Todays tucker show may sound too good to be true. It’s not. Today I’m covering: How To Make Mindless Eating Work In Your Favour.
We’re all been there, mindlessly consuming beyond what our body needs. Often beyond what we even want! Eating on auto-pilot because it’s there… because we are responding to hidden triggers in our environment that tell us when to start and when to stop eating.
Mindless triggers that are a lot easier to blindly follow than your bodies “I’m hungry” and “I’m no longer hungry” signals.
Is it lunch time? Or snack time?
Is everyone else eating?
Is the plate… packet… box empty?
The thing is although mindless eating may currently be working against you, equally it can also work in your fat blasting favour.
As much as it is necessary to choose your food with volition when you’re looking to create new healthy eating habits, isn’t the end game – the goal to work towards – that time when you can mindlessly eat the best things?
Where eating becomes natural, sustainable and NO BIG FUSS?
Mindless eating of great fuel is the opposite of diet by DEPRIVATION.
Deprivation is a ticking time bomb… you can exist with it for a while however at some point, today, next week or perhaps next month there’s going to be an explosion of excessive-eating-catch-up.
No one want’s more deprivation however often in desperation we’ll attempt to enforce it.
Perhaps you believe it’s necessary however today I’ll cover the 3 reasons deprivation doesn’t work and also the 3 ways to make mindless eating work for you.
Let’s start with why deprivation diets don’t work:
One: Your Brain Fights Them.
It’s the natural instinct. If you can’t have something you want it. Thinking about what you can’t or shouldn’t have succeeds only in keeping your focus firmly on that thing. Your unconscious mind can’t even process a negative so…
Steer clear of cake. Don’t have the cake. NO cake.
Is really just cake, Cake, CAKE to your brain.
Two: Your Body Fights Them.
Our ancestors didn’t have access to 24/7 quick, easy food as we do. They ate when there was food in supply and when there wasn’t? Our smart body did all it could to keep them alive…. it slowed down their metabolism to conserve energy.
Fantastic if you get stuck on a desert Island. Completely ineffective if you’re attempting to starve away your stubborn fat stores…
Any more than a gentle fluctuation – or for todays purpose let’s call it the ‘Mindless Margin’ – and your body will, slow your metabolism, call a halt to any fat burning and start sacrificing your sexy lean muscle mass.
(more on the mindless margin soon!)
Three: Your Environment Fights Them.
With a limited daily discipline quota, the environment we live in now stacks the odds against you. If deprivation is your tactic then you’re going to be seeing, hearing, smelling the things you need to deprive yourself of at every turn.
You know I’m not exaggerating.
Of the couple of hundred food decisions you make every single day how many times are you turning down that huge bowl of kale crisps at the pub or zucchini hummus and veggie sticks for morning tea at the office? Yep, me neither! Even though I work at a gym – one of the less likely to tempt environments – every single week I eye off the choc croissants, berry muffins and pastries a dear client brings us.
With so many aspects of your environment beyond your control its vital then you manage the aspects which are within your control… which brings me to, 3 ways to make mindless eating work for you:
One: Munch more of the good stuff mindlessly.
You know where I’m going with this one right? One Ingredient Foods. Especially fibrous veg. These are the FREE foods you can munch as much of as you like. Zero measuring. No deprivation.
Before you start with the “But Kate, kale and cauli have nothing on cup cakes and candy…” I hear you. I’m the ex-carb-Queen remember? You do need tactics to make those better food choices more enjoyable, here are a few that work for me:
=> focus on what you love about the food and drink that is best for your body. Your expectation of a meal will actually impact your enjoyment of it. So if you’re choosing to think “Uggghhh, boring bland salad again” then you genuinely are setting yourself up for another disappointing meal.
=> be adventurous and creative with your food choices. This is especially important if you have kids. In their first 12 months especially they are most open to trying almost anything. The more willing they and you are to try a variety of natural foods the more success you will have adopting a sustainable, enjoyable eating routine based on seasonal foods that do not need to be stuffed (over-powered?) with excessive sugar, fat and salt.
Two: Master the mindless margin.
Props to Brian Wansink and his fantastic book ‘Mindless Eating’ for introducing me to the term the ‘mindless margin.’ I highly recommend this book if you find the phycology of why we eat as we do fascinating.
I’ve long known that under-eating always catches up with you and that over-eating is also very obvious via that heavy, sick, lethargic feeling. However, Brian gets more specific describing a 100-200 calorie a day margin where you can over-eat without noticing (and gradually put on weight) or the 100-200 calorie a day margin where you can eat less, without feeling deprived and subsequently (albeit slowly) lose weight.
Here are your mindless margin tactics:
=> to out-smart mindless over-eating…
1) Admit that it happens. The vast majority of people believe they wouldn’t be fooled into eating more out of a larger packet… or if there was a greater variety of food to choose from… or serving more if given a larger plate.
