Mindless, or ignored, eating can contribute to over eating and weight issues or unbalanced eating leading to ill-health. Many of us don’t think about what we eat, how much we eat, or where we eat and those conditions are proved to be an unhealthy habit.
Changing a habit is simple with a few tips to do instead. We have all heard eat recommended serving sizes, don’t eat in front of the TV, and only eat when you’re hungry so included here are a few more tips that may seem small but they can make a big difference in your awareness and waistline. If eating becomes an aware activity then health will follow.
1. Use Visual Reminders
Behavioral scientists believe one of the main reasons people overeat is because they rely on external rather than internal cues to decide if they feel hungry or full.
Naturally, this can lead you to eat more than you need to.
To demonstrate this point, researchers provided participants with an unlimited amount of chicken wings while they watched the American football Super Bowl.
Half of the tables were continuously cleaned while the bones were left to accumulate on the other tables. Interestingly, people with bones on their tables ate 34% less, or two fewer chicken wings, than people who had their tables cleaned.
Another experiment used bottomless bowls to slowly refill some participants’ soups as they ate. Participants who ate soup served in the bottomless bowls consumed about 113 extra calories — 73% more — than those who ate from normal bowls.
Interestingly, those who ate more soup didn’t feel more full. Most also estimated their calorie intake to be the same as those eating from the regular soup bowls.
These two studies show that people tend to rely on visual cues, such as chicken bones or the amount of soup left, to decide whether they’re full or still hungry.
To make this natural tendency work in your favor, keep evidence of what you eat in front of you. Examples include the empty beer bottles you drank at a barbecue, or the plates used for previous courses at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Bottom Line: Use visual reminders of the foods you eat to help you stay mindful of how much food you’ve already consumed.
2. Favor Smaller Packages
Another external cue that can cause you to overeat is the size of your food packaging.
In fact, eating from larger packages can lead you to mindlessly consume as much as 20–25% more calories.
Researchers confirmed this tendency by providing participants with small or large packages of spaghetti, ground beef and tomato sauce.
Those given the large packages prepared 23% more food than those given smaller packages. Interestingly, they also ate most of the extras, which amounted to an additional 150 calories.
Another study gave participants either a half-pound (227-gram) or one-pound (455-gram) bag of M&Ms. Those given the large bags ate 66 more M&Ms — an extra 264 calories — than those eating from the smaller bags.
However, packages that include pause points may help diminish this effect, since they give you time to decide if you should keep eating.
For example, participants eating potato chips from cans of Pringles in which every 7th or 14th chip was dyed red ate 43–65% fewer chips than those eating from cans with no dyed chips.
Similarly, people eating from a large bag of 200 M&Ms consumed 31 more candies — and 112 extra calories — than people given 10 small baggies of 20 M&Ms.
Bottom Line: Favoring smaller packages can help you reduce the amount of calories you consume by up to 25% without you even noticing it.
3. Use Smaller Plates and Taller Glasses
Studies show that people tend to eat 92% of the food they serve themselves.
Therefore, reducing the amount of food you serve yourself can make a significant difference to the amount of calories you consume.
One easy way to reduce portion sizes without noticing the change is to use smaller plates and taller glasses.
That’s because big plates tend to make your food portions look small, encouraging you to serve yourself larger amounts of food.
Simply using 9.5-inch (24 cm) plates instead of 12.5-inch (32 cm) plates can help you easily eat up to 27% less food.
Additionally, studies show that using tall, thin glasses instead of wide, short ones can reduce the amount of liquids you pour yourself by up to 57%.
Therefore, pick wide, short glasses to help you drink more water and tall, thin ones to help you limit alcohol and other caloric beverages.
Bottom Line: Replacing large plates with smaller ones and wide, short glasses with tall, thin ones are two easy ways to reduce your portion sizes.
4. Decrease Variety
Research shows that having a wider variety of food options can lead you to eat up to 23% more.
Experts label this phenomenon “sensory-specific satiety.”
The basic idea is that your senses tend to get numbed after you’re exposed to the same stimulus many times — for instance, the same flavors.
Having a wide variety of flavors in the same meal can delay this natural numbing, pushing you to continue to eat.
Simply thinking there’s more variety can also fool you. Researchers found that participants given bowls with 10 colors of M&Ms ate 43 more candies than those given bowls with 7 colors, despite all M&Ms tasting the same.
To help sensory-specific satiety work for you, try limiting your choices. For instance, pick only two appetizers at once during cocktail parties and stick to ordering the same drinks throughout the evening.
Bottom Line: Reducing the variety of flavors, colors and textures you’re exposed to will help prevent you from eating more than your body needs.
5. Keep Some Foods Out of Sight
Researchers report that the popular saying, “out of sight, out of mind” applies particularly well to mindless eating.
To illustrate this point, one study gave secretaries Hershey’s Kisses in covered bowls that were either clear, so they could see the candy, or solid, so they could not.
Those given clear bowls opened them to get candy 71% more often. They consumed an extra 77 calories per day on average, compared to the other group.
Scientists believe that seeing food pushes you to consciously decide whether to eat it. Seeing it more often increases the chances you’ll choose to eat the food.
Make this work in your favor by hiding tempting treats while keeping healthy and nutritious food visible.
Bottom Line: Keep tempting treats out of sight to prevent you from eating them mindlessly.
6. Increase Your Inconvenience
The more work that’s required to eat a food, the less likely you are to eat it.
To demonstrate this, researchers tried a new version of the Hershey’s Kisses study above. This time, all secretaries were given clear bowls of candy.
The bowls were placed in three different spots around the office: on the desk, in a desk drawer or six feet (1.8 meters) away from the desk.
The secretaries ate an average of 9 candies a day when the bowl was on the desk, 6 if the bowl was in the drawer and 4 if they had to walk to get to the bowl.
When asked why they ended up eating less when the bowls were placed further away, the secretaries stated that the extra distance gave them the time to think twice about whether they really wanted the candy.
Make this work for you by picking snacks that require some extra work, or by keeping less nutritious snack foods out of reach.
Better yet, get in the habit of serving all foods on plates and eating only while sitting at the table. This inconvenience might be just what you need to keep yourself from mindlessly snacking out of boredom or while preparing dinner.
Bottom Line: Take the convenience out of eating. Adding extra steps will allow you to turn a mindless eating behavior into a conscious choice, reducing the chance of overindulgence.
Simple actions to reduce mindless eating should help you lose weight that feels natural and easy therefore you can maintain your goal weight in the long term.
Pick three of these tips and try to use them regularly for 4 – 8 weeks to create them as a habit in your life.