The Mindless Habit of Eating

Regular food intake wasn’t (and still isn’t) for all of us something we can rely on. Historical proof has shown that the evolution of nutrient intake, and how this has shaped us to date, started even before the Bronze, Iron and Stone Age.

Deeply etched in our DNA, we once were the hunters and gatherers of the planet. Finding food was simply a daily trial-and-error exercise where chasing game or hunting wild was the only way to nourish ourselves. With the development of the agricultural industry, this became prone to natural disasters. Your ancestors learned this through trial and error. How the crop had to be treated, planted and harvested.

During these hundreds of years, food was not a commodity stored in a homemade fridge or heading towards a Flintstone-shaped 7/11 to get a pack of grilled wild boar. 

Nope, none of this existed. 

History shows that our forefathers and –mothers made huge efforts to feed the family and often were tucked in their cave without any meal. Bouts of intermittent fasting during these lifetimes were more common than a well-fed belly. According to anthropologists, their lean bodies were the result of a combination of movement and diet. Their genes still reside in us; they have been the founders of what we now see as our modern-day society. 

It was a challenging time to get food, any type of food. I omit times of war, atrocities of any kind, and the continuous tsunami of natural disasters.  I add them in as these negative effects spiral our nutritional intake to a higher degree. (Recommendable read about these human developments – Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari)

Why am I starting with this?

We often are not aware of how easy it is for us these days to get food. The past is the past. Let’s not linger on this but take this with us not to make similar mistakes. It requires a bit of reflection to consider the facts and take these as part of our ongoing learning and stages of personal evolution under the loop to thrive. 

Our bodies stem from evolutionary changes. We all are who we are now because of what our pre-historic ancestors were. There is ample proof available showing that our inner works were shaped and crafted by how we lived centuries ago.

In today’s society, distractions are flowing in abundance through our immediate environment. We tend to be less focused on what we eat in favour of a fast-moving LED screen, a good book, family and friends time, and more towards seen as an activity that moves in conjunction with being in the moment. Social health is as important as any of the health pillars I take up, but it comes with a price.

There was a clear amount of tasks needed to be done when nutrient intake was on the menu. To hunt and forage meals for our cavern-dwelling family members and kinsmen. Focus, studying the paths of their prey, seeing how the clouds above one’s rocky abode formed and shaped, sharpening the primitive tools available.

To date, that sheer determination of focus and knowing how we feed ourselves effectively is lost to a certain degree. It is not only missing the essence of why we must eat. We are distracted by an incremental amount of external factors of both a conscious and subconscious nature. The human mind simply cannot compute when we try to multitask – we can do certain things at 60%-70% but not to the full extend. 

Our brain functions optimally when we focus on one task, and one task only. 

When sliding down on a couch for a movie night, the snacks and drinks decorate the living room table. Do we need something when we watch some telly? Before we know it, we dig in more often than we may need. Our hand–mouth coordination runs as smooth and regular as our preferred daily bowel movements. Our eyes are glued towards another entertaining topic (book, television, or a good conversation), while in tandem, the mechanics of mindless eating is working effectively in the background.

Ran out? There is always a shop nearby to restock. A 6-pack (600 calories), a bag of crisps (25 grammes = 130 calories), a can of coke (140 calories) will add up quite easily and quickly. 

I once asked a client to take pictures of what he was eating and drinking during one of his nights and send it over. When showing him afterwards the results, his jaw dropped.

It is in these moments that mindless eating can result in taking more calories than what you need. The loss of focus, the availability of whatever we need within an arm’s reach and the environment of the world we are living in makes eating more convenient and less of a primary task.

We cannot multi-task when we seek clarity on what one is desperate to accomplish. Our cave-dwelling ancestors were clear when they headed out to grab their essentials. It is during these sessions of mindless eating that the caloric intake explodes beyond one’s actual need.

Just like with everything I aim to bring forward towards my clients is that perfection does not exist. The only progression to take one to the next level is what we are going for. Having such a night once in a while is perfectly fine. It does not break what your goal is. Just don’t make it a regular and easy-to-repeat feast. 

It is these sneaky mindless tasks in between where we need to put the spotlight on. The goal will then become irrelevant. 

We cannot deny that our mindless eating habits will define who we will become. These pictures of our current and future self are not what we want to see and above all, being confronted with. It is wise not to ignore these markers, be aware that a lot of how we used to eat still resides in us, and that change is possible when you become aware.

The success of quitting mindless eating lies in keeping it super simple.

Mindless habitual behavior is the enemy of innovation | Rosabeth Moss Kanter

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