However the vast majority – if not all of us – do each of the above.
2) Set stop points or visual cues to give you that opportunity to assess: “Do I really need more?” This may be serving your snacks portion controlled in zip-lock bags. Or perhaps clearing the remains of your food less often. So for example chocolates with wrappers, nuts with shells, fruit with stones are a much better reminder of what you’ve already consumed. As is leaving the beer or wine bottles on the table. It’s not quite the classy look however remember point 1, your stomach can’t count and you won’t remember so really you need to see what you’ve already consumed.
=> to succeed with mindless under-eating…
1) Build your meals first around those fresh and fabulous fibrous veg. Stack up a big, hearty, colourful pile of them at each meal. Make it appealing to your minds eye.
2) Make some simple ‘mindless margin’ swaps:
- a large glass of fruit juice or fruit smoothie swaps to… a piece of fruit.
- a few choccie biscuits or a large ‘energy’ bar swaps to… 30 grams of ruts.
- milk in your protein shake swaps to… water in your protein shake.
- a teaspoon of sugar or honey in each coffee or tea swaps to… a sachet of natural Natvia.
- store bought hummus or pesto swaps to… your own made with extra veg like zucchini and kale and less of the fake and fatty stuff.
Any one of these is a non-noticeable mindless margin little swap that won’t leave you battling hunger or initiating your bodies starvation response. Over the course of weeks and months these mindless margin swaps add up to pounds chiselled away rather than pounds creeping on.
Three: Manage your environment not your emotions.
Your home is your sanctuary. What you allow into it will get eaten. By you and by everyone else you live with and love… looking at it like that means if you’re the primary food shopper of the household – you have quite a responsibility.
That is why I strongly recommend a zero tolerance for rubbish living in the house policy.
Because I want you to focus on what you give your body rather than restriction it’s worth spending the time and the money to have a fresh, generous and interesting supply of quality whole food at home all the time.
It’s just planning and priorities. If you have time for the movies and the triple-priced-zero-value-rubbish they sell there and no time or money for a big fresh food shop before the working week begins then it’s time to get honest about your current priorities.
The simple fact is, if I had to spend a week in the environment of someone who is not yet at their goal body composition – and I wasn’t allow to go on a ditching frenzy to manage the environment – I would, 100%, at some point end up consuming stuff I don’t want to consume. It’s just human nature. Your solution is to out-plan and out manage rather than control your emotions.
Here are your tactics:
=> don’t allow the rubbish into your home. I this post on: Stop Supermarket Sabotage in 5 Simple Steps
=> make the good stuff more visible, quicker and easier.
That’s the salad, veg, hard boiled eggs etc you prepare in advance so they are easier to grab than the biscuits you no longer keep at home and would now have to leave the house for.
=> portion control the things you buy in bulk that you don’t want the results for eating in bulk. Study after study has shown when nibbling nuts, cereal – anything from a larger bag – you eat more than if nibbling from a smaller bag. I absolutely do this. I now often pay more to buy 50gm serves of nuts than a 250gm bag that lasts me 3 serves instead of 5. Actually when doing the numbers it’s actually cheaper to buy the more expensive per gram nuts and eat only 150gm in 3 days.
=> if you’re in the mindless habit of frequenting the drive-through, the servo (that’s where you fill up on petrol and potentially flavoured ice slurpee’s for my non-Aussie friends!) or wherever each time you pass them, then change the route you take until the habit is broken.
Before we get actionable today I have a final thought – or hopefully words of encouragement so far as ‘Mindless.’
The contradiction or frustration that puts too many people off is that you have to be mindful first before you get to be happily and sustainable-ly mindless.
It’s like the 4 stages of learning… or 4 stages of competence.
So as attributed to Abraham Maslow this model recognises that in any new skill we face:
- Unconscious Incompetence.
- Conscious Incompetence.
- Conscious Competence.
- Unconscious Competence.
If you’re not yet at your goal body composition and you don’t yet admit that mindless eating happens then odds on you’re still at
#1: Unconscious Incompetence.
Ok, so to get actionable today: Lets start with Mastering the mindless margin. Specifically out-smarting mindless over-eating… so to recap that was to:
1) Admit that it happens. Fill in a food diary for just 48 hours if you still need convincing on this one.
2) Set stop points or visual cues to give you that opportunity to assess: “Do I really need more?”
That’s it for me today. Thanks so much for hanging with me. I’ll be back tomorrow with the Wednesday weigh-in show and: Little Lies That Keep You Stuck.
If you liked this you’ll also like: Do Cheat Days Work?
If you’re yet to share the Healthification love – just click here to zip over to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review. It’d help me out big time. With gratitude, Kate.