Mindless Eating: The Behind the Scenes Food Behaviors Ruining Your Fitness

Food Behaviors Ruining Your Fitness
Photo Credit: rolffimages1 via Compfight cc

69% of adults are either overweight or obese. With the wealth of information circulating on the Internet it’s interesting that we have such a high rate of people with poor health.

This just goes to show that while we live in a society that is obsessed with looks and health—the method of delivery  is wrong.

We have a tendency to focus on macros, diet plans, meal timing, stoking the metabolism, and other nutritional metrics. Those are insignificant compared to the large elephant standing in the room laughing as we parade around trying any and everything to level our fitness up.

The large elephant isn’t the sexiest in the room. It’s not trendy, but it’s damn essential.

What’s this elephant I’m speaking of.

It’s our food behaviors. Food behaviors operate mostly on a subconscious level.

We know which foods we’re supposed to eat. We know total calories play a pivotal role in building the bodies we want. We know what to do, but aren’t doing it because our minds are playing on another playing field that we haven’t arrived at yet.

While actors (your outside appearance) get all the attention, it’s the filming crew and producers (your mental being) who ultimately pulls the strings and develops a great product (i.e. a body you can be proud of).

This eating without awareness, without focusing, without intent is what we call mindless eating.

What is mindless eating

Mindless eating is when you eat without thinking about what you’re doing. You’re essentially playing the role of a nutritional zombie.

Mindless eating often occurs through overeating, not because of greed or any other self-centeredness, but because of our environments.

Brian Wansink, author of the interesting book ‘Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think’, explains that “we overeat not because of hunger but because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboards and containers”.

Temptations to fall into mindless eating habits surround us at every corner and turn we make. Let’s look into 6 common scenarios where the potential for food behaviors ruining your fitness is high.

6 common areas where mindless eating can zap your fitness progress

Our minds are programmed from the time were a toddler to behave in specific ways with our foods.

All 6 scenarios below are detrimental to our goals unless we become mindful of them.

1. The size of your plates, bowls, packages, & buckets– As crazy as this might sound, the presentation of the way your food is delivered plays an important role in determining your eating behavior.

Researchers at Cornell University’s Food Brand lab, discovered that people who used larger plates overserved themselves compared to those who elected to use smaller plates, hence undeserving themselves.

People will eat food just because it’s there. We’re instinctively engineered to desire food when it’s placed in front of us. We might have a beating pulse, but inside each of us, lies a little robotness, which allows us to fall prey to programming and losing our minds.

Movie goers in a study conducted by Wansink and his students were given 5 day old popcorn. Many of them, haven’t eaten lunch, were given a soft drink and a medium or large bucket of popcorn to indulge in. Not surprisingly, the large bucket group ate more.

Asked if they ate more due to bucket size, they replied “no”. People didn’t eat because they were hungry, they ate because of the movie distracting us, the sounds of people munching on popcorn, and the general societal expectations of going to the movies and being expected to snack.

2. Your perception of the situation– The stories we create in our heads become manifestations of our realities after a time period of feeding ourselves the same story.

 food behaviors ruining your fitness-
Be careful of what you’re pouring into your brain- Photo Credit: Toodeloo! via Compfight cc

If we’re in a situation where it’s expected we stuff our faces (talking to the ‘all you can eat buffets’)—then we’ll pig out, regardless of whether we’re full after plate 1.

If we’re in a fancy schmancy restaurant on a date, we’re likely to eat with restraint and not pig out because of the expectations.

There was a study conducted on North Dakota & California wine, where the same wine was given out with different labels.

The North Dakota wine consistently rated lower due to the expectations that wine grapes aren’t grown in North Dakota as opposed to them growing in California.(I always wanted to try this on the so called wine connoisseurs.)

3. Your eyes (out of sight, out of mind)- Often times in relationships, we operate with an out of sight, out of mind mentality. We treat food the same way.

If we walk into grandmas house and see a delicious white cake sitting, odds are, we’ll suddenly have the desire to eat white cake.

If you’re at the bar and your waiter hasn’t come to collect your 4 empty bottles, odds are you’ll have more reservations about ordering another drink.

This logic was supported in the famous chicken wing study where a group of individuals were left with the bones in front of them and another group had their bones taken each time.

No surprise here, but the group who had the bones left in front of them ate fewer compared to the group who had their previous plates removed.

