A Simple Tip to Take Control of Mindless Eating

By , SparkPeople Blogger

One of the 7 Secrets to a Strong Start is to focus on developing healthy habits, not losing weight. One habit that many people struggle with is mindless eating. The 10 Steps to Achieve a Healthy Lifestyle Mind Over Body plan can help you with tools to overcome emotional and mental attitudes about food. Before you begin adding those tools to your healthy eating toolbox, begin using this simple tip as you make food and snack choices each day.

You may not even be aware that you are a victim of mindless eating. See if any of these sound familiar.

You may be a mindless eater if you frequently:

  • Eat from a box or bag while working at your computer, watching TV or a movie

  • Graze on snacks all day long

  • Give in to cravings especially for sweet and salty things

  • Grab something to eat or drink when you are feeling sad, stressed, angry, lonely or bored
To begin taking control of mindless eating, use this simple tip. Before you eat or drink anything, stop and ask yourself why you have selected it to eat. Are you hungry or thirsty? Are you feeling stressed or emotional? Are you responding to old habits that need to be changed? If you are making a choice to eat because you have identified true hunger and a need for food, move forward with your selection. If you are eating in response to a craving, perhaps you want to try a distraction technique to help you make a healthier choice. If you find you are reaching for food as an emotional response, take the opportunity to try a technique that turns off your emotions without food. Old habits don't have to be hard to break and using the simple tip of stopping to think before you eat is the first step toward establishing new ones.

The Bottom Line

One of the keys to winning at weight loss is developing healthy eating habits. One of the first ways to move in the right direction toward those healthy habits is learning to make conscious choices about what you eat and drink. Thinking before you eat will help keep mindless eating to a minimum. It will also allow you to begin recognizing your thoughts and feelings about food and help you recognize the ways you are using it in response to hunger, cravings and emotions.

Take a few moments to list some of your mindless eating triggers. Will you be on the lookout for these as you begin thinking before you eat?

