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A scientific review found that people who were given larger food packages, bigger restaurant portions, and larger sized plates and bowls, ate an average of 30% more food on that occasion, compared to people who were given smaller sizes.1 However, over 70% of people believed they had eaten the same amount as they normally ate, and 94% firmly believed that they were not influenced by the package, portion or plate size. The findings from this review suggest that external factors can cause people to mindlessly.1
Likewise, a recent meta analysis found that eating while being distracted, such as watching television or playing a computer game, leads to greater acute food intake.2 It may be that the distraction takes away the perception of food attributes such as flavour, texture and appearance, which delays the onset of the feeling of „having enough“ that triggers a person to stop eating. mindful eating, may be useful in reducing inadvertent overconsumption.
Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It reflects an ancient Buddhist meditation practice.4 Mindful eating simply means being attentively aware while eating. This entails: focusing on the sensory attributes of the food such as the taste, smell and texture,
acknowledging subjective responses to eating a food such as likes and dislikes, and paying attention to internal cues of hunger and satiety.5 Mindful eating encourages the body to follow its own inner wisdom to choose foods that are both satisfying, enjoyable and nourishing. irregular eating patterns, emotional eating) and weight control. A review of 21 studies of mindfulness based interventions to change obesity related eating behaviours found that 86% of the studies reported improvements in eating behaviour, dietary intake and body weight.6 Another review, focusing on weight loss, found that six out of eight short term intervention studies documented significant weight loss among people eating mindfully.4 There is also promising work that suggests that mindful eating can help prevent inadvertent or mindless overeating by people with a healthy weight.2,3 Mindful eating has also been effective in self management of diabetes.7 However, longer term studies are needed to see if the effects are lasting. It is proposed that mindful eating increases awareness of hunger and satiety cues, interrupting habitual and stress related eating patterns and improving control of food intake.6 Further work is needed to understand the psychological, behavioural, and biological mechanisms underpinning the process, and the most consistently effective interventions.4
Since food choice is complex and may be outside of conscious awareness, some scientists believe that awareness and education is not enough to change mindless eating.1 However people may benefit from following suggestions to help them mindfully eat better.8,9
Tips for eating more mindfully8,9
Before opening the fridge or cupboard,
take a breath and ask yourself how you feel. Are you really hungry? Or thirsty? Stressed? Bored? Think for a minute and differentiate between your needs and wants.