In an excerpt from Brian Wansink’s book Mindless Eating, the author retells a conversation with a friend:

Over coffee a new friend commented that he’d lost 30 pounds within the past year. When I asked him how, he explained he didn’t stop eating potato chips, pizza, or ice cream. He ate anything he wanted, but if he had a craving when he wasn’t hungry he’d say – out loud – “I’m not hungry but I’m going to eat this anyway.”

Having to make that declaration – out loud – would often be enough to prevent him from mindlessly indulging. Other times, he would take a nibble but be more mindful of what he was doing.

Once you begin to understand the concept of mindlessly eating – such as reading about it now – you’ll slowly notice a difference when you enter your kitchen or attend a dinner party. You’ll catch yourself, reaching for that cookie on the table, wondering how your hand got there! This food “awakening”, when done repeatedly, begins to change a lifetime of blindly grabbing at food.

You know as well as I do, we often eat when we’re not hungry. As a matter of fact, one might say as Americans, we infrequently eat when we’re truly hungry. When was the last time you felt like you needed food right at that very moment, based on a deep sense of body hunger? If you’re like me, this certainly happens…but only occasionally. Most of the time, we eat either because:

  1. It’s there
  2. It’s time

(Dinner, breakfast, lunch and of course, dessert.)

So how do we begin to become more conscious of our food intake? Just like the example above, you can come up with a “food awareness phrase.” Use the one above (“I’m not hungry but I’m going to eat this anyway”) or make up your own, such as:

“Wake up!”

“I’m reaching for food now.”

“What the heck do you think you’re doing, missy?”

When it comes to eating and awareness, take a moment to be in the moment. You don’t have to deny yourself; you simply have to become increasingly aware of the times you’re reaching for food. You’ll find it’s easier to stave off those mindless cravings by simply “waking up” a little. Or if you choose to eat anyway, you are doing it consciously, which is an important step.