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How to break mindless eating habits

Fitness and nutrition · Jul 15, 2020

The word “mindfulness” has become infused into our vocabulary. We hear it from our doctors, psychologists, coaches, bosses, teachers and more. Time Magazine even dedicated an entire special edition issue to the topic of mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined as the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something and is often used as a therapeutic technique1.

Yet with such a focus on being mindful, many of us continue to be mindless when it comes to eating. If any of the following sound like you, it’s time to start being more mindful of your eating habits:

  • Having only 10 minutes at lunch to eat

  • Eating in the car

  • Eating a quick dinner before heading to extra-curricular activities

  • Working through the lunch hour

  • Eating while on an iPad or phone

  • Eating in front of the TV

Mindless eating can cause us to eat too quickly and to overeat because we can be unaware of what we are eating, how much we are eating and if we are actually still hungry as we are finishing our plate.

Knowledge is power when it comes to breaking unhealthy habits

As an example, the biggest “aha” moment for a young patient who was working with his TELUS Health Care Centres team to create a healthier lifestyle, was learning how many calories were in the “double-double” coffee he drank every day. As soon as he realized he was sipping down 318 calories, 20g of fat and 42g of refined sugar before breakfast, he chose to change his order to one with a fraction of the calories.

This one small change was the start of many small changes on the path towards weight loss and a healthier lifestyle for this patient.

Is mindful eating even possible when we all live such busy lives?

Yes. Mindful eating can be achieved in many simple ways including:

  • Understanding the nutritional value of the drinks and foods you choose

  • Avoiding eating in front of the TV or while on a device

  • Putting food on a plate or bowl instead of eating out of a box or bag

  • Eating more slowly

  • Asking yourself if you’re hungry when you’re eating or if you just want the food (emotional eating versus real hunger)

  • Mapping out places to pick up food while on the go that offer healthier choices

  • Using smaller plates/bowls/cutlery/cups to maintain portions

  • Avoiding multitasking while eating

The more you know and the more you plan, the more informed your dietary choices may be. If you are having trouble making mindful eating a reality, you’re not alone.

Contact our nutrition or mental health professionals for personalized support.

1 Moore, C. 2020. “What Is Mindfulness? Definition + Benefits (Incl. Psychology).”

Authored by:
Dr. Liann Meloff
Psychologist, TELUS Health Care Centres