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Mindful Eating with ADD
February 19, 2010 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Mindful Eating: I know how to eat out alone. How do I eat in alone?

I'm working hard to establish a healthier relationship with food. I used to binge eat, always ate until I was full (sometimes painfully), ate when I was bored, tired, stressed, happy, etc. I've been dealing with these issues for years, and for the first time I'm making major progress. My food philosophy is to eat slowly, enjoy my food, eat only when I'm hungry, and stop at 80% fullness.

However, I have one habit that I'm finding hard to kick--I love eating dinner in front of the tv. I find it relaxing. However, it also leads me to not notice what I'm eating so I inevitably overeat. So, I follow common advice and sit down for meals at my dinner table. Problem is, I live alone, and eating by myself without distractions leaves me antsy and bored--I rush the meal because I want to do something fun. I've tried reading and eating, but this also distracts me and leads to overeating.

How can I make eating alone a less boring experience without drawing too much attention from what I'm eating?

(I should note that I cook for myself and I really like what I cook, so it's not the food that's the issue.)
posted by Tall Telephone Pea to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
put on an album you really like.
posted by nadawi at 5:36 PM on February 19, 2010


Get more into your cooking, and perhaps specifically how you present it.
Maybe try to make your flavors more complex and subtle and then pay a lot of attention to that when you eat. Bento boxes.
posted by cmoj at 5:37 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd portion control what you eat before you get to the TV. I sit in front of the computer with most of my meals and I make sure that if I make a meal for three that I only take one portion with me.

A fist-sized portion of meat, double that much starch and unlimited amounts of veg on the plate worked for me.
posted by Hiker at 5:49 PM on February 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Cook food that takes concentration to eat, like a steamed artichoke, where you have to pull the leaves out one-by-one.

Listen to the radio (NPR-type stuff) or a podcast, which would distract you hearing-wise, but not visually. You'd be looking at your food.

Invite friends over for dinner more often.
posted by sallybrown at 5:52 PM on February 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mindful eating. You need to sit at the table and practice all those things you already know. Because (cliche) you are worth it. You just return to what you are doing when the distractions arise. At first it will be weird and you'll be at the table for a very a long time. The idea is that it will become a habit. Like you said: concentrate on what you are eating. Everything else is just a distraction, and that will quiet over time.
posted by marimeko at 5:53 PM on February 19, 2010


portions. Our tv is downstairs from our kitchen. I do well when I use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate, and let a few minutes pass before I decide if I need seconds. Which are alll the way upstairs...
posted by ansate at 5:55 PM on February 19, 2010


cliche - sorry, that sounded wrong. I didn't mean that as snark, I mean it's hard to remember the obvious (that you ARE worth it) when this sort of thing is in play. Good luck to you!
posted by marimeko at 5:57 PM on February 19, 2010


Bring only enough servings to the couch with your for a balanced meal and then put the rest into left over containers. I tend to just finish whatever is left as a habit so if it's already put away I don't feel the need to do that.

If you still think you are hungry wait at least 20 minutes to give your stomach time to digest the information.

Try getting some type of hobby to do. Eating when you're bored or just as something to do isn't necessary.
posted by zephyr_words at 6:22 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, it is all about portions. Only put on your plate what you actually want to eat, not the entirety of everything you just cooked. You can still eat in front of the television without worrying about it. Really, it is boring to eat alone while not doing anything else, so worry more about serving size to begin with rather than what you're doing while eating.
posted by wondermouse at 6:30 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Set the table nicely, light candles, put on some music and make it an event. It will help you slow down and enjoy the meal.
posted by odeon at 6:40 PM on February 19, 2010


I think everyone has mentioned portions, because that's all this is about. You can make as much food as you like, but only put as much as you should eat on a plate. That's it. I think you're making a whole plate of beans out of this.
posted by sanka at 6:43 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


i don't think this is a plate of beans. portion control solves part of it - but the OP's goal is to eat until he/she is 80% full - that's not the same portion size every single time.
posted by nadawi at 6:49 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mindful eating is not simply about portion control (which is significant, obviously), it's about paying attention to what you are doing while you eat.
posted by marimeko at 6:56 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do a cryptic crossword while I eat when I'm alone. It's more interesting than doing nothing but is in small chunks, so I don't get totally absorbed like I would with a book. I'm also not incredibly great at them so need several sittings to get through one crossword. plus a reasonable amount of my time is spent just thinking about each clue, so it doesn't interfere with the eating. I tend to have two or three on the go at various stages of completion. Any kind of small puzzle, sudoku or whatever, should work the same I think.
posted by shelleycat at 7:06 PM on February 19, 2010


Sallybrown's suggestion of "interactive" food sounds promising. Maybe you need to play with your food a little while you eat it ;-)

You can eat lasagna layer by layer, wind your spaghetti around your fork, play Army Corps of Engineers with your mashed potatoes and gravy.

