How To Stop Mindless Eating
One of the toughest things with binge eating disorder is getting control and knowing how to stop mindless eating.
Mindless eating is when the brain is distracted and not focused on what we’re eating. It is literally the opposite of mindfulness.
It just sounds a lot more insulting than saying lack of mindfulness.
I think it’s fair to say that my binges haven’t come from mindless eating because I’m very much conscious or aware of my actions when I am bingeing.
But I did notice some of my own behaviours, which do seem to leave me more prone to bingeing later on.
Daytime Mindless Eating And Night Time Binges
Pretty much always, if I binge it tends to be in the evening or at night after dinner.
But throughout the day. Usually, when I’m working, I’ll get these little stomach growls, little hunger pangs, and I will give in to them and go and grab something to eat.
But I needed to do a little bit of thinking to try and figure out what was causing me to automatically reach for something to snack on as soon as I felt a little bit hungry.
And thing is that my kitchen is downstairs and I’m at the opposite end of the house.
So it’s not like it’s the easiest place for me to just get up and stroll to. I mean, it’s still easy, but it’s not like I’m right in the next room or something.
So I needed to practice a little bit of mindfulness or self-awareness to figure out what was causing this behaviour pattern to happen and I noticed a few things.
What Self-Awareness Showed Me About Mindless Eating
I realize that when I’m working, as soon as I hit some kind of roadblock or mental block, I’ll get up, walk to the kitchen and grab something.
So if I’m like brainstorming and just kind of hit something, which I can’t get my head around or need to think about, that’s it – I would get up, walk to the kitchen, and grab – even a rice cake or something.
I noticed the same thing would happen when I was waiting for something, such as needing to restart my laptop. I would quickly be in the kitchen reaching for a snack.
I’m still not sure how these behaviour patterns got conditioned into me, but I’ve had them with me for a while even before everyone else started working from home with COVID.
Keeping My Mind Busy
And I realized that in both of these cases, the craving or the hunger, or that temptation is triggered by my mind, which tends to be busy pretty much all day because that’s what living with ADHD is like.
But it tends to be busy all day and then it gets blocked and then it says, okay, I need something to occupy itself.
And then that craving goes away pretty much as soon as it’s in a position where it can start being productive again. I noticed this pattern where I said, okay, I’m blocked on this, eat something.
And then as soon as I’m mentally unblocked, any kind of cravings or temptation seems to go away.
And I guess to an extent, it set me up to be more prone to binge in the evenings and at night because that’s at the end of the workday.
Unless I plan to start working again at that time, my brain is kind of free to wander and do its own thing.
And because of that conditioning from during the day, I fixated on food, which probably explains why my binges have tended to be when I don’t have any other work to do.
It always struck me as a little bit odd that I’ve only ever binged at night
During the day, there’s literally no temptation. As soon as my brain is free at night, that’s when it happens.
Changing My Daytime Behaviour
So I have been experimenting with trying to change my conditioning during the day. It’s too early for me to say whether it has actually worked or not, but here’s what I’m doing.
If I get stuck on something or feel myself in that behaviour pattern where I get up and find myself wanting to wander the kitchen, I’m consciously trying to do something else.
Meditation, my brain takes too long to get into.
And drinking water would still involve venturing into the kitchen anyway. So I needed to find something else. For me, it actually happened to be a quick five-minute yoga.
Anytime I feel mentally stuck or blocked, I’ll start a timer and focus on my breath. And then just five minutes of going through a few yoga stretches.
Why Yoga Worked For Me
There are two things that kind of worked to my advantage to make this work for me. Number one is I have the floor space in my bedroom to do it.
And number two is I’m familiar enough with yoga that I can just get up and start doing a five-minute session. I don’t need to go onto YouTube or another app and find a tutorial or find a workout. My mat’s already rolled out. I can literally just go and get started.
I’ve been doing this for a few weeks and I haven’t reached the point where I can say that it’s removed the idea of food cravings in the evenings entirely, but signs are pretty positive.
It’s one of several techniques which I’ve been using to help bring my evening cravings down.
And it’s given my brain other things to focus on when it’s free to wander, besides just looking at food.
5 Tips On How To Stop Mindless Eating
So that’s very specific for me and how I’m tackling what I found myself to be doing in terms of mindless eating. Here are also five other things you can try to tackle mindless eating in your own life.
Make The Food You Go For Harder To Access
Try making food more difficult to access or putting more friction between you and the food that you’re being tempted by.
So I don’t mean that you should make it impossible to access because complete denial of food is actually going to give you a more emotional relationship with it, but just put a few more steps in between you and the food that you want.
So one of the examples I use is because we have a chest freezer in our house if you want ice cream, put it at the bottom of the freezer.
Because if you want it, you’re going to have to go to the freezer, take everything out and get the ice cream, put everything back in, and then also put the ice cream back in as well once you’ve had it wherever you want.
So it puts a little bit more friction in place.
A few more steps are in place. So you don’t just immediately go open the freezer and take the ice cream out.
Savour Your Food
Also, try savouring that food a little bit more.
You’ve put in those extra steps to get to that food. So now it’s time that you actually enjoy it. You savour it and you make the most of it. So slow down and try and enjoy each mouthful.
Focus On Your Food
Allow yourself to focus on that food. So stop scrolling on your phone, switch the TV off, and do what you need to do to put your mind’s focus on the food that you’re having.
So it is literally mindful eating rather than mindless eating.
Alternatives For When You Feel The Urge To Snack
Next up is to try finding other options or alternatives.
So like with me, trying to swap my snacking for my yoga.
It was just something that was conditioned into me.
So try to reflect on what conditions are causing you to snack or what conditions are causing you to eat without mindfulness and see if you can sense and respond to those triggers differently.
And lastly, also start to focus on non-food rewards.
One thing that happens with binge eating or emotional eating is that we tend to eat for comfort.
So using food as a reward can just kind of accelerate that cycle.
But when we can start to find comfort and reward in other sources that aren’t food-related, it can help reduce the frequency and intensity of cravings and also help reduce mindless eating.
So that way, when your mind is drifting and you’re starting to lean toward that mindless eating, your mind might start to focus more on the other non-food reward.
And pull you away from whatever foods you were trying to reward yourself with.
For me, what works really well is a new book on my Kindle.
For you, it might be something else. Think about what gives you joy, think about what you enjoy, think about what you find fulfilling and try and use that as your reward.
One More Thing To Bear In Mind
Something else to bear in mind. No food is inherently bad. Snacking isn’t bad and some mindless eating isn’t going to do too much damage.
But if you can figure out how to stop mindless eating and find a way to stay on top of it, you’re going to do your mental and physical health a world of good.