We’ve all been there to experience Mindless Munching. You’re watching TV, or surfing the internet and just can’t help but have a box of potato crackers readily open beside you. Pretty soon, you’ve devoured half if not all the package, and you’re left wondering how ended up consuming 500 -1000 extra calories in one shot.
Okay, this is an extreme example, but we all tend to be victims of subconscious munching in some capacity. Now, we need to know how to control it for the sake of our fitness. It may be as simple as rethinking the reasons behind why we eat in the first place.
Fueling For Success – The Logical Side of Strategic Eating:
Think of your body as a vehicle and the foods as the gas. Essentially, you should be eating to fuel your body; that’s the primary reason why you should be throwing food down the pie hole in the first place.
Yes, yes, food tastes good, but we’ll get to that shortly. In this scenario, you’re going to want to avoid filling the tank up too full. Think of your hunger in terms of the gas gauge. A full tank means you’re completely overstuffed, need to unbutton your pants and take a nap lying face down for about an hour before you can move again.
A half-tank of gas leaves you feeling alright, you don’t need gas anymore and it’s just enough to get where you need to go. Keep that philosophy in mind when you’re eating as part of the strategy to help you master your eating habits.
Aside from knowing when you’re full, part of strategic eating is, obviously, ensuring that your hunger stays regulated. You never want to be in a situation where you’re absolutely starving, since this can definitely lead to overeating. Likewise, you’ll want to make sure you’re satisfied, but not overstuffed. The less “want” or hunger you’re feeling, the less likely you’ll grab a box of cracker in the first place. See if you can space out your meals accordingly, so that you’re eating strategically every 2-3 hours.
Planning your meals also sets a guideline to help you recognize if you’re actually hungry or if you’re just eating just for the sake of filling the pie hole. It may help to have an eating schedule set up in your home or office, indicating at approximately what time you’ll be eating what.
If you find yourself outside of this guideline, you can then ask yourself if it’s truly time to eat (probably not) based on whether or not you’re seriously needing the food for fuel. When heading for the kitchen outside of these scheduled meals, remember the gas gauge scenario. Are you running on fumes?
If so, then you’ll obviously need to get the metre to half in order to function. Use the gauge metaphor to help give your urge to feed some reasonable basis outside of pure impulse. Remember, unless you’re accompanied by a friend or partner, it’s just you against the fridge in this situation (social eating is a whole different ballgame). Be logical, see the facts, follow an eating guideline.
Appreciating Your Need For Stimulation – The Impulses Behind Eating:
The second part of beating mindless munching is understanding all the other arguments “behind randomly chowing down on those salty crackers”. The word “randomly” answers the first part of the why question (you’re eating randomly and not strategically), and the word “salty” hints at the second reason.
We also eat for stimulation. Food tastes good. I’ve said this before, and it’s totally the truth, but the biggest reason why food is such a damn temptation is because of its attractive scent and taste. As much as we try to, we don’t in fact eat for fuel alone.
We also tend to nosh for pleasure as well. We live in a society of choice and convenience, so we’re no longer dependent on whatever scraps we can scrounge up anymore. We can choose from a rich culture of scents and tastes, and as we do this, the gas gauge metaphor seems to fade into the background. How, then, do we gain control over this “need” to stimulate our senses?
Chances are, most of the mindless munching is accompanied by other stimuli. I talked about this earlier with reference to how you eat during your off days, but food, for whatever reason, seems to go hand-in-hand with TV. They’re weird, strange attractors, if I may. Two things that don’t normally go together, but when they do, they have an incredible power to completely shatter your resolve and set you back three or four steps in your fitness journey.
That’s the logical truth; however, impulse tends to overrule reason, and here we are in front of the Boob Tube or laptop, watching Game of Thrones, right hand in the picnic basket and left hand on the mouse. It’s truly strange the way it works, but it seem like one type of stimulation is simply not enough.
One sense, on its own, never seems to be enough. As an experiment, see if you can truly sit through one episode of your favorite show without doing anything else but tuning in–no gum, eating, surfing the web, checking your phone, browsing the newspaper, etc. See how long you can stay happily engaged with just the one thing. Actually it’s technically two senses being engaged into the audio and the visual, but this just goes to show you how pressing the need for multi-stimulation really is.
Finding a Truce Between Mind and Stomach:
The best solution is to draw from your understanding of both the rational and the impulsive sides of eating. Food tastes good, but logically, we should only be eating so and so many meals at strategic points in the day, according to our gas gauge. As such, prepare tasty but healthy meals for your eating timetable.
Hummus and raw veggies, Greek yogurt with fruit, baked whole-grain pita slices with salsa, and plain peanuts are all tasty alternatives to chips and candy, and they all help satisfy a particular craving, be it salty (baked pita slices) or sweet (yogurt and fruit). Have these prepared on hand, so that when your gas gauge is truly dipping around a quarter tank, you can get the needle back to half.
Knowing what you know about stimulation can also help you troubleshoot the need to have multiple senses engaged simultaneously. Drink water, tea, or coffee instead of scarfing down pizza or pop; chew flavoured gum if you need to keep your mouth busy. If you need to engage the oral (and if that little experiment above showed us anything), look to safe alternatives instead.
Sometimes, the logic of that little eating timetable is not going to cut it against impulse alone, so keep celery and cucumber slices and natural peanut butter handy. The natural nut butter has protein and good fats, while the celery and cucumber have next to no calories per shot. If you’re going to indulge, be smart about it at least.
Lastly, move around for real. If you’re bored and just seeking a multi-sensory experience instead of actually being hungry, get out of the house and go for a quick walk instead. You’ll see, hear, smell, and feel a lot of different things at once; you’ll also have the luxury of putting your thoughts on hold for a second while your senses regroup.
It’s a different experience actually moving while being multi-stimulated. I think part of the reason we need to be eating while enjoying TV programs is because the act of eating seems to add faux momentum to the static act of watching and listening.
You’re doing something mock-active while being a passive participant in your TV show. Put House on pause for 20 minutes, and get the legs moving outside of the apartment. Chances are that when you return, you’ll have a new appreciation for why you’ll be eating, if you do end up grabbing the nut butter and celery sticks.
Hope that you have got some insights about mindless munching. You can also share your own views for and against the above ways with us. More perspectives mean better success. So, hope to hear from you soon.