Remove the distractions that lead to mindless eating to stop overeating and lose weight

Research on Mindless Eating Offers New Insight into Obesity

Eating while distracted can lead to overeating and weight gain

Research presented by Dr. Marion Hetherington at the 2011 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo about multitasking and mindless eating provided proof that weight gain isn’t just about what you eat, but how you eat.

Dr. Hetherington explained that “satiation” is the sensation that lets us know when to end a meal or stop eating. “Satiety” describes what we feel after eating that tells us we’re satisfied, but not stuffed. Hunger is the signal that it’s time to eat again. Being able to detect each of these physical conditions has strong cognitive component.

Or simply put, we must pay attention when eating so our mind can process all of the signals that our body receives through sight, smell, taste and touch, in addition to the barrage of gastrointestinal signals transmitted with each bite.

According to Dr. Hetherington, several studies show that if you eat while doing other things, such as watching TV, reading or even talking, you can end up overeating. Appetite regulation is also affected by the amount of food available, such as large servings or buffets, even if the food doesn’t taste that good.

Based on this emerging research, a new direction for treating weight gain and obesity has evolved that focuses on the act of eating. Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD explained how Intuitive Eating, an approach she helped pioneer, allows people develop a healthy relationship with food and their own body.

Intuitive Eating is based on 10 principles which begin with rejecting the diet mentality and all the externalized rules for “dieting” that go with it. In this way the physical cues of hunger and satiety can begin to guide eating.

Ms. Tribole described “eating amnesia” as what occurs when you eat while distracted. She went on to explain that eating intuitively requires being aware of the food in front of you, as well as your emotions and body sensations.

The benefits of overcoming mindless eating and eating more intuitively go far beyond weight control according to both speakers. Practitioners gain a whole new appreciation for how to live in their own bodies and more accurately interpret their other needs, feelings and thoughts unrelated to food.

Given the abysmal results of most weight loss diets and the constantly changing food landscape, it makes sense to redirect your attention to how you eat, instead of what, if you want to lose weight. Why not shut down all the electronics and other distractions at your next meal and see how it feels?

Fast food undermines survival instinct to work for food

Fast Food May Hurt Us in More Ways Than One

Eating fast food removes the effort that helps keep our mind and body in shape

When most people think of fast food, images of burgers and fries come to mind. But if you are part of the Slow Food Movement, even sliced bread would be in the picture. Although all convenience foods do not come loaded with calories, recent studies have me thinking the faster we get our food, the easier it is to get fat.

Let me explain.

For most of human history, hunting and gathering food took all of our time and energy. When we figured out how to raise crops and animals more than 10,000 years ago, we had a somewhat more reliable food supply, but still had to work very hard to get something to eat. Then with the dawn of modern agriculture less than 200 years ago, the era of cheap, easy and fast food began.

Whether it’s take-out fried chicken or boneless, skinless chicken cutlets, fast food brought with it a dramatic change in our way of life. Once we no longer had to expend much effort to get our food, we had a lot more time to think about other things, like ways to produce even more food even faster.

But what if the evolutionary connection between food and work is important to our survival? It appears this may be true for some animals.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that the more effort mice had to expend to get their food, the more they valued it. In the study, mice were trained to press levers to receive treats. They preferred the sugary treat that took 15 presses of the lever over the treat they could get after pressing the lever just once. Then when the sugary treat was replaced with a low calorie (less tasty) snack, the mice continued to show a preference for the harder to get treat.

The study suggests that mice valued working for their foods so much they would eat something less palatable (and better for them) as long as they could “earn it” through hard work.

A related finding was seen in birds. Researchers from the Evolutionary Biology Centre in Upsala, Sweden found that survival among birds in urban areas was based on brain size because they have to work harder to find food than birds living in the countryside. These “urban adapters” as the researchers called them, are able to develop novel foraging techniques and sustain a varied diet, which is key to survival in a changing environment. Again, working for food paid off.

I realize animal studies cannot explain human behavior. But it makes me think our quick and easy food supply may be bad for us in more ways than just nutritionally. I know I have never heard anyone complain about a meal of home-grown, home-made food, have you?

Poor time management can lead to weight gain

Lack of Time Can Cause Weight Gain

Learning time management can lead to weight management

People are always complaining they don’t have enough time. They blame their lack of time for not reading more good books, not visiting their favorite relatives and not improving their tennis serve. The lack of time is also keeping people from losing weight.

Weight control requires that you have control over two other things in your life: the number of calories you consume and the amount of energy you expend. Controlling those two halves of the weight control equation requires a big investment of time.

To control the calories coming in, you have to be willing and able to prepare foods that can fill you up without exceeding your allotted calories for the day. To keep that number high enough to be satisfying, you have to be willing and able to be in motion more hours of the day.

Both take time.

The foods that are most filling while also being lower in calories are fruits and vegetables; lean meats, fish and poultry; and whole grains. Building your diet around these foods requires more time to shop for them and prepare them. No matter how many modern appliances you have in your kitchen, none of them can do the labor-intensive part of food preparation.

You can let the food industry do some of your fresh produce prep, like husking your corn and shredding your cabbage, but you’ll pay more and get less nutritional value for that time savings. And as good as frozen vegetables are, there are no frozen salads.

Turning lean cuts of beef, pork and chicken into tasty dishes takes time, too. Lacking fat, flavor must be provided by marinades, spice rubs and sauces, preferably not from a jar. And a side of brown rice, pearl barley or bagged beans takes longer to cook than their white, instant and canned counterparts.

Fortunately, shopping and cooking are a form of physical activity, the other half of the weight control equation. Whether done in a gym four times a week or wedged into each day, finding time to stop everything else and put your body in motion is an anti-obesity strategy that deserves your time, too.

If you are one of those people who is time-starved and overfed, this is your wake up call. Please don’t hit the snooze button. It’s time to take control of your time.

To get started, here’s 3 Smart Time Management Tips for Better Weight Management.

  1. Handle food in batches to avoid duplication of effort. Examples: Prefill coffee filters with ground coffee and stack them up for the week, cook a large amount of brown rice and freeze extra portions in zip-top bags for easy thawing, chop 3 onions at a time and save some for another day.
  2. Put other things in the oven once it’s preheated and in use. Examples: Add a few potatoes or yams so they’re ready for a quick lunch, cut-up pita bread or corn tortillas for homemade chips, slice and drain tofu and bake for use in a stir fry later in the week.
  3. Stand instead of sit whenever you can. Examples: In any waiting room, at airport gates, when talking on the phone, watching kid’s sporting events.