We all know the moment we’re grasping at air in an empty chip bowl that was full just a minute ago, right? “Where did that go – how did I finish that so quickly? That didn’t even touch sides.” This is classic mindless eating behaviour, but why does it actually happen?
Firstly, there’s a lot to learn about your gut health and biomes. You can read all about them in or next article when you want to learn about the importance of gut bacteria.
Here we’re exploring the subliminal and cultural influences on our attitude towards food and why it needs to change.
Hint: there are some very serious consequences for your health.
Mind Less vs Mind Full
‘Food glorious food’. No longer do we need put ourselves in danger to hunt for it. Food in a Western society is everywhere. We can buy it, store it, plate it, shape it, cook it, seal it, contain it, eat while we run, run while we eat. Food is an attraction and a distraction, and it can be our comfort and reward. Most of us are blissfully unaware of what influences what we eat and how much! We think it’s hunger, but there are many triggers that cajole us into indulging in mindless eating – boredom, exhaustion, stress, joy.
In his book “Mindless eating and why we eat more than we think” Brian Wansink PhD. has research that shows the average person makes well over 200 decisions about food every day. Of these 200 decisions we make, most we can’t even explain.
“You’re not you when you’re hungry” – Snickers
We are influenced by unconscious, rife, persuasive food advertising on TV and billboards, cooking programs, fads, fashions, social status, gender, culture, ambience, sight and smell and by variety and abundance. We are also continuously confused by the repetitive cycle of what is good and what is bad for us to eat. Just let that Snickers slogan sit with you for a bit.
If we could pinpoint why we ate the way we do, we would probably eat less, eat healthier and enjoy it more.
Food is a great pleasure in our lives. Our ancestors had to eat to live but, in this modern age we live to eat and often without thought and often without compromise. Food is ‘on tap’. Instant and constant, variable and convenient.
Mindless eating can cause serious health issues
There are many cues that support and contribute to habitual thoughtless and mindless eating. When we are mindless of what and how much we eat, not only do we gain weight, but we now know that we
- disturb our gut bacteria,
- negatively impact hormone levels,
- debilitate our immune systems
and in so doing, we are inadvertently fuelling inflammation in our bodies. (1) Inflammation leads to:
- chronic diseases,
- chronic bowel diseases, such as IBS
- auto immune diseases and
- certain cancers as well (some research suggests). (2)
Making mindful decisions today
Our busy lives, compounded by our desire to follow the path of least effort has led us into a lifestyle where variety, convenience, mass production and mass purchase to add value, is the new normal. We tend to ignore inconvenient truths about what we consume and many of us are oblivious to nutritional information about the foods we eat. If something looks healthy and the label says it is a healthy option, we assume it is and we placate ourselves in this way.
Where our ancestors hunted down the wolf for food, we ‘wolf’ down the food we ‘hunt’. We eat too much, too fast and too soon.
So, how do we get around mindless eating practices? How do we consciously make decisions about food without becoming overwhelmed or losing the joy in eating?
We can implement mindful eating practices!
- Read Part 2 of mindless eating Unlearning – the art of becoming mindful.