Mindless Eating vs Mindful Eating

by | Jan 20, 2020

Mindless Eating vs Mindful Eating

About 10 years ago I read a book that changed my life called Mindless Eating, Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink. 

It opened my eyes to a part of the eating problems we face, and lit a FIRE in me to do something about it. In his book, Brian Wansink goes deep into the psychology behind why and what we eat and the difference between Mindless Eating vs Mindful Eating. Have you ever thought about it?

Why do you eat the foods you eat…. And what guides your choices?

Oftentimes we use external clues to tell us the “when” of eating. For example: 

  • When dinner is ready, it’s time to eat.
  • A plate full of food needs to be eaten until everything is gone.
  • Everyone around us is eating, we better fill a plate as well.

One of my favorite studies in Wansink’s book is the bottomless soup bowls. He rigged a table with tubing so that two of the four bowls at the table were constantly refilling (without the student knowing), and the other two were normal bowls.

He brought in 60 college students and had them sit at this table, four at a time, and eat and converse for 20 minutes. At the end of the 20 minutes, his researchers would ask each student to estimate how many calories they had consumed, how many ounces of soup had been eaten, and how full they felt on a 9 point scale. Then the soup was drained from the bowls, tubes, and pots, and weighed to figure out how much each student had consumed.

Those who ate from the normal bowls, ate about 9 ounces. While those who had the bottomless bowls ate an average of 15 ounces, and some ate more than A QUART.

So what’s the lesson here?

External cues are not a good way to determine the amount of food to be eaten and when to eat.

When it comes to mindless eating vs mindful eating if you start using internal cues to determine when and what you’re eating, everything changes. Learning to listen to your body’s cues takes time and practice, but is worth the effort so you can finally feel in control around food again. So where to begin?

Here are a few steps to ease into mindful eating:

1 – Take less. When we get to dinner time and we’re really hungry, we often pile our plate high, kind of like the saying that our “eyes are bigger than our stomachs”. So put what you would normally put on your plate, and then put 20% back.

2 – Slow down. When you sit down with your food, set the timer for 20 minutes. It takes up to 20 minutes for our brains to register that our stomach is full, but the average American has already started consuming a second plate after only 10 minutes. So slow down. And, if at the end of 20 minutes you’re still hungry, by all means, have some more.

3 – Hydrate. 10-20 minutes before eating a meal, drink a full glass of water. Not only is this going to aid in digestion, but it will also help your body be more alert and aware of the hunger/fullness cues.

Learning to listen to your body takes time and practice, but it is effort worth making! To learn more tools for listening to your body, check out our 5 Steps to Diet Freedom course!


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