The science behind mindless eating and what to do about it!

Ever eaten a whole bag of potato chips while watching T.V.?

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Ever eaten your lunch while checking Facebook and suddenly realized your food was gone? That’s what happens to me!

Ever walked by some dessert and grabbed one on the way by? Yup, done that many times. I saw it, picked it up and ate it without even giving it a thought!

Why do we eat mindlessly?

What can we do to stop it?

Mindless eating is NOT GOOD!

We are not aware of the calories we consume. We aren’t paying attention to our hunger or fullness cues.

Mindless eating sabotages our healthy eating plan. When we are home for these next few weeks we need to be aware of this!

It’s easy to overeat because we’re stressed but it’s not a good solution!

When we eat mindlessly we miss out on the variety of textures, the taste and the joy of good food!

So let’s look at why we do it and then what we can do to stop it!

Why do we do it?

Brian Wansink, PhD. who directs the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab has some powerful scientific data on mindless eating. There are studies done to help us understand why our minds and eyes are so easily fooled. I think most of us can relate to many of these reasons.

  • “Sights, Sounds, and Smells

Overeating can be triggered just by the smell of bacon frying, or the sound of popcorn popping, or just walking past the bakery window. Just the sight or sound can make us want to eat! That’s why commercials send us in search of a snack.

  • Distracted Eating

Eating amnesia is the act of almost unconsciously putting food in your mouth without paying attention to what you’re eating.

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I have eating amnesia when I read my book during lunch. I’m always sad when I reach for one more bite and realize it’s all gone.

  • Food, Food Everywhere

When food is in front of you, you’ll tend to eat more of it. Dr. Wansink found that when candy was easily accessible on employees’ desks, they ate an average of nine pieces a day, but when they had to get up from their desks to reach the candy six feet away, they ate only four pieces.

Photo by Ivan J. Long on

I can’t resist a candy bowl on the table. Can you?

  • Food that’s Fast, Convenient, and Inexpensive

Fast-food combo meals make eating quick and easy. You can easily eat way too much food that has very little nutrient value.

  • Portion Distortion

Our idea of a normal portion has changed a great deal. Many restaurants serve oversized portions. Somehow we think we got a good deal because the plates are the size of the platters we use at home.

  • Giant-Size Packages

The mega-sized packages like jumbo flats of muffins or cookies encourage us to eat more because there is more food available. When you eat from a large container, you are likely to consume 25% to 50% more than you would from a smaller package. It seems that when we know there is lots of treats available then we eat more!

  • Not-So-Dainty Dishware

We tend to eat more when we’re serve ourselves food on bigger plates. Dr. Wansink found that when students were given food in larger bowls, they served themselves 53% more and consumed 56% more than those who used smaller bowls.”

That’s why it’s important to use a smaller plate. Click smaller plate to read about my daily routine of using smaller dinner ware.

O.K. Now we know why we overeat.

What do we do instead?

Take a minute to think before you eat. What are you feeling? Are you stressed, rushed, bored or sad? Are you really hungry? If not, get out of the kitchen. Go for a walk, distract yourself with an activity.

When you eat, just sit and eat. Sit down and face way from any distractions. Turn off your phone, computer or the T.V. and think about eating. Savor the tastes and texture of the food. It’s a return to the way people used to eat. They sat at the table and visited while they ate.

Never eat directly from a bag or box of food. Before you know it the bag will be empty and you will have no idea how much you ate.

Put your snack on a plate or in a bowl. This extra step helps you realize that the snack is gone. It gives you a few minutes to decide if you really want more.

Keep the counters clear of all food but the healthy ones. A pretty fruit bowl on the cupboard encourages healthy snacking.

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Limit your view of tempting foods. Put the cookies in the cupboard. Or better yet put them in the basement, so you will have to make a conscious decision to go and get them.

Fill your plate at the stove or counter. You will need to make a conscious decision to get up and get more food.

Change the fridge organization. Place fruit and vegetables on the top shelf in a separate basket, so you see them first.

TODAY’S little STEP: Become a mindful eater. Pick at least 1 strategy to incorporate into your everyday life. Remember every little step makes a difference!

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Remember every little step makes a difference!

Peace be with you!


Here are the websites which I used for my research if you would like to read more.

10 tips for mindful eating — just in time for the holidays

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Come walk with me on the path of health and well being. Together we will navigate life. No diet. No program. Just real life struggles and successes! But believe this statement - Every little step makes a difference!

2 thoughts on “The science behind mindless eating and what to do about it!

  1. Thanks Dixie

    On Mon, Apr 27, 2020 at 8:16 PM Little Steps To Health wrote:

    > Dixie Elliott posted: ” Ever eaten a whole bag of potato chips while > watching T.V.? Photo by on Ever eaten your lunch > while checking Facebook and suddenly realized your food was gone? That’s > what happens to me! Ever walked by some dessert and gra” >

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