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I agree i mindlessly at often thought out the day. goal today is drink something when i want to eat something. remind my self i can do it . just have to believe in my self . Report
I liked this blog - it's so true. It's when I'm bored that I start eating so I try to keep my hands busy doing crossword or soduko puzzles. Sometimes after doing them a few minutes I realize I wasn't really hungry. Just a habit to eat when bored. http://kissmangalist.com Report
Mindless eating is one of my bad habits. I can see that I need to create the habit of questioning everything I'm about to eat, including planned meals and snacks. Especially planned meals and snacks. Report
I really struggle with mindless eating and I have to make an effort every day to stop what I am doing when I eat and focus on what I am eating. Report
When I crave a snack, I tell myself first "remember, you're counting calories". Then I walk to the fridge and pick a healthy snack that fits my daily intake like jello with fruit, an apple or orange, special K cereal dry or soy nuts.... Report
After several days of mindless and emotional eating, this blog came at a great time. I am using the technique now (stop - think - ask why and what) to bring my healthier eating habits back to the forefront. Thank you! Report
This article is awesome. When we shop I try to choose good veggies for munching and while preparing dinner, I chop them into bite size pieces and place them in a covered dish in the fridge. When those munchie feelings hit, and kniting just won't keep my mind off food, I grab that bowl. This week cauliflower jumped to $4 a head. Yikes!! {but it goes a long way to filling my tummy and lots of good fiber.} Anybody have an easy recipe for a healthy, low cal veggie dip? Report
Eat from a box or bag while working at your computer, watching TV or a movie - GUILTY!
Graze on snacks all day long - GUILTY!
Give in to cravings especially for sweet and salty things - GUILTY!
Grab something to eat or drink when you are feeling sad, stressed, angry, lonely or bored - GUILTY!!!
I am definitely a mindless eater and I know it! I'll try to use this trick from now on!
Very good article that hit the nail on the head for me. I am a grazer,which fits me good sometimes, but sometimes the mindless eating comes over me and I gorge. I do alot of stress eating as well, the comments are very helpful. Hope I can put all this good info into practice. Thanks. Report
I loved this article because I am truley a mindless eater. No specific time. really bad in the evenings after cleaning the kitchen, now to overcome overeating in the evening I grab a snack go upstairs get on the spark page. Now I need help with the other parts of the day. Thanks for the article Report
I like to relax at the end of the day watching tv, usually old start trek episodes. tv and food just always go together in my mind. i try to eat healthier choices when i do, like apples, oranges or green peppers. Report
Mindless eating at night is my downfall! Mindless eating is the most difficult habit to overcome! At least for me! I put a serving of dry roasted almonds in small snack bags and when I REALLY want a snack, I grab one of those. Takes me a while to chew them so I'm not wanting anything else after I eat that little bag of them!
I mainly snack at night out of boredom so I'm getting into a habit of keeping my hands occupied and also working on not eating snacks (or anything!) after 8 p.m!
Mindless eating is a real issue. Report
You truly make it appear so easy with your presentation but I find this particular topic to be really something ...
I am a grazer and tend to "snack" instead of sitting and eating a meal. I have been planning my meals for the day and portioning out exactly what my days calories are so that I know what I have and limit myself to that and nothing more. It has helped me become much more disciplined and I am also drinking more water as a result!!!!! Report
I have lived my life as a "mindless eater" and I continue to battle that area of my lifestyle change journey. My triggers include boredom and fatigue. But, also, loneliness - which I am an older (58 in Feb) woman whose husband works nights at times and I hate being in the house alone at night. I get bored-lonely and I'm fatigued all at once. I do keep good "munchies" on hand that seem to satisfy the cravings and often plan my calories to allow such on those days. Almonds are a great treat as well as the little 100 calorie bags of kettle popcorn are great standby's for me. Thanks for a great blog.! Report
Thank you for reminding me to find a distraction to replace giving into cravings. Not sure what it should be-maybe something healthier to appease the craving? I've tried going for a walk or doing something around the house, but then I still want what I was craving! If it's truly hunger, then something healthy will taste just as good as whatever I was craving, right? Report
This is something I think a lot of people struggle with including myself. I tend to eat in the evenings out of boredom. Some things I'm started doing to avoid giving in to those bad habbits is drinking water, brushing my teeth, doing some excersises while I'm watching tv to keep my mind distracted, sometimes I'll even turn all the lights off (as if the kitchen is closed for the night) and go upstairs to remove myself from the convenience of having the kitchen so close. Report
I really like the "bowl full of green beans" suggestion from ANN520....that is so true!! And since she has had such great success, I'm gonna try that! Report
I'm so bad at mindless eating, can't seem to stop eating in front of the TV. I eat when I'm bored. I think this is why I can't lose weight even though I eat healthy snacks. I need to find something to do with my hands while watching TV, maybe I'll learn how to knit. Report
Great reminder!! Report
I was always a mindless eater, and still eat like that sometimes then feel really guilty but now i have changed my habits to more of healthy ones!! Report
My emotional triggers for mindless eating are resentment/anger, feeling powerless, feeling shame, feeling lonely, feeling anxious. My "situational" triggers are being tired, overwhelmed and over-scheduled, bored, confused by decisions, being at home for the night by myself. Meal planning, routines, having healthy food only in the house (and taking time to think in advance of what would be good and easy to fix on an impulse) are ways to stay conscious and mindful. Of course, I must be willing to use all of these tools and insights! Report
My weight went up due to evening snacking and not exercising enough. Pretty simple formula. Good reminder of what I need to do to succeed. Report
I eat for almost all the given reasons here.. the worst being midnight snacking.. lose control at sight of snacks.. but its good to know I am not the only one fighting this problem.. and I am determined to come over this problem in this year. Report
I think you know where my problem lies. I am a mindless eater. I think I know what I need to do now. Thanks for the assistance. Report
Good article, I usually eat out of boredom or pain. But I just love food. Report
that is the name of the game, change your lifestyle! Report
Good to see I am not alone! I eat for many different reasons, but night time snacking is my worst habit! In fact I only found this article right now because I am trying to keep myself from raiding the pantry. Report
I just discovered in the past few months that I eat when I'm in pain. I know I'm an emotional eater, and I've been working hard to break the cycle. I thought I knew all my triggers but I guess pain either slipped through or is new. I need to watch it for sure! Report
I am a mindless eater especially after dinner so now I clean my teeth as soon as i have eaten dinner. Nothing tastes good with that minty freshness in your mouth!! Report
I like this article. I tend to eat when I am upset. Report
Boredom-induced eating is something which seems to get me pretty easily. I'm trying to curb it by focusing on eating whole, wholesome foods which fill me up, and when I truly DO want a snack, will reach for something like fresh fruit or veggies. If I want to eat, but don't want an apple or orange or whatever, i'm probably not really hungry! Report
always drink water before taking a bite..... usually what we think is hunger is really thirst. Report
Mindless eating is what got me in the shape I am in. Too much tasting while cooking was my biggest down fall. I am mindful now of what I toss in my mouth. Report
Great Information! Boredom can be one of my triggers. Being home alone. Watcing TV. Not having what I need to eat around. Mindless is the correct word too. Thanks for sharing! Report
Great blog. Thank you! I also read Step 1 of Mindless Eating and going to focus on it for the next few days before I go on to Step 2. I definitely mindless eat, emotionally eat and just eat. I have a lot to learn about myself. Report
Great topic -- it's super important to keep in mind and simple in concept, but sometimes difficult to consider. Will keep in the back of my mind. Report
This is a great article and topic. It's also one of my hardest things to overcome. Recognising when it's really hunger versus "I want chips now" is a challenge. I am really focusing on drinking water and will be stopping myself going forward. Thanks for the links and information. Report
The thing I find most useful is to slow down my thinking. I tell myself I can eat whatever I want - I'm not going to ban food groups. But the rule is from wanting to eat it to actually eating it I have to wait at least 20 minutes. And in that time I think about my healthy goals, the healthy snack alternatives I have planned and available, whether it might be thirst instead of hunger, and how much I actually want to eat that food.

