A lot of us eat a lot more than we realize. I’m not talking about portion distortion or putting great, big servings of food on our plates and thinking it’s a reasonable helping. I’m talking about eating throughout the day without paying attention to how often or how much we’re putting this or that into our mouths.
The calories we get from constant eating can add up fast but we never experience the necessary satisfaction of feeling full. We just keep nibbling and most of us spend our time in environments where it’s easy to indulge in this kind of unconscious eating all day. There is almost always some food within reach or at the most, no more than a few steps away.
I call it unconscious eating because it’s food we pick up to eat without a conscious thought about what we’re doing. It’s the kind of habit that we don’t even know we had until we try to stop. One minute food is in a bag or a bowl, next minute it’s in our hands and on its way to going into our mouth, like a reflex. It’s as natural as breathing.
The weird thing is that when we want to lose weight and be mindful of what we’re eating, we realize that what we thought was unconscious eating is anything but! All we can think about, the place our consciousness seems to dwell is how much we want something to eat.
We think about eating and the thinking makes it harder and harder not to eat. We don’t exactly get more hungry; we just feel compelled to eat. We feel as though we need to eat all the time. This isn’t about emotional eating or losing control with a food we find highly palatable. This is about thinking we can’t eat and so that becomes all that we want to do.
I found some people who understand the feeling and who’ve discovered ways to manage which enabled them to lose weight. I asked, “How do you manage that fierce need to eat when you’re not even hungry?” Here are some great ideas they found are working:
- Arlene: I keep a food diary. I write everything I eat and I mean everything! I’ve broken my need to be constantly grazing by being able to see a detailed list of what I eat in a 24-hour period.
- Kurt: I tried chewing gum but that failed bigtime. I went from just wanting to eat to feeling extremely hungry and had this very real physical sensation for food. Sticking to a schedule for my meals and snacks has worked wonders. I make sure I eat on time and it’s completely ended that non-stop noshing habit I had.
- Laura: I like to keep moving. If I want to eat , not because I’m hungry, but just for the heck of it I tune into my Pandora Pop Fitness Radio station and do a little grooving to the music until the sensation passes.
- Claire: I’m still trying to figure this out. I tried going from 3 larger meals a day to 6 smaller meals. It helps, but I’m eating on a schedule different than the rest of my family. I’m who makes the meals in my house, but it’s still a challenge to make it all work.
- Dan: I used to almost always be eating something. I didn’t know how I could stop that, but I really have to lose weight or I’m going to have to go on a lot of medication that I’d rather avoid. I just keep telling myself, “I want to do this and I can do this.” At first I chewed up a lot of pencils to get control over my mindless eating, but now it’s feels normal not to be eating every waking moment.
If you found a way to end the “gotta eat something all the time” unconscious eating reflex please share your solution it in a comment!