There are many ways to eat mindlessly. It's likely that you've been reading a lot about mindless eating this week in the news. Dr. Brian Wansink, a clever researcher at Cornell University, presented from his book Mindless Eating (2006) this week at the American Psycological Association convention. He has conducted many inventive and intriguing studies on the way we eat.
In my book, Eating Mindfully (2003) I outlined several different kinds of mindless eaters. See if any of these characteristics sound familiar:
A) I tend to eat when I'm nervous, stressed or bored.
B) I tend to overeat when I am with my friends or at parties.
C) I tend to eat whenever I see food, particularly if it smells or tastes good.
D) I tend to eat at the same time of the day whether I am hungry or not.
E) I'm too busy to eat, I squeeze it in between tasks or while I'm working.
F) I tend to automatically follow diet "rules" instead of thinking through whether I want it or not.
G) I tend to eat well at meals but have difficulty during the holidays.
H) I tend to eat well during the day but snack as soon as the sun goes down.
I) All of the above
MINDLESS EATING TYPES:
If the statement above describes you, you might be...
A) Mindless Emotional Eater: You eat in reaction to emotions, any kind of feelings. Good and bad feelings lead to munching.
B) Mindless Social Eater: You tend to overeat in social situations or perhaps you match your friend or spouse's eating bite for bite.
C) Mindless Pleasure Eater: You are very reactive to your senses. Eating is often triggered by the wonderful aroma of cookies baking or spying a dish of goodies instead of to reduce your hunger.
D) Routine Mindless Eater: You like structure. You follow meal times and sometimes just eat on autopilot.
E) Multitasking Mindless Eater: You tend to eat while you work, make dinner, drive or play. Sometimes you over or undereat because you are distracted and your attention is divided between eating and doing something else.
F) Mindless Eating Dieter: You struggle with cravings and feeling hungry. When you follow diet rules instead of mindfully listening to what your body wants and needs, sometimes you end up not eating enough. Or, you overeat after you give up battling your cravings.
G) Mindless Special Events Eater: You might eat well day-by-day but tend to overeat on holidays, birthdays, celebratory dinners and special occasions.
H) Mindless Night Eating: You often eat well from sun up to sunset but at night you struggle with getting the munchies. You might even get up in the middle of the night to snack.
I) All of the above: A little of all of these sound familiar.
There are many other kinds of mindless eating (see Eating Mindfully and Eat, Drink & Be Mindful). These are just a few examples.
The good news is that you can turn around these habits. Knowing what kind of mindless eater you are is the first step. This week I invite you to write down your "mindless eating habits." Notice I didn't say calories or portion sizes. Instead, begin by noticing the way you eat. You might be surprised at what you find. Sometimes it is simply tweaking one of the habits that keep you stuck. Other times, it can feel pretty difficult to alter these eating habits because they have become so ingrained.
Learn More: Webinar
On November 2nd, I will join with Dr. Brian Wansink to do a webinar through the American Dietetic Association (click here for details). So, if you want to learn more about mindless and mindful eating, tune in.
Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic specializing in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns, and mindfulness. She is the author of But I Deserve This Chocolate!: The Fifty Most Common Diet-Derailing Excuses and How to Outwit Them, 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, Eating Mindfully, Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful, and Mindful Eating 101 and is a Huffington Post and Psychology Today blogger. Her books have been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, O, the Oprah Magazine, Natural Health, Self Magazine and on the Dr. Oz TV show. Visit Albers online at http://www.eatingmindfully.com.