Young woman mindlessly eating food while streaming video on smartphone.

Mindful vs. Mindless Eating

By Varsha R., Lifestyle Consultant

Do you ever find yourself eating in response to emotional stress? As the many worries of life flood your thoughts, you mindlessly reach into a bag of chips or candy dish, without paying attention to how much you’ve actually eaten?

What Is Mindless Eating?

Mindless eating is the absence of conscious awareness during meal and snack time. And it’s not limited to just stress eating, either. Maybe you’re attending a family party enjoying mom’s famous spaghetti and meatballs or snacking while streaming your favorite Netflix original. 

When our thoughts become distracted—whether for good or bad reasons—it can quickly blur our perceptions of the types of food we’re putting inside our bodies—and how much of it we’re eating.

What Is Mindful Eating?

Practicing mindfulness while eating is the act of creating a sense of awareness during meals and snack time. This is done on purpose and non judgmentally. 

Mindfulness also helps you stay focused on your internal and external reactions to sensations in the present moment. When you’re building such an awareness during meal and snack time, you’ll want to pay attention to: 

  • Your feelings
  • Your hunger level
  • The quantity of food being consumed
  • The way your body reacts to meal and snack choices

Practicing Mindful Snacking

Snacks are important mini meals that are meant to help sustain us throughout the day. They should also be balanced and contain both macronutrients, such as carbohydrates, protein and fats, and contain micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. 

Sometimes, though, we may have an occasional snack that doesn’t always fall under the category of balanced or nutritious. We may consume these snacks for enjoyment, during social events, or even over fun bonding time with the kids. When done in moderation, this often won’t have a significant impact—and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for having a tiny slip or cheat day once in a while. 

It’s when these slips become habits that we need to start practicing mindful snacking!

5 Effective Ways to Avoid Mindless Snacking

Snacks should be intentional, planned, and of course, healthy. Mindless snacking can have a negative impact on our daily routine, weight management, energy levels, and lifestyle.

Below, we’ve listed a few tips on how to stay mindful during snack time!

  1. Acknowledge the importance of snacks for a healthy daily routine.
  2. Set a specific snack time each day.
  3. Plan healthy snacks during meal prep to avoid overeating before meal time.
  4. Keep yourself occupied during screen time by doing physical activity, knitting, doing laundry, or enjoying a hot cup of tea.
  5. Control your portions, savor every bite, and enjoy your snacks.

Practicing Mindful Eating

Research has shown that poor weight management, mood swings, excessive bursts of hunger, and the development of chronic diseases can all result from continuous mindless eating. 

Do you feel in control of your eating habits, daily routine, or drink choices during cocktail hour? If you’ve answered “no” to any of the above, then practicing mindful eating can help you regain control of your meal and snack consumption throughout the day.

How to Stop Mindless Eating in 5 Steps

Below, we’ve listed a few tips on how to stay mindful during each meal!

Step 1: Identify Hunger vs. Thirst

Before you decide to eat, ask yourself if you are really hungry. Listen to your hunger cues and make sure your body is asking for food vs. water. We may sometimes mistake our body’s hydration cues for hunger, which can lead to over consumption. 

The salt contained in snacks like crackers, chips, or popcorn, for example, can make us feel like we want to eat more, when in reality, we just need water!

Step 2: Express Gratitude for Your Meals

When you sit down for a meal, try adding awareness to the present moment. Remember to enjoy and savor every bite and listen to your body’s external and internal reactions during consumption.

Step 3: Portion Out Your Meals

Avoid food waste and overeating by portioning out each meal. Meal prep is an important part of staying mindful, especially if you have a busy schedule and don’t have time to cook. This way, if you do get distracted by work, a friendly conversation, or running an errand, you know that when you clear the plate, you ate the right amount and didn’t overindulge.

Step 4: Choose Nutrient Density

Intentionally choose nutrient-dense foods to give your body the nutrients it needs to perform at its best. Ensure that you are getting a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grain, legumes, healthy fats and lean protein options. Avoid eating foods that contain empty calories—meaning they are high in saturated fats and low on nutritional benefits. 

Step 5: Stay Presence in the Moment

As we noted in step 2, try to build awareness of the present moment. But this time, think about why you are hungry, and what you are doing at that exact moment. Are you hungry because it’s lunch or snack time? Or are you feeling stressed with a new project at work or talking on the phone?

What are you doing at that exact moment and how are you feeling? Can you wait until you’re off the phone before you eat, so you can keep your attention focused on meal prep? Or if you are feeling stressed, do you have time to take a quick walk with a bottle of water to help clear your mind first?

This all goes back to trying to identify whether you are actually hungry or if you are eating in response to stress, boredom, or another external factor.

Reclaim Control of Meal & Snack Time with Livea

Practicing mindful awareness around meal and snack time—coupled with following 

recommended dietary behavior changes—can lead to better control of your daily routine, meal choices, weight management, and lifestyle changes.

Find the guidance you need to build healthy dietary behaviors from our

dedicated team of qualified registered dietitians and nutrition experts. Each member of our Livea team has a passion for helping individuals live their best life.

To get started with Livea and take back control of your eating habits and weight management, call us at 1-855-GoLivea (1-855-465-4832). We’re here to support you throughout your weight-loss journey and give you the tools you need to feel empowered.


References

[1] Warren, J. M., Smith, N., & Ashwell, M. (2017). A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutrition research reviews, 30(2), 272–283. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954422417000154

[2] Mindful eating. The Nutrition Source. (2020, September 18). Retrieved October 10, 2021, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/mindful-eating/

[3] Robinson, L. (2021, October 4). Mindful eating. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/diets/mindful-eating.htm#