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What is mindless eating?

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics

Mindless eating is when you are eating but are not eating out of hunger. Oftentimes people eat when they are stressed, angry, happy, sad, depressed, or even from skipping meals. If you find you are standing in front of the refrigerator or the pantry looking for something eat but are not really hungry, this is mindless eating. It is important to learn hunger signals and be able to identify other times you are eating when you are not hungry.

Wendy Batts
Fitness
Mindless eating often refers to an eating behavior where calories are consumed while the individual eating is unaware of the quantity being eaten or that he/she is eating in the first place. Mindless eating often takes place while another activity is simultaneously going on. Here are a few examples:
  • watching TV and eating chips out of a bag and before you know it half the bag is gone
  • sitting at work in front of the computer while the bowl of candy nearby slowly depletes to a small handful
  • standing at the hors d’oeuvre table chatting it up with friends while you may not have realized how many appetizers have been eaten
  • eating popcorn out of the bucket at the movies and munching away while you are engrossed by the film
Mindless eating can adversely impact a weight loss goal in particular as calories can sneak in over the course of the day and contribute to a surplus where you consume more calories than you burn. This yields weight gain.

To minimize mindless eating, try pre-portioning out your servings. For example, don’t eat out of the bag while watching TV and instead portion out an individual serving into a bowl before sitting down.  Before going to events where mindless eating is likely, don’t arrive hungry! Have a healthy snack before you go so you’ll be less likely to hang out at the buffet table munching away. Logging your food habits is also a great way to become aware of the type and timing of food intake and will help cut down on mindless eating.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.