Picture this. You are coming into the office after a weekend of rest and relaxation, ready to tackle the day. You turn on your computer, and your inbox has 100 messages. Then your coworker comes running into your office to vent about how annoying another coworker is. Then your boss calls and wants you in an all day meeting, and suddenly, your to-do list is 12 miles long and you are multitasking, trying to get everything done. You are barely going to have time to get through it, let alone have time for lunch!
We talked about listening to our body’s hunger and fullness cues to indicate when and how much we should eat. We know that we have been trained to ignore those cues through ideas such as “cleaning our plate” and fad diets that are restrictive. But what about the many distractions we are faced with every day? Many of us are guilty of eating in front of the our computer at work, while watching TV or even driving in traffic.
Multitasking while eating is another way that we ignore our hunger cues. Busy lifestyles have led us to believe that any time we can accomplish two things at once, it’s a win. Unfortunately, mindful eating has taken a hit with this way of thinking. Being efficient has taken over our ability to sit down, savor and enjoy a meal.
Give me an example of mindless eating!
One of the most classic examples of mindless eating while distracted? Endless refillable movie theatre popcorn. We all know how easy it is to chow down handfuls of buttery, salty popcorn at a movie theatre. But, have you ever thought about what it would be like to eat that same amount of popcorn in another setting?
1 serving of popcorn is about 3 cups. Popcorn is a great snack! Delicious, full of fiber and totally customizable. One standard microwaveable bag of popcorn has about 6 cups of popcorn, which is about 2 servings. So, if you decide to share that with a friend while watching Netflix at home on the couch, you are both consuming 1 serving of popcorn. But what about at the movie theater?
Ordering a small bag of popcorn may seem like the logical choice, but did you know that on small bag of popcorn is about 11 cups of popcorn? That is almost 3 servings! And the giant tub of popcorn that they sell as part of those combo meals? You are looking at about 20 cups of popcorn! So, almost 7 servings. The environment you are in and the distractions around you can take you away from being able to listen to your body’s fullness signals, causing you to eat more, and potentially finishing multiple servings of popcorn.
How to minimize distractions at your next meal:
1. Take a few deep breaths.
This will help you focus in on the meal that you are about to enjoy. This is particularly important if you are coming in from a hectic day at work, or about to eat lunch after stressful work meeting. Try using a meditation app to decompress during the day, if needed. Some of our favorite free apps are Calm, Headspace and Mind Body Connect. You may also find that aroma therapy is helpful if you are stressed. My favorite scent is lavender or eucalyptus mint.
2. Ask yourself what you are hungry for.
This is a part of normal eating! Sometimes the answer is going to be pizza. And sometimes the answer is going to be a salad. And that is okay! Are you looking for something hot? Cold? Sweet? Salty? Crunch? Creamy? This can help fine tune what you are really looking to enjoy!
3. Set the table and plate your food.
Portion out your food onto a plate so that you aren’t mindlessly picking at the food from the main dish. Make it a dining experience, set table, add candle, etc
4.Engage all your senses while eating.
Smell your food, play with your food, listen to the crunch and take in the visual appearance. This again makes you more mindful of the meal you are eating! What does your food look like? Is there a color that is more prominent?
What does is smell like? Is there one scent that is stronger than the rest. What does it sound like? Do you hear the sizzle of the hot food? If you touched your food, what would it taste like? Finally, what does your food taste like?
5. Taste your food.
What words would you use to describe it? Try describing your foods before you eat it. Describe the smell, taste, consistency…etc. Then spend time to eat slowly and enjoy every bite!
6. Think about ways you could explain this food to someone who has never seen it before.
It helps you focus in on the food, and take in the appearance.
7. Pause in the middle of eating for at least two minutes.
Decide if you are satisfied or still hungry. If you’re still hungry, continue eating! If you realize that you are satisfied, this is a good place to stop eating. Pack up the leftovers for lunch the next day! (hunger fullness motorcycle)
Your dietitian is here to help you manage your nutrition in your hectic life. Click here to make an appointment with Klara or any of our other nutrition professionals or call 301-474-2499
Contributions by Julia Dugas, Dietetic Intern at University of Maryland Dietetic Internship