4. The middle grounds (aka the land of nowhere)– We’ve all been in a place where things aren’t going bad, yet things aren’t moving forward. You’re moving so slow that it doesn’t feel like you’re moving at all.

In the nutrition world, this can be a dangerous recipe because it allows us to run on autopilot and lose our focus.

Wansink describes this middle ground of drudgery as the “mindless margin—we can slightly overeat or undereat without being aware.”

If you undereat by a sizable margin, you’ll start to feel weak, lethargic, moody, and have crappy training sessions. If you start to overeat by a sizable margin, you’ll start to feel bloated and slow as molasses.

However, in this dangerous middle zone of eating, we aren’t aware of the small differences. A small crack in a dam eventually overflows.

Snacking here and there multiple times a day secretly throws your daily caloric intake off. Months later, you wake up with an extra 10 pounds and outfits aren’t fitting the same.

5. The party don’t stop till the food is gone (aka our all or nothing food mentality)– Party till the sun comes up. Pulling all nighters for school. Celebrating chugging energy drinks to keep working on projects.

Our culture has an extreme personality. More and more isn’t always better. Often times, this attitude comes back to bit us in the rear.

We have to finish everything. Our approach to food isn’t any different (especially here in the southern states).

We’re done eating when our plates are empty. We’re done drinking when our cups are empty.

This mentality is hard to break, especially since it’s been ingrained into our subconscious since we were kids.

Being told that you can’t have dessert till you finish your plate or being called wasteful for not finishing your food has added fuel to the fire for our eating habits.

Instead of eating till we can see our reflections on the plate or eating out of guilt, pull the eating brakes at 80% capacity.

Borrow the Okinawan phrase ‘hara hachi bu’ which is used to indicate to eat until you’re 80% full. Eat until no longer hungry, not full.

6. Societal and lifestyle traps– From parties to movie nights, we allow ourselves to become preoccupied with guests to the point we unknowingly stuff our faces away. Whether it’s snacking obsessively out of nervousness at the corporate office party or snaking due to guilt at grandmas house—be weary of these traps.

How to eat mindfully and enjoy the immense pleasures of food

If you want to build the body you want and transform your health, you must find a way to control your eating behaviors. You can’t out train a diet, no matter how intense your workouts are.

However, using 7 simple lessons from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanhs’ book ‘How to Eat (Mindful Essentials)’, we can begin to control our eating behaviors.

1. Eating without thinking– Thich Nhat Hanh states that “Sometimes we eat and we’re not aware that we’re eating. Our mind isn’t there. When our mind isn’t present, we look but we don’t see, we listen but we don’t hear, we eat but we don’t know the flavor of the food.”

2. Slowing down– “When we can slow down and really enjoy our food, our life takes on a much deeper quality. I love to sit and eat quietly and enjoy each bite, aware of the presence of my community, aware of all the hard and loving work that has gone into my food. When I eat in this way, not only am I physically nourished, I am also spiritually nourished. The way I eat influences everything else that I do during the day.”- Thich Nhat Hanh

Taking time to enjoy our food is a great way to unwind, express gratitude, and take a much needed break from the hustle & bustles of everyday life.

3. Turning off the tv– “To be truly present you need to not just turn off the television or radio in your house, you need to turn off the conversation and images in your head”-Thich Nhat Hanh

Take a break and disconnect from the world, cell phones included (nothing will happen in those 20min—promise).

4. Preparing a meal- Just as fitness can nourish our bodies and mind. Just as a mesmerizing piece of art can move us physically and mentally. Just as an athlete of remarkable abilities can leave us in awe and disbelief. Food has the ability to provide a deep nourishment for our bodies and mind.

5. Chew your food, not your worries– “Sometimes we eat, but we aren’t thinking of our food. We’re thinking of the past or the future or mulling over some worry or anxiety again and again. Don’t chew your worries, your fear, or your anger. If you chew your planning and your anxiety, it’s difficult to feel grateful for each piece of food. Just chew your food.”-Thich Nhat Hanhs

Let go of thinking about work, personal stress, and just take in the moment of enjoying the food.

6. Eating is an art– This isn’t just fancy cooking. Its how you go about your daily nutrition. It’s eating well in the moments where most would crumble. “Your body is not just yours”. It is a gift and a responsibility”

7. A full life– One of my favorite quotes by Nhat Hanh states that “If we feel empty, we don’t need to go to the refrigerator to take things out to eat. When you eat like that, it’s because there is a feeling of emptiness, loneliness, or depression inside.”

