Have you ever caught yourself eating without really thinking about food? This is pointless eating.
Mindless eating is when you are disconnected from the experience of your food and your body, making it difficult for you to enjoy what you eat and to tune into your body to know when you are satisfied and full.
We’ve all done it before.
Maybe we eat while watching TV or graze food all afternoon.
We’re busy people so we won’t be 100 percent alert every time we eat, but the problem with eating uselessly is that it can lead to multiple undesirable outcomes. From binge eating to an excessively bloated sensation that leads to indigestion and even regret and guilt, senseless eating never helps us well.
In this article, we examine the most common reasons you might be mindless eating so that you can overcome them.
The 6 most common causes of mindless eating
Knowing exactly what is causing you to eat thoughtlessly will help you identify when this is happening and take steps to prevent it.
1. Eating for comfort
Food tastes good, so food makes us happy, doesn’t it? Well, unfortunately that can be a slippery slope.
The food is delicious and fun and that’s why it’s meant to be enjoyed! But what we don’t want to do is look at food as a comfort or a coping mechanism to deal with other parts of our lives that we don’t like.
Generally, when someone eats for convenience, they look for food to remove a previous feeling and replace it with joy.
For example, let’s say you feel extremely stressed after work. Maybe you can’t get rid of that anxious feeling entirely when you’re at home, so grab your favorite chocolate cake knowing that cake always tastes great and will help you forget about the stress you were experiencing.
This leads to pointless eating.
You don’t eat the cake because you just want to eat it, taste it all, and enjoy it as it is! Instead, you seek the cake for consolation, for an escape. This can also happen as a result of almost any heightened emotion – from sadness to anger to frustration.
2. Environmental information
Are there certain places you visit that evoke certain cravings?
One of the most common I hear about is the cinema. When you get to the cinema, do you want a bag of popcorn straight away? Or maybe it is your favorite candy?
Just wanting to enjoy some food now is nothing to be ashamed of! Eating should be both nutritious and enjoyable, that’s part of our philosophy here at Nutrition Stripped.
But this is where thoughtlessness comes into play when we want to have the food despite not being hungry. If we are completely full and simply eat because of an environmental stimulus, we cannot listen to our hunger and satiety signals to determine how much we eat and when. We just eat to eat.
This often leads to overeating, which leaves us feeling super satiated, full, and possibly some regret after eating more than we intended.
Another common example of environmental advice is often found in social eating situations. In many of these situations, there is often food on display for grazing, such as bowls of chips or a sausage board. This could simply make you want certain foods that you normally wouldn’t say are the most satisfying for you. It can also make you overdo yourself because you snap something every time you walk by or because it sits right in front of you all night.
Distractions are another common cause of pointless eating. Everything from scrolling Instagram to watching TV to working while eating distracts from your dining experience.
When you are distracted while eating, it becomes more difficult to be satisfied with what you eat because you don’t really pay attention to the taste and texture of the food.
Think about it – have you ever curled up on the couch watching Netflix with a large bowl of chips? Before you know it, you’ve been eating a lot more than you probably would have by sitting at the table and paying attention to what you are eating.
Now the important thing to know is that sometimes it’s perfectly okay to do that! Sometimes all we want to do is have a good Netflix night and some chips while we’re watching. But if this is part of your daily routine, you’ll want to work on replacing that habit.
4. Mindless eating as a result of peer pressure
Everyone has this friend or family member: “No, you really have to try that, it’s so good!”, “I know you said you didn’t want one, but please just take some with you!”.
Looks familiar to someone?
When we are not really hungry for food, or when we don’t really enjoy the food but eat it anyway, we eat thoughtlessly.
We eat again just to eat. We don’t think about how delicious the food tastes, how it feels or how it smells, we eat instead because someone told us to.
Well, this one is very similar to eating for convenience, but it’s more habit-oriented than anything else.
Our habits allow us to use autopilot when necessary so that we can complete day-to-day tasks with ease. That’s the great thing about habits! But what they also do is sometimes act unintentionally or thoughtlessly when around food.
For example, let’s say when you were growing up you always went to the kitchen when you finished your homework and played or did nothing special. You were bored! You got into the habit of rummaging around in the pantry and grabbing whatever was there.
Well, when you get bored, your brain can go to eat right away. A habit was formed.
Again, we do not eat because we are hungry and want to be mindful of the food, we eat to satisfy another need that unfortunately it cannot really fulfill.
6. Meal plans cause mindless eating
So often customers come to me with a specific meal plan that they need to adhere to.
You eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at a specific time each day. Why could you ask? Well because they thought they should.
What is happening here is that we are once again consciously ignoring our hunger and satiety signals. Instead of listening to the body and responding accordingly, we force the body to eat when we think we should. If we don’t see how our food is doing, we will eat again thoughtlessly.
How to Stop Eating Mindlessly
Now we know what causes pointless eating. So how do we stop?
Well, first we want to become aware of our individual triggers. Do you often look for food to comfort yourself? Give in to peer pressure? Stick to the meal plan? Or maybe influenced by boredom or your environment?
Once you understand what common causes you to eat thoughtlessly, you can actively work to break those habits and build more positive new ones. In our free guide, we share the simple yet effective tools you can use on your next meal to help you balance your food choices today, as well as the steps to maintain balanced eating habits for a lifetime.
Practice mindful eating
You can also learn to practice conscious eating. We teach this to all of our members and customers in order to achieve their individual goals. When you move away from mindless eating and into the world of mindful eating, you can take control of your life and wellness goals.
If you’d like to develop this skill but aren’t sure what the right next step would be for you, sign up for a free Discovery Call with one of our nutritionists! You will be able to discuss your weaknesses, goals, and aspirations to determine what you should do next.