Easy Ways To Avoid Mindless Calories

Dan DeFigioBehavior and Mindfulness

avoid mindless calories - mindful eating

Mindless eating means eating when you’re not thinking about what you’re doing. It’s plowing through a bag of snacks while watching TV, or eating because an external cue tells you to keep eating – like your plate’s not empty, or there are still more French fries in the bag. Mindless eating can add up to thousands of unfulfilling (and often unhealthy) calories each week.

Ideally, eating will always be a mindful experience. You’ll enjoy your food – you’ll savor the tastes, the textures, the smells, and the experience of eating. You’ll pay attention to how your body feels, and you’ll be aware when you’ve had enough to eat.

But we all know that we aren’t always able to do things ideally. So here are some simple ways to tweak your eating habits to avoid mindless eating.

Easy Tips To Avoid Mindless Calories

    1. Keep junk food out of sight. Ideally, you won’t have junk food in your house or at work. But if it’s there, at least keep it out of sight. It’s a lot easier to say ‘No’ to a cookie that’s on a high shelf in the pantry, than it is to say ‘No’ to one that’s in a clear glass jar on the countertop that you pass by dozens of times each day.

“In sight = in stomach.” We eat what we see, not what we don’t see. That being said, rearrange your cupboards, pantry, and refrigerator so the first foods you see are the healthiest for you.

    1. Never eat from a package or a large serving dish. Portion out your food first, then put away the bag or the serving dish. It’s too easy to get seconds or to keep munching when there’s more food sitting right in front of you.
    1. Trick your brain into thinking there’s more food on your plate.
      • Eat from smaller plates. Your brain will think you’ve eaten more food than you actually have.
      • Use plates that are contrasting colors to the food you’re eating. Light-colored foods like pasta or rice look bigger and more plentiful on a dark plate. Restaurants serve dark desserts on white plates for this reason – food looks bigger and more impressive when it visually jumps off the plate.
  1. Don’t eat while watching TV or while surfing your cell phone. You’ll wolf down everything in front of you and miss the entire experience. Pay attention while you eat – decide WHAT, then portion it out, then eat it while chewing thoroughly and enjoying the flavors and textures. After you swallow, set your fork down and ask yourself if you need another bite.

Mindless Eating At Restaurants

mindless eating restaurant

Does where you sit in a restaurant influence what you order? Brian Wansink, a food behavior scientist, visited dozens of restaurants across the country, and measured and mapped out the layout of each one. He determined how far each table or booth was from the window and front door, whether it was in a secluded or well-traveled area, how light or dark it was, and how far it was from the kitchen, bar, restrooms, and TV sets. After he’d mapped out the layouts and diners began arriving, the restaurants tracked what they ordered and how it related to where they sat.

      • People ordered healthier foods if they sat by a window, or in a well-lit part of the restaurant. Patrons ate heavier food and ordered more of it if they sat at a dark table or booth.
      • People sitting farthest from the front door ate the fewest salads, and were 73% more likely to order dessert.
      • People sitting within two tables of the bar drank an average of three more beers or mixed drinks (per table of four) than those sitting one table farther away.
      • The closer a table was to a TV screen, the more unhealthy food a person ordered.
      • People sitting at high-top bar tables ordered more salads and fewer desserts.

Some of this makes sense. The darker it is, the more “invisible” you might feel, the less easy it is to see how much you’re eating, and the less conspicuous or guilty you might feel.

Seeing the sunlight or trees outside might make you think about a green salad.

Sitting next to the bar might subconsciously keep reminding you about another drink or make you think it’s more ‘normal’ to order several.

Watching TV might distract you from thinking hard about what you should order. If high-top bar tables make it harder to slouch, or if they put you “on display”, they might cause you to feel in control and to order more responsibly.

More Benefits Of Mindfulness

Staying focused on what you are doing, as you are doing it, will help more than just avoiding mindless calories. Mindfulness has been proven to have these benefits:

      • Relieving stress
      • Improving mood
      • Overcoming addictive and compulsive behavior
      • Improving sleep
      • Managing depression and/or anxiety
      • Increasing focus, concentration, and learning capacity
      • Reducing heart rate
      • Lowering blood pressure
      • Improving immunity
      • Boosting happiness

So if you want a better quality of life, without having to spend any money, go anywhere, or even break a sweat, start living more mindfully by paying attention to what you’re doing at any given moment. Start with mindful eating!


Dan DeFigio how to get off sugarIf you need some help with healthy nutrition and building healthy eating habits, drop me a note and we’ll set a time to talk!