t just seem to eat one of and be satisfied. Break this pattern and commit to keeping your trigger foods out of your grocery cart and out of your house. If they happen to show up, say at an office party, separate yourself from the trigger food. Distract yourself with a conversation or head into another room until you no longer feel tempted.
5. Eat in the right environment. Televisions, computers, and phone calls all have their time and place in our busy days, just not at mealtimes. Most mindless eating is done because we are distracted by something else, whether it’s our favorite show or favorite online retail store. Instead, make meal times quiet and sacred. Turn off all media appliances and just focus on the taste of your food. This will then allow you to check in with yourself so that you can stop when you’re satisfied.
Start out by taking on one or two of these strategies and gradually incorporate more of them into your eating routine. You’ll soon feel, see and taste the difference.