Saturday, 13 June 2009

Mindless Eating

Have you ever lost a piece of toast?

It's a mystery that has often befallen me. I'm chomping happily on my Vegemite delight and reach out for the next piece only to find an empty space where luscious crunchiness should be. I take my eyes off the computer screen/TV/road ahead for a moment to look and there's nothing there. Gutted. Robbed. Outraged....I WANT MY TOOOAST MUMMY!

Then comes the moment of horrible realisation: the toast isn't there because I've already eaten it. Stuffed it in, chomped it up and swallowed, without really registering the process.

This, my friends, is what they call "mindless eating", and if I want to lose weight - and keep it off - it is something I absolutely have to train myself NOT to do.

It's the guiding inspiration behind that classic piece of dieting advice: never eat standing up. Add to that: never eat while reading the paper, watching TV, driving, downloading music you haven't heard since 1989 or writing a blog.

Or, to put it simply, when you eat - eat. Don't treat it as a subsidiary activity that can be bolted onto any other. Respect it and give it your full attention. Otherwise you will eat a lot of food without really noticing you are doing it - and you will get fat without even having enjoyed the benefit of the yummy food, which is robbing yourself twice.

And if you like food - it seems such a waste not to savour it.

I'm always struck by this thought when I watch Joseph's labrador, Morris, have his dinner. Like all of his breed, Morris lives for food. All right, food and sticks, but mainly food. Every crumb of edible matter that is touched by human hand in that house is followed by Morris's agonised gaze.

Don't forget me! I like food! Look, I'm wagging my tail! Please? Just one little bit? I'll be good forever!

It breaks your heart.

Then comes the big moment: dinner time.

Down goes the bowl, down goes Morris's head and, within milliseconds, it's gone. He doesn't so much as inhale. Then he's back on patrol in the kitchen in case someone drops an apple pip.

"Morris, my boy," I want to say to him, "take time to enjoy your food - look at it, smell it, savour each mouthful, make it last." But it's no good: he's got to eat it as quickly as possible in case another dog steals it.

Which is exactly why I used to eat like a labrador. If I didn't clear my plate quickly as a child, my big brother would help me out. So I learned to stuff my dinner in fast, like Morris, and the habit stuck into adulthood.

Until now. I have actively retrained myself and here's the secret: put your knife and fork down after every mouthful. Take time to taste what you're eating, chew slowly, and don't pick your cultery up again until you're swallowed.

Now I have learned it is a much more enjoyable experience to sit back in my chair while I eat, look around the room, take in the scene. Breathe out occasionally.

Eating this way, I also become aware of getting full as I go and hope to never again find myself transformed into a human Zeppelin.
(That's the feeling, five minutes after leaving the table, that you have been forcibly inflated to bursting point.)

We were on safari in Kenya in December 2006 and came across these lions devouring an animal. We were quite was an amazing experience.


McMGrad89 said...

First of all, that is an amazing photo of the dining lions. Secondly, I must say, I am a mindless eater, but I have trained myself to know that these are the particular times that I am allowed to eat. No, it is not enjoyable, but in my hurried life, if I want to eat, It usually has to be done on the run. I am never anywhere long enough to sit and enjoy myself. Yet another reason I am so looking forward to next year's vacation.

HappyOrganist said...

Whoa, this has never happened to me.
The opposite has, though. Gone all day "oh crap, I forgot to eat" what a pain. It's something you have to do EVERY day. Day in and day out. A chore that is NEVER done. not unlike laundry (or dishes). Although I've noticed that no cooking/no eating = no dishes. And so it's kind of like eliminating 2 birds with one stone. Except that you can't b/c inevitably you HAVE to eat AGAIN.


HappyOrganist said...

I digress. This has happened to me before.. when eating cookies. ;-D I don't think it's a case of mindless eating as much as a case of not having enough cookies on hand.

Christine said...

I'm guilty of mindless eating, love to eat period. But these days I always keep a rough total in my head of what I should eat for the day...cups of tea, are practically free, along with vegetables. A handful of nuts are an almost daily treat, a handful of black currant sugar pastilles are a current weakness. I think treats are important for sanity. I also love fruit and the odd piece of chocolate.

Fly Girl said...

I'd never heard of the zeppelin effect, but boy can I relate to it! I began eating fast as a teenager when I worked at a McDonald's after school. I only had about a 15-minute break and had to eat AND do my homework.

Thanks for the reminder to slow down and savor each bite! I'm sure I won't be able to stuff as much down if I do that.


Loving Annie said...

Good post. This mindless eating is exactly what I do.
Those dining lions look like me at the table ! Uh-oh....
Keeping a food diary also helps, when I do it.
I'm really battling right now between what I know I should do - and comfort eating out of inertia, indifference and maybe more than a little self-sabotage.
I tell myself 40 pounds overweight isn't a big deal, especially if I don't care about dating. But that's a bad attitude, and it'll squash any possibilities I might have to make a good first impression other than that of a shlub. Sweats and a baggy t-shirt and no makeup say I don't have much self-esteem. Of geez, I just wish it didn't take so much time and effort to look good !!! Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance.

mscherrylane said...

hehe, before i read your post macs, I have to say I really enjoyed the sigur ros that jumped out to greet me ;) isn't hoppipolla one of those great "inspirational" pieces of music?? I also really liked the header pic today- reminds me very much of adelaide or christchurch-two cities I love :)

mscherrylane said...

haha! same here I am a WOOFER of food cos of growing up smallest in a large family...if you weren't quick there was never any food left! (maybe that is why I also am the smallest :p)

Any case now there is no competition I still am guilty of "distracted" eating cos I have the wrong mindset that eating by itself is "unproductive"...

so the same thought you had has come to me many times...I find it works best when I eat a typical meat and 3 veg type meal cos I actually require time to cut the meat etc...with rice it is too easy to just shovel...LOL

finally, I am opposite to you- when I mindless eat I tend to put down the vegemite toast(yay vegemite!) and it goes cold...actually when I get REALLY tired like I have been I neglect eating altogether as I have no energy to digest let alone prepare a meal. I didn't eat from 7pm Friday until 730pm Saturday! Done like that, the thought of doing a 40 hour famine seems a lot more feasible...

