Have you ever eaten a full bag of chips and moments later regretted it? Or, even worse, not remember eating at all? Chances are, you have done this (I have too). Absent minded eating is a big problem for obesity related issues and are a constant struggle when you are trying to eat healthy or lose weight.
That’s why Life and Lemons was invented, to provide solutions to problems. So let’s get right into it and get rid of those unhealthy, mindless binges!
*Note: Everything in italics is a short sample of writing I did on the topic. If you are not interested, feel free to skip ahead to the actual content.
The commercial whirs to life on the screen. As if waking from a trance, you blink furiously, looking around the dark room. Even though you’d been awake the whole time, you still felt as though you were dragging your brain out of a mindless slumber.
Gazing around the room, you see the clock. Midnight. With a groan, you shift slightly… and hear the noise. The dreaded crumple of foil. A chip bag lies empty between your legs, the printed letters taunt you with the emblazoned words, “Party size!”
“Not again,” you say quietly to yourself. Throwing your hands up in exasperation, even your orange stained fingers remind you of the binge session you just had… and barely remember. Your stomach growls, still seeming to want even more food. Putting a self-conscious hand on your abdomen, you notice that the flab you’ve exercised so hard to get rid of the past few weeks has reappeared.
I have to sleep, you think, almost too tired to feel the nagging frustration. Grabbing the remote, you push a button and the TV turns off with a satisfying “click!”. You get up and take a step off the couch… only to hear the sickening crackle of wrappers against your bare feet. You don’t need to look down at them. You already feel enough shame as it is, and looking down at the pile would only make it worse.
Trudging through the house and up the stairs, you quietly enter your bedroom and shut the door slowly, a grimace on your face. In bed, you stare up at the ceiling, memorizing its texture and the exact shade. Every time you close your eyes a million thoughts come speeding through your mind like cars careening along a race track.
It seems easier to keep them open. There will be no sleep for me tonight, you think, accepting this with shame heavy in your heart. Stroking your grumbling stomach, you stare up at the ceiling, listening to the steady hum of trucks on the highway. This will be a long night.
Have you ever had a binge session like this? You just keep eating and eating mindlessly, barely tasting the food as you swallow it? Most likely, you have. And I have too. It usually comes when you are bored, or are doing an activity that doesn’t require your full attention, like watching television or Youtube. So how can we prevent those shameful binges, or stop them while they are happening?
Life and Lemons has some tips that will help! Without further ado, let’s get straight into the first hack.
Chopsticks are your best friend
Chopsticks are a great way to slow down your absent minded eating, and make it more difficult to eat an entire bag of chips (or an unnecessary amount of calories). Using chopsticks is not a natural feeling for most United States citizens and people that did not grow up using them.
This means that you have to actually focus on the food and direct all your attention to it instead of being distracted and eating too much of any unhealthy snack because of the extra effort required. Concentrating on taste and texture of food can be made easier through the use of chopsticks, not only stopping you from eating too much but also forcing you to savor the food and creating an overall more satisfying experience.
Also, a lot of times I like to use chopsticks to distract me. Why? Boredom is your worst enemy when it comes to absent minded eating. You simply grab a bunch of food, not because you are hungry, but because it will momentarily distract you and provide something for your body to do.
So instead of reaching for the refrigerator, instead reach for your chopsticks. Chewing or even sucking on the wood will keep your hands and body entertained, thus providing the same effect that eating chips or another snack would give.
Put your food in hard to reach places
How many times have you walked to the fridge or to the pantry and easily plucked food off the shelf? Then, right after you gulp that down, gotten up and grabbed the first easy-to-reach item? Most likely you have done this, and quite a bit.
The problem about storing food in easily accessible places is that getting food becomes just as mindless and distracted. If you can simply pluck snacks right off a shelf and shove them into your mouth, then your brain seems to go on auto-pilot.
While you think about other things, you may find yourself staring into the pantry moments later, never really having made the conscious decision to walk over there. Just as absentmindedly, you find yourself eating it and then repeating those two steps, over and over. Though you weren’t very hungry in the first place, were you?
Chances are you weren’t. But finding and retrieving the food is so effortless that if you are anything like me, your brain thinks, Why not go get some food? If it is there and I can get to it, why not eat it?
So the solution to this is to put some of your most frequent snacking items (things that you can easily pop into your mouth without preparation, like chips or cheese sticks) in an odd or hard-to-reach area. Then the next time you wander over to the pantry to grab some Doritos, you see them on the top shelf. You could grab a stool or strain to stand on your tiptoes… but now you’ve thought about it!
Once you re-awaken the brain with this new challenge, chances are it will turn off the auto-pilot. As a result of the break in habit, it will recognize that it does not actually need or desire to eat.
You’ve just avoided another one of the dreaded hours of cramming food into your mouth thoughtlessly, already on the path to more mindful and controlled eating habits. Now let’s say that you do grab that chip bag from the top shelf with difficulty. Then if you take your chopsticks and eat each one slowly, thoughtfully… well, at that point, you are simply unstoppable!
Chew your food more than necessary
Studies show that chewing your food for a longer amount of time can improve many aspects of your life. The increased breakdown of food through enzymes in saliva and mechanical breakdown by the teeth allows for easier digestion. Also, the mixing of the saliva in your mouth and the food allows for the the body to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients possible (Health).
Weight loss can also be a delightful benefit of chewing slowly. Women who ate their food at a slower pace ate less. However, they also felt fuller and more satisfied after eating than women who ate quicker (Health).
It can also help our problem. Chewing your food thoroughly can not only lead to those benefits, but it also means you have to eat snacks and meals slowly, fully processing each bite. Not only will you savor the texture and taste of the food, but you will also have to direct your attention to what you are eating and why, adding an element of thought and therefore eliminating absent minded eating.
Ding dong. The clock chimes softly. Midnight. You go to the pantry to grab that party size bag of chips, and look around in confusion only to spot them on the very top shelf. Remembering that article you saw and how you had put them up there, the bewilderment instantly fades away.
With a small smile, you slide over a stool and step up carefully, straining to reach it. Once you finally do, you are about to head straight for the couch to get back before the commercial.
But laying on the kitchen counter are a pair of slim wooden chopsticks. You pick them up, shoving the chips under your arm and walking over to the couch with your arms chock full.
The show starts, right on time. You rip open the bag and the excess air puffs out at you. Tediously positioning the chopsticks between your fingers, you capture a chip between them and raise it to your mouth…
And stop. A thought rose to the surface like a bubble drifting upward in the water. Instead of gulping it down, you chew, very slowly. Very carefully. Taking more than needed. It continues this way for about ten minutes. Yet you haven’t eaten much more than a handful of chips. Not hungry anymore, you return the bag to the highest shelf of the pantry. With a satisfied grin, you pump a fist in the air and strut back to the couch, sitting down with a plop.
At the end of the show, you trudge upstairs in exhaustion and slump into bed. This time you stare up at the ceiling, but your heart feels light with triumph. Sleep sweeps in swiftly and smoothly and you lie in bed asleep, a smile on your lips.