How many times have you grabbed some Doritos, only to realize you finish the entire bag without even realizing it? How about binge-watching a show, and once the first episode is over, you notice a whole row of Oreos missing?
At one point or another, most of us will overeat, regardless if we feel hungry or not.
Why is that, and can we do something about it?
Here are some tips to help you stop mindless eating right on its tracks:
Get enough sleep.
No, seriously, you better get your ass to bed.
A 2010 study had subjects sleep for 8 hours a night and then 4 hours on the following night. When the participants woke up, they were told they could eat as much as they wanted.
Researchers found that on the night when participants were sleep restricted, they ate 22% more calories than on the night when they got the full 8 hours. Researchers also noticed that when sleep-restricted, patients ate for a longer period (4).
Try to relax.
In a study by Kistenmacher et al., psychological stress raised cortisol levels in all participants. It also resulted in 80% of “stress-eaters” to eat 41% more food (5).
Research has also found that overweight participants exposed to stressful situations wanted to eat more dessert-like foods than those of healthy weight. They also ate more carb and fat-rich foods compared to those of healthy weight exposed to the same stressful conditions (6).
Meditating is one of our favorite ways to deal with stress and anxiety. That or beating the crap out of a punching bag, lol.
Do NOT watch TV while eating.
In a recent study, people were split into two groups: group#1 ate macaroni and cheese, and group #2 ate pizza. On separate days, the groups alternated between watching TV and listening to music (7).
- Group #1 ate macaroni and cheese at a faster rate and for a longer time when watching TV compared to listening to music. That meant that group #1 ate 71% more calories while watching TV compared to listening to music.
- Group #2 paused for less time between finishing a pizza slice and getting another slice when watching TV compared to listening to music. That meant that group #2 ate 36% more calories while watching TV compared to listening to music.
Researchers concluded that eating while watching TV could cause people to overeat by changing their eating behavior and promoting external cues (eating until the show is over) over internal cues, like eating until you are full.
Get up and do something.
Raise your hand if you have eaten a whole box of Ritz crackers because you were bored, lol.
A three-part study by Moynihan et al. looked at how boredom influenced eating behavior (8):
In study #1, participants used a diary to record their moods for a week. The researchers found that when in a state of boredom, the participants eat more food than when they were not bored.
In study#2, 79 students completed a low versus high dull task. After the task, the students in the high-boring group wanted to eat more unhealthy foods compared to those in the low-boring group.
In study#3, 44 students watched either a sad or boring video. The participants were given a choice of snacks while watching the videos—those who watched the boring clip ate more unhealthy snacks than those who watched the sad video.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Put that sh*t away!
A 2012 study looked at how visibility and availability of foods affect how much we eat (9).
#1 The researchers tested availability by placing fruits and vegetables in a bowl near the participants or 2 meters away from where they sat.
#2 Visibility was tested by placing carrots in a black, closed container and apples in a clear, open container.
The participants ate more of the fruits and vegetables that were the closest to them. The participants also ate more apple slices compared to carrot cuts.
The researchers concluded that foods that are easily available lead to a higher intake of those foods.
In another study, researchers asked participants not to eat 2 hours before the research (10).
The researchers placed popcorn and apples, both closed and in distant proximity from the subjects. Participants could eat as much as they wanted.
In two conditions, the researchers put one food within an arm’s reach, while putting the other food 2 meters away.
While in the third condition, both foods were placed close to the participants.
The results show that participants rated popcorn higher regardless of distance. Yet, the volunteers ate more food that was closer to them.
That means that putting low-calorie foods nearby could reduce the number of calories you eat even when other, more preferable foods are available.
Most of the time, when we overeat, we aren’t even hungry to begin with. Mindless eating can derail your efforts to lose weight/ keep it off.
Follow these tips if you want to put an end to mindless eating and get your weight loss journey back on track.
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