NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Distracted Eating and Other Ways We Sabotage Ourselves

Distracted Eating and Other Ways We Sabotage Ourselves 3/9/18What is it called when we are eating just to be eating; when we are physically or emotionally unaware of what and why we are eating?  That would be “mindless eating.” 

We wonder how that extra 10, 20, or 40 pounds found its way to our waistline.  The culprit may be the creeping calories we consume when mindless eating consumes us.  The bottom line is that we overeat. 

The reasons why we overeat are endless.  Sometimes it is as simple as someone brought doughnuts to work.  Or we made treats for the kids and left them sitting out where they are a temptation for us.  Both of these are examples of the “see food” diet:  we see the food, and it is easy or convenient to help ourselves to it, so we do.

Another reason we overeat is because we tend to fill our plates.  When we use a large dinner plate rather than a smaller luncheon-size plate, we end up eating more food because the larger plate holds more food. 

When food is accessible to us while we are busy or occupied by a task or activity, we are more susceptible to distracted eating, which is another pathway to overeating.

Often times we connect or associate food with events or circumstances.  For example, someone says Thanksgiving, we think turkey; someone says birthday, we think cake.  Other go-togethers could be breakup and chocolate; movie and popcorn; friends night out and pizza and beer. 

No one goes to bed skinny and wakes up overweight or obese.  The creeping calories make the weight gain process easy, gradual, and virtually unnoticeable.  Just ten calories a day (3 jelly beans) can change our weight by one pound in one year’s time.  Ten extra calories per day can result in a gain of one pound in a year.  On the flip-side, ten fewer calories per day can result in a loss of one pound in a year. 

In addition to “mindless” eating, Brian Wansink, Professor and Director of Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, has identified four food habits that contribute to overeating:  food as comfort, food as reward, food as punishment, and food as guilt.

Food as comfort is linked to the foods we associate with nostalgic, sentimental feelings, often from our childhood.  Mighty hard to resist them, just because they are so comforting!

Food as reward happens when we celebrate an achievement or accomplishment with a food event.  Doing so, we may develop an emotional attachment to food because it is associated with our success.  This may cause us to disregard our “not hungry” feelings in favor of the celebration.

Food as punishment can be linked to the “clean plate club,” where privileges (leaving the table or TV time) are withheld until all the food on the plate is eaten.

Food as guilt can also somewhat associated with the “clean plate club.”  Due to our not wanting to waste food, we eat it and it goes to our waist.

Before sending people out on a search and rescue mission, the crew leader says, “Let’s be careful out there.”  Similarly, we can say to ourselves, “Be mindful out there.” 

Adapted from:  Mindful: Mindless Eating, NDSU Extension

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/people-girl-woman-sitting-eating-2585648/ (downloaded 3/13/18)

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