Eating to fill emotional voids never solves the underlying issue. Filling your emotional voids by eating places a band-aid over your deep flesh wounds (eventually it’s going to seep through).

Question for you to think about: What are some areas of your life where you fall prey to mindlessly eating? And, what do you plan to do about it?

9 Useful Lessons in Life & Fitness Learned From Oliver Queen

green arrow looking out-header

My name is Julian Hayes II. After five years of being a prisoner to my macros, ‘eating clean’, & missing out on valuable experiences & relationships, I’ve come to the fitness world with only one goal—to save other fitness enthusiasts from food guilt and other fitness problems. But to do so, I can’t be the guy I once was. I must be someone else. I must be something else.

As you can see, I’m quite the fanboy of the hit show ‘Arrow’. The beginning monologue shoots my nerd meter through the roof.

Arrow displays amazing action pieces, great dialogue, cool weaponry, and valuable fitness lessons.

Oliver Queen deals with stress in his every day life just as you and I do. He has family drama, villains, and a city to look over. We have work projects, cookies, and finding time to workout to look over. Juggling crime fighting with a personal life is just as tough as finding balance between our daily and fitness lives.

Let’s look at nine lessons in fitness learned from Oliver Queen becoming the Arrow.

Lesson #1- The old you must die in order to become someone greater

Just as a phoenix rises from the ashes and experiences a rebirth—you must rise to a stronger self. A symbolic ‘death’ of the old you is necessary for a emergence of the new self.

Before the island, Oliver’s life was nightclubs, creeping around with women and luxury. After the boat incident and daddy’s confessions—Oliver’s silver spoon lifestyle vanishes. To survive the island, Oliver evolves into a stronger version of himself.

Remove attachments to old beliefs and dogmas. Reflect, be objective, and realize a new pathway has opened.

Lesson #2- Your lowest moments are opportunities for your brightest moments

From the psychological torture of the island to Slade Wilson playing mindgames—Oliver has dealt with a plethora of low moments.

During those low moments, Oliver experienced major breakthroughs enabling him to save Starling City and grow as a person. Unfortunately, suffering and setbacks often serve as our best lessons. These low and dark moments can be blessings in disguise.

After these lessons, we gain clarity and drop the excess in our lives, which doesn’t serve our mission.

In the past, maybe you tried to lose 15lbs, but fell short. Take a moment and reflect on what went wrong with your past approach. Was it habits, mindset, friends, or even a fear of success or failure?

Lesson #3- You’re capable of more than you can ever imagine

Whether you’re trapped on an island or want to transform your body—all the strength you need for success is already inside of you.

It’s up to you to unleash it onto the world—by taking action (one step at a time). You’re good enough, you just need to believe it.

There will be temptations, challenges from all courses of life and you’ll feel like giving up at times. But, that’s expected.

If you can look at yourself in the mirror and feel you made progress (baby steps count), then you have nothing to worry about.

Lesson #4- Know what you’re fighting for

Oliver didn’t turn into The Arrow to just beat everyday people up and shoot arrows at strangers.

At first, it was fulfilling his father’s dying wish and eliminating names from his list of poisonous city figures. Later, his purpose became about honoring Tommys’ (his best friend) memory.

You might want a six pack, bulging biceps, a set of shoulders that would make Achilles jealous, sculpted legs, or head turning glutes. But, I challenge you to look deeper than superficial metrics.

Dig deeper into yourself and think about what leveling up your fitness will bring to your everyday life. Think about the confidence that will arrive allowing you to chase goals you’ve wanted. Think about how taking control of your health can alter your family tree of bad health issues.

No matter the goal, decide what your purpose is before entering the field.

Lesson #5- Decide on your weapon of choice and master it

Every hero has a signature weapon. For Oliver, it’s the bow & arrow. For you, it’s going to be your diet and working out.

oliver with arrow-weapon of choice, lesson 5
Choose your weapon wisely

Will your dietary weapon be intermittent fasting, carb backloading, or traditional breakfast with portioned meals just to name a few options?

Will your training weapon be full body splits. Upper/lower splits, or body part splits?

Choose your weapons based on personality, lifestyle, and personal interests. No matter the weapon, you must commit to honing your craft by practicing and paying attention to your daily habits.

Lesson #6- Your past doesn’t define you

This isn’t ‘Back to the Future’ nor is Kitty Pryde hanging around to take you back to the past. Your past is permanent and there’s no changing it. Focusing on the past makes you anxious, full of regret, and not focused on the present—which you can control.

