Mindless, habitual eating becomes a pattern that is then set in the brain and very difficult to change unless you become aware of it and take conscious steps to interrupt it. You know the kind of eating I’m talking about – the snack you have trained your body to expect each night when you watch your favorite TV show. It could be a healthy snack or an unhealthy one – it doesn’t really matter. It has been repeated in the same way, at the same time and in the same place so often that it has now become a habit. It’s automatic. You do it without even thinking about it. You don’t even have to be hungry! – you are simply on cruise control doing what you always do at 8 pm or 3:30 or whenever –doing what you always do in that particular place at the usual time.
Once you begin a pattern of feeding your body a particular food every day, it not only expects it, it begins to demand it! Your physical body can be quite the tyrant. The interesting thing is, a study found that the quality of the food doesn’t matter much because you don’t really even taste it.
They gave people going into a movie theater popcorn. Some got freshly popped and others were given week-old, stale popcorn. The ones who habitually ate popcorn at the movies ate the same amount whether they got fresh or stale! People who didn’t usually have popcorn at the movies, however, ate much less of the stale popcorn. When they conducted the same experiment, only this time in a meeting room and not a theater, all the study participants ate less of the stale snack because they were not in the usual place where they expected to eat popcorn – no matter how it tasted! They were aware of what they were eating as opposed to just eating out of habit.
The researchers concluded that environment has the most powerful impact on habitual eating. In order to break a mindless eating habit, you first have to be aware of it. Once you realize that you have formed an eating habit, you must do something to break or interrupt that pattern. Sit in a different place; do that activity in a different room; eat with your other hand (if you’re right handed, eat with your left hand); change the timing.
Being mindful, especially when you are eating, is very important in order to eat for the right reason – to nourish and fuel your body.