Weight loss is often portrayed as something simple - cut down on calories, carbs, or fat in your diet, get more exercise, and wait for the weight to fall off. But of course, things are rarely that simple - and for women from 18 to 80 and beyond, there are challenges and temptations everywhere.
One of the biggest challenges you might face when trying to drop extra pounds is the danger of mindless eating, which can undo all the excellent work you are doing at mealtimes and in the gym.
What is mindless eating?
We've all heard of the importance of "mindfulness" - a concept that makes great importance of the need to think our actions through, consider the implications and look at how they affect the bigger picture.
Mindlessness would be the opposite of that. Mindless eating, in turn, is when we eat without really thinking about the consequences. When you are generally holding fast to a diet and eating plan, mindless eating can most easily happen when you eat outside of mealtimes.
Perhaps it's a few stray chunks of cheese while you're making a lasagne for dinner or an extra pig in a blanket at a potluck lunch. Most often, the key is that you're not thinking. You're distracted and outside the zone where you would typically focus with absolute iron will on your intake. And it can be seriously damaging to your efforts to lose weight.
How does mindless eating affect weight loss?
The harm that mindless eating does to a fat loss plan is that it essentially dumps the program. When a schedule has been calculated with calorie deficits in mind, and you add surplus calories to the equation, it is simple science to point out that a snacking habit will impact weight loss.
Depending on how many calories are gained through mindless eating, it can lead to weight gain, or not being lost - or less weight being lost than you would wish.
4 Ways to Eliminate Mindless Eating
Cracking down on mindless eating is tricky because it requires constant vigilance, not just when you are sat down for meals but at all times of the day. Acknowledging the triggers for careless eating, and seeking to avoid them, can make all the difference in eliminating the eating habits that throw you off course. The following are a few examples of habit changes you can make.
#1. Change Your Food Environment
Part of the problem with mindless eating is that it can occur when you are simply close to food. If, for example, you keep snacks in a drawer at work, you might find yourself drawn to them during a particularly hectic time or when you are feeling stressed.
It can happen due to factors beyond your control, such as when someone in the office celebrates a birthday and cake gets passed around. Remember that just because food is there, it doesn't mean you have to eat it.
The Fix: Ensure that food is only kept in the kitchen. That applies to your office as well. When there's a celebration at your work, ensure there are some lower-calorie healthier options available.
#2. Stop Eating While Doing Something Else
All of us have our times in the day where we are more likely to snack or pick at food. We could be watching a movie on the couch or at a ball game and have a bag of chips with us. While our mind is on the action in front of us, our hand is in the bag of chips, and before we know it, it's half-empty.
Or we're sat with the laptop in front of us going over some spreadsheets for work, with a packet of cookies next to us. The critical point is that while our mind is occupied, we're taking extra calories on board.
The Fix: This one might prove a hard one to break if you're not ready to give up the snacking habit itself. There are a few options, though: you can "save" some calories from your meals; you can choose low-calorie crunchies like carrot and other veggie sticks or focus on drinking water, herbal tea, or other low-calorie option instead.
#3. Stop Tasting Too Much While Cooking
While you're making dinner, it's very easy to get drawn into sampling what you're cooking. In some cases, it's the only way you will know whether or not things are ready. But for some of us, it's possible to end up feeling like food tasted while cooking "doesn't count". On the calorie front, it really does. Keep those tastes to a minimum and rely on the evidence of your eyes more.
The Fix: Simple, keep tasting just a tool to decide whether the food needs more spice or other ingredients. Do it once or twice at the most, and if there are any ingredients left, pack them up and put them back in the fridge or cupboard.
#4. Stop Eating Kids' Snacks and Leftovers
No one likes to waste food, but we all know how easily distracted kids can be. One moment they're asking for grilled cheese, and the next, they're bored with it and have run off to see or do something else. Even with kids who generally eat whatever you give them, it can happen that they don't eat all their food.
The Fix: Now, I appreciate that it's not ideal for putting leftovers in the garbage. Still, if you can't use them in another way, it may be the only option if you don't want all those unwanted calories to jeopardize your weight loss success.
It's easy to get caught out by mindless eating now and again, and one or two slips are only human. The most important thing to remember is that everything you eat that wasn't in your calorie count for the day is a barrier to losing the weight you want to shed. Identify your triggers and find a way around them, and you can eliminate mindless eating.