Caroline said...

Oh gosh....I thought I was the only one that did that! I hate when that happens too...eating something while doing something else...reach out for another bite and realizing it's gone! Scary! I am much better at eating mindfully now. I watch my kids when they eat something they's inhaled!! I always say...chew it slowly, enjoy the texture and flavor. If you like it...slow down and make it last! Works for grown ups too ;)

miruspeg said...

Yes I thought alot of people would be able to relate to mindless eating...thanks for dropping by and telling your stories.

Christine, I like when you wrote "I think treats are important for sanity"....I will remember that next time I have a piece of chocolate!

Macs - I stole that song from your blog..."Hoppipolla" sure is a great inspirational piece of music. The swelling beauty of the strings gets me every time.

I took my header photo at The Rocks in Sydney last weekend when we were in the city viewing the light show. I was in the right place at the right time to capture the last of the light on the building.

Butler and Bagman said...

Me too...and I've read, heard, and thought about it before...eating with consciousness. But knowing something and doing it are two such different things. A good reminder. If I only follwed the advice I wouldn;t always be the first person finished at every meal.

Monica said...

Stunning picture!

I struggle with temptation. I've been doing so well on my revised eating schedule and then I hit a wall. I was at a gathering yesterday with a desert that I couldn't pass up. The guilt kept me from enjoying it completely.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Oy! This happens to me all the time. Problem is, when it does, I getup and make another piece of toast!


GREAT post and an excellent reminds to Pat attention to what I put in my mouth.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Anonymous said...

I am like that with chocolate sometimes - when I 'need' it more than want it if you kwim? Totally 'comfort eating' although, like you say - where's the enjoyment?
"when you eat - eat" - is very 'Zen'. There is a Zen saying that goes: "When I eat, I eat. When I sleep, I sleep".
I guess it refers to the opposite of mindless eating - mindful eating. Here is another Zen saying:
'Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself.' I like that one (!) The law of minimal action...

Hybrid J said...

My mindless eating happens after meal, especially dinner. 30 to 45 mins after dinner, I could have a sudden craving for Kettel chips or chocolate or both. Though I could fight it most of the time, but seldom on Fri and Sat. I tend to give me a treat on weekend! This is bad! And it seems like it's getting worse in winter. Wonder if I'll ever kick it ... :(

miruspeg said...

Mark(Bagman - I must confess I am often the first to finish if I am really hungry. I forget to chew!!!

Monica - Desserts are my favourite meals so I always try and leave room for them. I normally don't get guilty until the next day.

Joanna - Stop making me laugh, this is a very SERIOUS subject :-P..I don't make anymore toast as I figure if I was such a pig I don't deserve another piece.

Healingstones - I didn't realise I was being very "Zen"...thanks for pointing that out. I really like your other Zen saying.
As for the law of minimal DOES NOT mean however that one should "do nothing and wait and hope everything will be alright"....I used to be like that!!

Hybrid - Me too me too mostly for chocolate and it is definitely worse in winter. I convince myself I will go for an extra long walk the next day...but I don't!

Thanks guys, I love reading your that is an interest word isn't it considering the topic we are discussing!

Chow...I mean ciao...

Anonymous said...

Lol ;o) I know what you mean Peggy - but I sometimes suffer from the 'I must do something NOW' syndrome, when in fact it would be better to chill and 'wait and see'. I like the image of a monk sitting there in his garden meditating while the grass grows up all around. Couldn't do that here though - too cold!

Once again it's all about balance...

Pink Heels said...

I have the perfect book for you that will help you eliminate mindless eating, "The Writing Diet" by Julia Cameron. Through journaling, or blogging, you identify the causes of your mindless eating to overcome it. It is amazing that such simple exercises can create lasting effects.

miruspeg said...

Healingstones - I like that image too and wish I could be out in my garden you said too b.....cold. Come on Spring where are you!

Jennifer - Thanks for the book suggestion...I wonder if Julia and I are related as we share the same last name.

MrsPeel said...

amazingly good advice.
I have retrained myself to eat smaller portions, and eat better food,and I know exactly what you are talking about....great advice.
Now, if we are to judge by the size of you, my beautiful lady, you are doing amazingly well.. :)
miss you dearly, hope we ll get together again next are always in our thoughts and hearts, I know I can speak for Sarita too...

lusia said...

Hi Nice blog,very interesting post.keep it up.I am giving some adsense tips here,just read them up as well.
Google Adsense System,business studies, THOUGHTS AND TIPS,Software Helper,

Beth Niquette said...

What a wonderful post! I enjoyed every word. (Grin) I think I've lost my toast a time or two, too.


miruspeg said...

Cynthia, Lusia and Beth thanks for your comments...always enjoy when you stop by and add to the conversation.
Take care

Genny said...

I've never lost my toast, but we did have a big lab who inhaled his food too. :)

Great to be back!


miruspeg said...

Hey Genny great to see your face again. I'll pop on over to your blog to see what you have been up to since last November.
Big hugs