To mark World Obesity Day (October 11) the United Kingdom’s College of Contemporary Health published an seven-page e-book called “Top 10 Tips to Avoid Mindless Eating,” which can be downloaded for free.
Tip #1 is to “Become aware of your personal triggers for eating and particular food choices.” Personal triggers are, by definition, individual, and identifying them requires a degree of self-awareness that usually takes some work. On the other hand, it is worth recalling one of the principles found in addiction recovery programs, because some triggers are almost universal.
When a recovering alcoholic feels compelled to drink, the acronym HALT is supposed to come to mind. The letters stand for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. If a person stops to think about it, and realizes that she or he is angry, lonely, or tired, that problem that should be addressed by some other action more appropriate than consuming food.
For people who are addicted to overeating, there is a complication, because the easy conclusion to jump to is, “That’s it! I’m hungry, therefore I should eat!” But as we know, sometimes signals can be deceptive. Childhood Obesity News has referred readers to a chart compiled by Doreen Virtue, that helps to differentiate between physical hunger and emotional hunger. (A link to it can be found partway down this page.)
For instance, hunger that is sudden and urgent is probably not true hunger. When the body signals a genuine need for sustenance, it starts with mild sensations and gradually works up to more insistent messages. Another sign is a craving for a specific food. This one can be tricky, because someone who feels a strong desire for eggs or oranges might actually needs protein or Vitamin C. But the craving for chocolate-covered bacon is probably not legitimate.
So many ways to fail
The report identifies four subcategories of mindless eating — binge, emotional, external, and responsive. “External” eating is reactive to food-related cues in the environment, and this is the area where official regulations have the most potential to bring about change. The attempt to influence the prevalence of “external” eating is causing massive controversy in many countries, as national governments wrestle with the power of the media to constantly place images of food in front of people while inveigling them to eat.
State and local governments have their work cut out for them, too, and must deal with constant challenges and threats, especially to the health of young students. The College of Contemporary Health says:
Mindless eating has been linked to weight gain and weight regain after successful weight loss. The opposite to mindless eating is mindful or conscious eating, where individuals are taught to recognize the internal cues that signal satiety and are able to balance food intake and energy required.
Another of their tips is to use smaller plates and take the serving dishes away from the dinner table. Unfortunately, the majority of mindless eating is not done at a table, nor does it usually involve serving dishes.
For most Americans, the majority of their calories are probably taken on board through grazing, snacking, having a pizza delivered to consume in front of the television, or grabbing a soda just because a machine happens to be handy. Controlling that behavior is a whole separate science from what it takes to eat a civilized meal at a proper table.
Fortunately, both seated dining and untrammeled grazing are handled by Dr. Pretlow’s W8Loss2Go smartphone application, which is definitely worth checking out. The app’s website describes the technique in detail and answers every possible question.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!