A psychologist’s take on breaking mindless eating habits

a psychologists advice on breaking mindless eating habits

Did you know that an extra large double double from Tim Hortons has 318 calories? Or that adding whipped cream to a drink at Starbucks can add up to 200 extra calories and 10 times the amount of fat? Or that over ripe bananas have more sugar than less-ripened bananas? Most people don’t know the answers to any of these questions.

Mindfulness is more than a buzz word

Mindfulness is a word that has become infused into our vocabulary. We hear it from our doctors, psychologists, coaches, bosses, teachers and more. Time magazine even dedicated an entire special edition issue to the topic of mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined as the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something and is often used as a therapeutic technique.

Yet with such a focus on being mindful, many of us continue to be mindless when it comes to eating. If any of the following sound like you, then it’s time to start being more mindful of your eating habits:

  • Having only 10 minutes at lunch to eat,
  • Eating in the car,
  • Eating a quick dinner before heading to extra curricular activities,
  • Working through the lunch hour,
  • Eating while on an iPad or phone, or
  • Eating in front of the TV.

Mindless eating often causes us to eat too quickly and typically overeat because we are unaware of what we are eating, how much we are eating and if we are actually still hungry as we are finishing our plate. This type of consumption is often described as “shoveling”.

Knowledge is power when it comes to breaking unhealthy habits

As we become more mindful of our stress levels, get enough sleep and increase our down time, it is also important to become mindful of our eating habits. “Knowledge is power” is a popular proverb that can be applied to many areas, but especially mindful eating.

As an example, the biggest “aha” moment for a young man who was working with his Copeman multidisciplinary team to create a healthier lifestyle, was learning how many calories were in the double double he drank every day. As soon as he realized he was consuming 318 calories (including 20g of fat and 42g of refined sugar), he chose to change his order to one with a fraction of the calories.

This one small change was the start of many small changes on the path towards weight loss and a healthier lifestyle. Knowledge is power.

Is mindful eating possible for children and adults when we all live such busy lives?

Yes. Mindful eating can be achieved in many simple ways including:

  • Understanding the nutritional value of the drinks/foods you choose (not just the calories but the nutritional value of the foods you are eating);
  • Not eating in front of the TV or while on a device;
  • Putting food on a plate or bowl instead of eating out of a box or bag;
  • Slowing down when eating (try setting a timer);
  • Asking yourself if you’re hungry when you’re eating or if you just want the food (emotional eating versus real hunger);
  • Mapping out places to pick-up food while on the go that offer healthier choices (e.g., Chopped Leaf vs. McDonald’s);
  • Using smaller plates/bowls/cutlery/cups to maintain portions and
  • Not multitasking while eating (stop eating at your desk).

The more you know and the more you plan, the more informed your choices will be. If you are having trouble making mindful eating a reality, please speak with your Copeman Dietitian or an on-site, Copeman Psychologist. They can provide you with personalized advice and proven strategies that can help you change your habits.


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