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Habits that make you fat: Unconscious eating

Unconscious eating (eating without thinking) is the kind of thing people do every day.

These habits develop when we form associations between stimuli or cues and responses.

For example, when your favourite TV programme is interrupted with a commercial break you get up, put the kettle on and have something to eat. This habit is considered a learned pattern of behaviour.

Your snacking habits start with being aware of your current behaviour. Look at the environments you eat in. Do you eat while:

  • reading
  • watching TV or working in front of a computer
  • in the car
  • walking around the house, etc

Look at the food choices you make. Do you:

  • eat a wide variety of foods
  • include favourite foods
  • choose energy-dense foods as snacks
  • know how much fat or sugar is in different foods

Look at when you are eating. Do you:

  • eat proper meals or graze throughout the day
  • eat when stressed or bored
  • eat when preparing a meal for others

To avoid the pitfalls you may need to change some of your eating habits:

  • Avoid getting too hungry by having regular planned meals, and if you need them, regular planned snack.
  • Always sit down to eat, and when at home only eat at a certain place (the dining table is best, they say you should never put anything in your mouth while standing up except your toothbrush).
  • When you are eating, eat: apart from conversing with people you're sitting down with; don't do anything else when you're eating. Chew and savour each mouthful; don't eat in a hurry.
  • Don't keep foods in stock that you know you find hard to resist and if this means others miss out – so be it – they probably don't need them anyway (and should be supporting you).
  • Ensure you have healthy snacks in stock; your goal is to make the healthy option the easy option. A few choices to try are a handful of grapes or sliced fruit.
First published: Nov 2006



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