Learn to use chopsticks. (Eating alone is a good time to practice.)

If you're a very visual person, you might be unbored by a beautifully presented plate: garnishes, composed salads, etc. Make your meal a feast for the eyes as well, with nice table linens, maybe flowers or a candle.

But really, I don't think it's necessary to linger over your meals when you eat alone. Eat a healthy portion, enjoy it, then move on to your next activity.
posted by Quietgal at 7:33 PM on February 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


What about really good music or a podcast? Less engrossing than the TV, but still gives you something cool to think about while eating.

Barring that, fix a plate for yourself that contains the smallest portion you could possibly be satisfied with. Eat that. Wait 15-20 minutes. If you're not at the level of fullness you want to be at, go get more food. Repeat until at optimal fullness. Put away leftovers.
posted by decathecting at 8:09 PM on February 19, 2010


I had this problem as well. I had to train myself that it was okay to put the fork/spoon/bowl down and leave it there for minutes at a time, and that it was better for me because instead of just scarfing the whole thing down at once, I was eating at a pace my body could handle and I would become full before finishing the meal.

I didn't do anything differently otherwise, as I'm constantly listening to music or absorbed with something on the internet or a project I'm working on. I just felt like the two couldn't co-exist and that it was wasteful if I didn't eat it all. That was the worst - I hate throwing away food.

Honestly I think it was after I started eating alone in public after awhile and having to occupy myself there (phone, music, jotting things down) that really did it for me. To learn the virtue of patience and the reward of not feeling like total scum after a meal. So maybe you're on the right track.

Something that helps too is that I don't keep any real snack foods around. I've found that if I have them in the house, I resort straight to them even if I go into the kitchen craving something that will take me even a minute to make, and then because the snack itself isn't hearty enough, I just kept eating.

Hopefully I'm on the right track here with what you're asking. The other comments don't really make sense to me, as even engaging in other mind-engrossing activities doesn't do anything to deter how fast/much I eat.

Good luck!
posted by june made him a gemini at 8:40 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like listening to the radio - NPR, almost always - while I'm eating alone. The computer (or a book, or TV) takes too much of my attention, but I don't want to just stare at the wall. Listening to a voice talking, but without the visual, is just the right amount of stimulation so I'm not bored, but I can still focus on my meal.

Sometimes I do a crossword puzzle instead, but it borders on too interesting, usually, and I can get lost in the puzzle and not notice that I'm still eating.

I don't think simply portioning out your food in front of the TV is going to cut it; you'll still mindlessly eat your portion, and while you might not overeat, I don't think you'll have the experience of mindful eating that you're looking for. You need to find something else to do while you're eating that is relaxing, enjoyable, and keeps you from getting bored, yet allows you to mindfully focus on your meal. For me, that's listening to the radio. For you, it could be something else.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:51 PM on February 19, 2010


Make smaller portions.
posted by Max Power at 9:44 PM on February 19, 2010


Water. Bring an extra glass of water to the table.

You can flavor water by adding a few slices of something to it.
Water with lime, or any citrus. Water with cucumber. Peach, thinly sliced apple.

Now, have a small sip of water at an interval that works for you. Really taste the water. Note the contrast to the food - texture, flavor, temperature, etc.
posted by bilabial at 3:58 AM on February 20, 2010


i don't think this is a plate of beans. portion control solves part of it - but the OP's goal is to eat until he/she is 80% full - that's not the same portion size every single time.

Agreed, but if you maintain the same levels of meat and starch on your plate and just vary the amount of veggie you're eating, that's not at all a problem. I eat this way after a day sitting at my 8-4 and a day of hiking for 6-8 hours and the only variance I really allow is the number of veggies I prepare.
posted by Hiker at 4:34 AM on February 20, 2010


Buy better quality ingredients. Trying farm eggs after years of eating the warehoused grocery store ones can be a taste revelation; you'll savour food more if you go out and find better ingredients (covered previously on AskMe.) It doesn't have to be expensive.

As for the water during meals: If you have certain stomach conditions such as GERD, too much water can cause problems, so don't overdo it.
There is no proof to support the theory that you shouldn't drink water with meals: your digestive juices can cope perfectly well with it. It usually only causes problems if you suffer from digestive ailments like acid reflux or hiatus hernia, which can be aggravated by drinking lots of water with meals, or if you have such a poor appetite that you find it hard to eat enough. In such situations, it's best to take small sips of water when eating and to make up your fluid requirement between meals.
As well, take small sips to ensure your salivary glands' enzymes aren't being overly diluted.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:05 AM on February 20, 2010


and stop at 80% fullness.

