I love going to the movies; when we go we always get popcorn because movies without popcorn just aren’t the same. We usually get a tub of popcorn because it's the best deal, but the problem is that I practically end up eating the whole thing. I get some help from my children, but after a while they get tired of eating; instead I am so immersed in the movie that I just keep eating without even noticing. Popcorn once in a while is great, but eating without being hungry is not.
Mindless eating happens when we eat unconsciously driven by signals around us. Brian Wansink, the author of the book “Mindless Eating” explains that “We overeat because there are signals and cues around us that tell us to eat. It's simply not in our nature to pause after every bite and contemplate whether we're full." When we are busy, stressed, or paying attention to other things we tend to eat without thinking, not only consuming unneeded calories, but also making poor eating choices.
Mindless eating is also affected by marketing psychology; its objective is to sell and get us to eat more. Look at the advertising around us; we are bombarded with enticing photos of food that looks delicious making us immediately hungry and crave those foods. Have you ever driven by a billboard and immediately thought: “I want that” and there just happens to be a place to get that “need” right by the billboard? If we are not careful with our decisions and mindful when it comes to eating, we may end up making very poor choices. Keri Gans, author of “The Small Change Diet: 10 Steps to a Thinner, Healthier You” recommends that when feeling like eating something that may not be good for us, to keep in mind the five Ds: delay, determine, distract, distance and decide. Taking time to think if you are just craving something or if you are actually hungry helps the decision process so you won’t fall prey to advertising.
Since we are on the road often, we were getting used to eating in the car. We would pack up our lunch so we could be on the way to a class or an audition, but eating in the car is neither healthy nor safe. Not only that, but eating in a hurry is harmful to our digestive system. We forget that we don’t eat just to satisfy our hunger; we eat because we need food to nourish our body; this process requires time and focus in order to be done properly.
The digestive process begins even before we take the first bite. It starts in our minds as we think, see or smell food and the central nervous system releases acids and digestive enzymes to prepare the body. When we eat in a hurry or under stress, the necessary setting for good digestion is missing, which results in bloating, heartburn, and other stomach problems. Every step of the digestive process is important. Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung in the book “Savor” recommend: “Concentrate on what you are eating. See how it looks; let your eyes enjoy it, what it feels like in your mouth, what it tastes like. Chew consciously, savoring what you eat. As you become aware of what you are eating, you also become fully aware of the present moment. Living in the moment, you can really receive what the food offers you. “
Don’t you think it is unfair that it takes so long to prepare a nice meal only to end up eating it so fast? With some planning we can extend the pleasure of our meals, taking time to enjoy, savor, and share them with friends and family. These ideas may help you get started:
Give thanks: It is wonderful to be able to enjoy a delicious meal, so we need to appreciate it. A moment of silence will help you and your family make a shift in pace, to go from the rush of the day to a relaxing moment.
Create a beautiful meal: Making every meal beautiful doesn’t take extra work. Small details such as nice plates, candles, flowers, contrast of color on the table can make a difference.
Put your senses to work: Appreciate the textures, listen to the crunchy sound and enjoy the different tastes. Enjoy the delicious aromas that come from the kitchen. Do certain smells take you back to wonderful memories? Don’t you want to help create that for your children, if you have them, or for yourself?
Put away the distractions and make time to enjoy your meals. You will notice the physical benefits as well as the social and emotional ones. Eating mindfully is a great way to pause from a busy day, be thankful for what you have and gather energy to continue.