6 Effortless Ways to Boot Mindless Eating

It's time to quit the "see-food diet."

February 8, 2016
girl eating pizza and texting

Behavioral hunger, or mindless eating, is the act of eating out of habit or to pass time. It's something to do. It's going to lunch at 1:30 with the girls from the office because you want to be part of the group and don't want to miss the social fun even if you already ate at your desk at noon because you were starving.

More: Necessary Tools to Tame That Afternoon Snack Attack


Behavioral eating is programmed into us when we go to school and are forced to eat lunch at 10:30 a.m. despite having eaten breakfast at 9:00 a.m. Every time you come home, you automatically walk straight into the kitchen and eat despite the time of day or night. It is your habit. It is your norm. You don't even think about it. You just do it.

How many of you still struggle with the learned behavior of the "clean-your-plate club," even though science proved that clearing your plate is bad for you? You go to a restaurant where they serve a portion twice as large as your normal dinner and you finish the entire portion. You eat the entire double-size entrée because you're programmed to clean the plate. You're robotic about feeding and eating.

More: Are You Fueling Your Fat Stores?

It's almost like the "see-food diet"—you see food and are behaviorally conditioned to eat it.

Simply identifying yourself as a behavioral eater is a positive and truly awakening step. This is the start of mastering mindfulness. Observing or being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and actions is mindfulness. A few pointers can help you become more aware of when you're eating for behavioral reasons.

1. Sit... at a real table
Sit at a table when you eat any type of food. This means no eating while walking, driving, or standing.

2. Skip the tech
Eat with humans, not technology. Say goodbye to iPads, PC screens, and television screens. This translates to no popcorn at the movies. This is such a commonly taught form of behavioral eating. You grow up learning I eat candy and popcorn at the movie theater and hot dogs with cotton candy at the baseball game. What ever happened to eating for physical hunger before, during, or after the event?


More: 5 Pillars of True Nutrition

3. Embrace boredom when you eat
Clients tell me it's so boring to eat without the TV on or other distractions to occupy their minds. Yup, that's the point. Distractions keep you from focusing on your food and your satiety. Get rid of them. Enjoy eating and knowing when to stop.

4. Think before you bite
Log feelings, thoughts, and actions before you even take that first bite. Now you have to make the decision to eat or not to eat. This is not a game, so there is no cheating. Just decide.

More: 15 Foods That Help You Lose Weight

5. Dial your belly-brain phone line
Ask yourself if you're physically hungry. Think when was the last time you ate. Could you be eating as an activity? A social event? A distraction? A procrastination? All that is—you got it—behavioral eating.

6. Don't rely on comfort
Break the habit by using the comfort card. Just do something else!

Adapted from Women's Health Body Clock Diet