Stressed Eating

April 06, 2012

Mindless eating will lead to a larger waistline. Find out what two new studies say and how you can combat an expanding waistline

Eating when we’re stressed and mindless eating are two of the worst things we can do for our waistlines. According to a recent Finnish study, women who reported “work burnout” are more likely to turn to food in times of stress; moreover they were also prone to “uncontrolled” eating - the feeling that you're always hungry or can't stop eating until all the food is gone.

This idea certainly does not just apply to women, all of us can experience bouts of stress that lead to overeating. Add to that our culture of multitasking, especially at meal times – sometimes were even so focused on something else while eating that we continue to poke around our plates only to realize upon looking down that we’ve devoured the entire meal…

According to a previous Harvard study, a small yet growing body of research suggests that a slower, more thoughtful way of eating could help with weight problems and maybe even steer some people away from processed food and other less-healthful choices and towards whole fresh fruits and vegetables.

Dubbed “mindful eating”, paying attention to our meals even if we haven’t fully prepared them ourselves could be exactly what we need to battle the bulge. Based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, which involves being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at the moment, these techniques have been proposed as a way to relieve stress and alleviate problems like high blood pressure and chronic gastrointestinal difficulties. In light of the new research, being mindful in all areas of our life (including at our job) would help cut down on mindless eating.

So when you sit down to eat, notice the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of your food; chew slowly; and turn of the TV, put away the book and certainly step away from the computer screen,- learn to appreciate your meals – hey you may feel fuller sooner than you think, putting your overeating habit to rest.

Our brain has a direct connection to our gut; digestion involves a complex series of hormonal signals between the gut and the nervous system. Researchers also believe that eating while distracted (by activities like driving or typing) may slow or even stop digestion - similar to the bodies fight or flight response. Poor digestion reduces our body’s ability to extract nutrients from our food leading to malnutrition.

If you’re constantly on the go, start slow and eat one meal a week with no distractions. Harvard researchers suggest setting your kitchen timer to 20 minutes, taking that time to eat a normal-sized meal. Also something SupermarketGuru enjoys is using chopsticks because if you are not entirely used to using them, it will definitely take you longer to finish your meal.

If you’re really striving for mindfulness, eat silently for five minutes, thinking about what it took to produce that meal, from the sun's rays to the farmer to the grocer to the cook. Bon appetite!