Contributed by Christina Iaboni
MHSc, Registered Dietitian
With most of us working from home now, do you find that you are constantly walking to your kitchen to grab something to eat even if you aren’t hungry? Or maybe you are eating all your meals in front of the computer screen and before you know it, that meal is done and you didn’t even realize it or take the time to enjoy it? These are examples of mindless eating, which many of us partake in from time-to-time, and that is harder to avoid when working from home or in an environment with abundant access to food.
According to research, we make more than 200 food decisions every day, including whether to eat, what to eat, and how much to eat. These food decisions are impacted by our hunger, but are also heavily influenced by the following:
1. Your habits.
An example of this is always eating lunch at noon without even asking ourselves if we are hungry.
2. Your environment
This includes seeing\smelling food or having some around. If you are at home and walk past the cupboard or work in an office that typically has lots of snacks to share, you may just grab something to eat for the one and only reason that it’s there.
3. Your mood
It is also possible that you sometimes eat out of boredom, stress or in response to another emotion. For example, when working from home, you may be constantly going to the kitchen to look for a snack as a way to distract yourself. If you have kids, you may be getting more snacks for them and grabbing something for yourself at the same time and\or finishing up what they leave to avoid waste.
Mindful eating means truly paying attention to your meal by avoiding any distractions and listening to your physical hunger cues. This can be achieved by making sure you are not eating because of other factors like those mentioned above (ex : boredom or food availability).
When it comes to eating according to a schedule, it isn’t always a bad thing as it is important to eat regularly. If you go too long without food, your blood sugar levels can drop and make it harder for you to concentrate or have you feeling tired and irritable. However, if you are trying to eat in a more mindful way, it is a good idea to start asking yourself on a regular basis if your eating is driven by hunger or another factor.
One thing to keep in mind is that mindful eating does not equal restriction. Listening to your body’s signals also means acknowledging your cravings without labelling food as “good” or “bad”. Rather than depriving yourself by trying to eat perfectly, try to eat what makes you feel best physically AND mentally! Here are some more tips to set yourself up for success :
While your daily situation may be far from “normal” right now, it can be helpful to follow a schedule or routine as much as possible, at least when it comes to eating. Have your meal in a separate area from where you are working and take a designated “lunch hour” to eat it.
2. Have a snack-time...
If you tend to get hungry between meals, take 15 minutes away from your work mid-morning or afternoon and eat something.
3. ...And choose the right snack!
Having a snack with some carbohydrates and protein can help fill you up between meals and prevent mindless eating. Yumi Organics overnight oats with cow’s milk for added proteins is a great option for a snack or breakfast. If you prefer using plant-based milks, which are often very low in protein, try adding about a tablespoon of chopped nuts/nut butter or seeds. Other healthy snack ideas include whole-grain crackers and cheese, hummus and cut-up vegetables, a banana with peanut butter or an apple with a small handful of almonds.
Mindful eating can definitely be a step towards healthier eating. Paying attention to our hunger and fullness cues can help prevent overeating and lead to a more enjoyable eating experience. Given everything that is going on in our world right now, you may be experiencing more stress than usual and wanting to cope with it by eating more food, which is a normal reaction of your body in this type of situation. The good thing is, there are many ways to overcome it. While it is important to acknowledge your cravings and to enjoy the foods you love, try to do so mindfully by paying attention to your hunger and fullness cues. Trying to maintain a regular eating routine can also be helpful in providing some structure to your day and giving you a sense of control in these crazy times. To put it simply, mindful eating is a way of showing some love to yourself, which is so important, now more than ever. Stay healthy, stay safe and stay mindful!;)