When I observe this rule I mostly choose not to eat unhealthy food. On the occasions that I do its OK because its an appropriate treat - the thinking time also gives me chance to think about portion control.

I used to be a really, really bad mindless eater. Report
I've learned to stop and ask myself a simple question: "How badly do you want it?" "It" not being whatever food I'm craving, but rather, reaching my goals and maintaining good health. How badly do I want it? More than any snack, that's for sure. This usually works for me! Report
Mindless eating. It is like I have completely stopped thinking. I go for the nuts, I can see myself taking the action, but there is no thinking involved. I eat, I eat again, and only then do I come to enough to ask myself what the heck I'm doing. Or I go straight to berating myself. Or I don't realize what I've done until later. Its that mindless. Only now, I enter it into my food tracker, that way I am taking some accountability. Report
I was so happy that I found The 10 Steps to Achieve a Healthy Lifestyle Mind Over Body plan early on in the SP journey. They helped me to get the power over food rather than it having power over me. Luckily it was summer and I was home during the days so instead of giving into cravings/urges for food I want for a walk. In the evenings I grabbed a piece of gum or even brushed my teeth again. Now I find I almost rarely get the cravings. VICTORY! Report
This article is a excellent reference for me especially focusing on building healthy habits and not focus Report
I too am a mindless eater, only less so these days. I have taken some of the control back. It's definitely a process that you have to go through to get there but I am winning, most days anyway. I stop and think much more often now than I used to and I try to figure out if I am just thirsty instead of hungry. I never realized before that it could be thirst!! I still grab things I shouldn't and sometimes I will save all my calories for that special 'something' I want to eat (like my homemade chili) but all in all I am doing much better in my eating habits! I loved this blog post and will definitely check out the links in it that will help me further on my journey to a healthier thinner me! :) Report
I don't suffer from mindless eating because I like to enjoy my food too much! lol I have definitely eaten more than I should have, but never without thinking about it.

But this is a great article for those who have this problem! Report
i definetly fall into the "mindless eating" trap when i am bored.. thankfully i have come to realize this and now instead of grabbing that snack i always ask myself - am i really hungry or not? Report
I liked this blog - it's so true. It's when I'm bored that I start eating so I try to keep my hands busy doing crossword or soduko puzzles. Sometimes after doing them a few minutes I realize I wasn't really hungry. Just a habit to eat when bored. Report
I think all my eating is mindless. After a whopping 3 days on the SPARK journey I can say that planning meals and having the right foods in the house (AND THE WRONG ONES GONE OR HIDDEN) even if it's mindless it's a better food choice. A handful of almonds versus deep fried salty snacks, nachos etc. Another thing I have learned on my many many food journies, if you feel hungry drink water... you may actually be thirsty. Report
Great blog, mindless eating is such an easy trap to get into Report