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It’s the weekend — time to lepak. You grab your iPad, put on the latest Korean drama, and start chowing down on the nasi lemak you bought for lunch, gleefully laughing at the antics of your favourite character.

Before you know it, the episode’s over and you’ve polished off your meal.

You’ve barely noticed what you’ve eaten, and your mouth is still “itchy”. So you grab keropok from the coffee table and resume your munching and binge-watching.

Two hours later, you realise you’ve guzzled the keropok, some ice cream, and ice lemon tea.

How on earth did that happen? You only intended to have nasi lemak, and just this morning you resolved not to eat any junk food today!

Eat Until Blur: Mindless Munching Machine

What happened? When you’re distracted while eating (e.g. you’re watching Korean dramas, reading emails, or checking Facebook), you may not be aware that you’re reaching out for food.

This can happen whether you’re truly hungry or not. Plus, distracted eating could also cause overeating.

That’s because when you’re not paying attention to how fast or how much you eat, you often end up in autopilot mode.

Eating on autopilot means you could end up feeling unsatisfied after a meal, as your stomach hasn’t had time to tell the brain that it’s full: it takes 20 minutes for fullness signals to be sent from the brain.

Before you know it, you’re ripping open that bag of keropok right after a meal.

Related: Is Comfort Food Making You Stressed Instead?

Some Thought for Food

Distracted eating is one example of mindless eating, which is, essentially, not paying attention to why, when, what, how and how much you eat.

The trick to fighting mindless munching?

Eating mindfully: being aware of the environment, your body and emotions, and the flavours and textures of food when you eat. You’re also paying attention to why you are reaching out for food, what you’re eating and how much you’re eating.

How does it work? Say you’ve just had a meal, and you walk past the goreng pisang stall you frequent. Without second thought, you buy two fritters and gobble them up. That’s an instance of eating on autopilot.

Eating mindfully could be pausing and asking yourself if you really want goreng pisang, or if you’re buying out of habit because the stall was right there.

Signs of Stress-Eating 

Another example: you’ve had a bad day at work and you’re feeling down. When you get home, you immediately zoom to the kitchen, grab a cup of instant noodles, and wolf it down.

Being mindful would mean catching yourself before you eat and asking yourself why you chose instant noodles over a balanced dinner. Perhaps you craved comfort food to make you feel better.

You might recognise that the reason you’re reaching for keropok or cup noodles is not because you’re hungry, but because of habit or stress. And you don’t actually want or need those foods.

Here’s a bonus: by pinpointing what causes you to eat mindlessly, you can deal directly with the problem. If it’s stress, you can try taking steps to handle the situation in a healthier, more effective manner, instead of turning to food to cope.

We’ve learnt how mindful eating can help you curb mindless munching. Next week, we’ll look at ways you can eat with more awareness.


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References

  1. Mindful Eating as Food for Thought. The New York Times.
    Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/dining/mindful-eating-as-food-for-thought.html

  2. Mindful eating. Harvard Health Publications.
    Retrieved from http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:R3Dgfnk1KSgJ:www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/mindful-eating+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=sg