But, why 80% why not 75% or 85%? When what you should really be doing is learning how to be aware of your bodies when point, that pause in the meal when you realize you're getting full/are full and, stop there. Eat, then wait 15 or so minutes while your brain plays catch up to what's going on it in your stomach. I agree with some of the above, make smaller meals so there are no leftovers, learn to savour what you're eating and, don't go back for seconds until you've waited out the time needed for your brain to fully register what you've eaten. My particular bugbear is going back for more when there are leftovers despite being full so, I don't allow myself seconds and, try to make less to reduce temptation.

I think you're making a whole plate of beans out of this.

I have ADD and, have had some of the behaviours including the binging. I have no idea why I do it, I wish I could stop, but its part n parcel of ADD's inattention and, impulsiveness and quite common among women with the disorder.
posted by squeak at 8:23 AM on February 20, 2010


But, why 80% why not 75% or 85%? When what you should really be doing is learning how to be aware of your bodies when point, that pause in the meal when you realize you're getting full/are full and, stop there. Eat, then wait 15 or so minutes while your brain plays catch up to what's going on it in your stomach. I agree with some of the above, make smaller meals so there are no leftovers, learn to savour what you're eating and, don't go back for seconds until you've waited out the time needed for your brain to fully register what you've eaten. My particular bugbear is going back for more when there are leftovers despite being full so, I don't allow myself seconds and, try to make less to reduce temptation.

I'm pretty sure what you're describing is what the OP is working on doing.
posted by kylej at 9:09 AM on February 20, 2010


Umm ... exactly? Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems to me that the problem isn't necessarily the tv but the inattention/impulsiveness and, kinda scratching my head at why the OP wants to add distraction to make a meal less boring when the real issue is ADD related. I'm left wondering what happens if, for instance, they wind up watching a movie at someone's house, are hungry and, there are snacks on the coffee table? To my way of thinking don't deprive yourself of something you enjoy, but learn what other things contribute to doing the behaviour eg: as I gaze at my navel, if I was 80% full it would increase the likelihood of caving to the impulse. So, I make up a plate (heavy on the veggies to help with satiety), sit in front of the tv, eat 'til I think I'm full, wait 20'ish minutes and, when I notice I'm reaching for more I pause to think about whether I'm doing it because I'm hungry or, because my brain is playing tricks on me.
posted by squeak at 12:32 PM on February 20, 2010


hmmm i've been also struggling with food issues in the past but feel mostly good now. i also have an occasional need to binge mindlessly in front of the tv- i think for me the trick has been to use different eating styles for different occasions. like sometimes, if i have really high quality food, i am satisfied with very little, that's a strategy that works a lot for me.

BUT in terms of just sometimes needing to binge in front of the television mindlessly, it helps to have on hand foods that are VERY high volume and VERY low density. i can then take a massive quantity and not feel terrible about eating it. Air popped popcorn is fantastic for this, it's hard to overeat this as long as there's no oil/fat in its making. and bonus, its considered a whole grain. yay.

also, ridiculously large bowls of soup that is mostly broth and vegetables

ridiculously large salads that don't have much if any dressing, but lots of other 'goodies' like meat or boiled egg or cheese, maybe some nuts, along with interesting vegetables.

hmmm more along the line of playing with your food, food that takes a long time to eat is also great, like peanuts that you have to shell to get to the peanut, youll get tired of shelling before having eaten too many.

hope this helps!
posted by saraindc at 2:31 PM on February 20, 2010


How about a gentle middle ground? Eat while watching TV a couple nights a week, and the other nights listen to music/radio. As you're serving yourself your meal, tell yourself that the kitchen is now closed and no seconds are allowed. This knowledge will be in the back of your mind, even if you're watching television, and it will probably help you to slow down.

But, seriously, I don't see any real problem with enjoying some food in from of the TV now and then, so long as it's healthful food and you're no overdoing it. There's a lot of silliness out there about the need to savor every morsel of one's food in contemplative silence; dinner needn't always be so transcendent. (As for podcasts, a fitting one might be the The Splendid Table, which is always delightful-- especially the section at the end where people call in with cooking questions!)
posted by cymru_j at 2:54 PM on February 20, 2010


Thank you for the thoughtful answers and suggestions. Podcasts, NPR, and puzzles are my favorite suggestions. That might be just distraction enough to keep me from feeling bored and rushing through my meal.

Portion control is (thankfully) not an issue. I use small plates and have a good estimate of how much food I need. It just doesn't take a lot of food to fill me up, so that line between "just enough" and "too much" is thin, varies day to day, and requires attention.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 11:36 AM on February 21, 2010


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