30 June 2009

Mindful vs. Mindless Eating

This post will catch me up on my one per month promise. You may have noticed that the post I did last month didn't count because it was just a bunch of links.

Fitness Black Book blog did a nice post about mindless eating and some of the studies that have demonstrated how external cues indirectly cause people to eat more.

You may recall that I posted about mindful eating some time ago.

I will reiterate part of what I said then:

"Fourth, eat only when you are hungry. People eat for reasons besides sustenance. Sometimes there is an emotional attachment to eating in which food is used to medicate one’s psyche. This is a type of addiction. Other times people eat because it just tastes sooooo good or they simply don’t want to waste food. If you find yourself using food for emotional support or overeating at special events, try to find a way to stop that."

I was traveling last week, visiting some friends. I found myself eating and drinking because it-was-time-to-eat-and-we-were-at-a-nice-restaurant-with-good-wine. I wasn't hungry. I ate and drank a lot anyway. I gained a nice layer of subcutaneous fat over muscles that had previously been visible. Not just from one meal, but from a whole week of similar temptations and behaviors.

This is especially a problem at restaurants. They give big portions because they can charge more for them. Then perhaps you eat all of it because it's a hassle to take it home or you don't want to bother. Buffet restaurants are impossible for many people. Holiday celebrations can also be a time of overeating. Don't succumb to the pressure to eat everything, but listen to your hunger and and take your time eating. Hunger is driven by a number of factors including empty stomach, and cells not receiving sufficient nutrients. You can get past the empty stomach part, but if your cells are not receiving enough fuel to do their jobs, it will eventually override your "willpower."

So in thinking about all this, I had a realization. Most people are in a pattern of eating at certain times in the day. We wake up and eat breakfast, then around noon have lunch, then finally at 7 in the evening we have dinner. It is important socially to have meals with other people and especially family. We get our three square meals on a set schedule. But in doing so, we lose the sense of our natural rhythms. We eat when we're not hungry, and we eat what is put in front of us. When that happens, we find ourselves complaining about problems with portion control.

What To Do Then

The solutions are obvious but there are two prerequisites: a body that is hormonally able to burn its own fat as fuel (low insulin environment) and mindfulness about eating when you do not feel hungry. Eat very lightly so you can fulfill the social needs without blowing your diet, or if you foresee a big meal coming up, skip the one before it or after it to compensate.

The other thing to think about is to consider your bad week as a break from your diet. This is actually a good thing as pointed out by Lyle McDonald.

Link to the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink

1 comment:

  1. John Briffa just posted on Mindful Eating.