Just as Oliver letting go of past events to become The Arrow was necessary, you must let go of any negative failures in the past to succeed.

Maybe you’ve dealt with food guilt, body image issues, or confidence issues. Maybe that last 12 week program you’ve tried didn’t turn out as anticipated. Maybe issues of weight have troubled you throughout your entire adulthood.

Just because you fell short or were a couch potato doesn’t mean you can’t become something else in the near future.

Lesson #7- Be intentional with your goals

From street crime to corporate crime to Mirakuru induced maniacs (Slade Wilson)—Starling City is nuts. If Oliver tried to take on all these issues, he wouldn’t solve anything. It’s tough enough to succeed in one mission, yet along trying to solve all the world’s problems.

It’s impossible to conquer everything at once. Possessing this mindset leaves you empty handed and majoring in mediocrity.

Ambition is awesome, but choose your battles wisely. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. Go after the goals with the highest yield in return. Oliver taking down the big shots essentially destroys the low-level crime (hence high yielding returns).

Focus on food choices, not meal timing nor the optimal post-workout window feeding time (hence a high yielding return)

Develop laser like focus and conquer one mission (i.e. fitness goal) at a time.

Lesson #8- You will encounter setbacks

From Malcolm Merlyn to Slade Wilson to Ra’s Al Ghul , Oliver has received his fair share of beatdowns. He hasn’t always made the correct decision nor executed plans with precision.

He’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect.

No one is immune to setbacks. Setbacks will happen along your fitness journey. You might fall into a temporary funk and lose your mojo.

So what!

Life happens. Keep it moving.

If you’re challenging yourself to grow as an individual, you’re going to hit some bumpy roads. This doesn’t mean you’re a failure or aren’t capable.

Goals need to be challenging. Anything worthwhile in life takes effort and time. Fitness transformations are tough and require consistency (sorry to burst the bubbles of the 30-day get shred crowds).

The better you embrace setbacks, the more at peace you’ll be when they happen, thus enabling you to bounce back quicker.

Lesson #9- You can’t succeed alone

Of all the lessons, this is the most important. There comes a stopping point in every ones journey where growth plateaus. Without seeking reinforcements, you can’t move forward.

Without friends providing accountability and support, I would’ve waved the white flag by now .

Oliver couldn’t be the hero he is without Diggle and Felicity providing a shoulder to lean on.

oliver & diggle-lesson 9, everyone needs someone
Everyone needs someone

Your shoulders will only carry so much weight until they tip you over. When you start to drift into ‘hero mode’ and think you don’t need anyone, keep Bill Withers in mind. ( ‘We all need somebody to lean on’)

When it comes to fitness…
● Whom do you lean on for support?
● Who keeps you accountable?

Question for you to think about: Which of these lessons is lacking the most in your life at the moment? What are you going to do to change the situation?

Sink or Swim: How to Exploit Your Fitness Mindset For Success

Sink or Swim- How to Exploit Your Fitness Mindset For Success
Photo Credit: Saad Faruque via Compfight cc

Not everyone has the ability to draw. Not everyone has the ability to play an instrument. Not everyone has the ability to write.

Some of us aren’t meant to be creative. Some of us aren’t meant to be great communicators. Some of us aren’t meant to excel at fitness.

Throughout my childhood and even into adulthood, I had this propensity to believe I was either a natural for the activity or it just wasn’t meant for me.

Many of us have been told we’re not good at something and should go pursue something that comes easier to us.

Many people have quit on fitness by blaming their shortcomings on factors such as genetics, environments, athletic abilities, and other excuses.

In Dr. Carol Dwecks’ book ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’, she breaks down our mindsets into one of growth and one that is fixed. One mindset leads to an anything is possible attitude while the other places an invisible ceiling on ourselves.

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

Our mind is power. Our beliefs can be our worst enemy or our greatest asset. Our beliefs shape our behaviors (for better or worse).

Growth mindset– This mindset sees the world in abundance and believes there is enough of the pie for everyone to have. You see your fitness being in your hands and not someone else’s. You see yourself as the captain of your life trajectory. You realize that you and only you can stop yourself from being remarkable.

This person believes that intelligence can be developed and expanded upon.

This person embraces a challenge and doesn’t give up during tough moments. Mastery of their craft is developed through effort and consistency. They’re inspired by others work and successes, not jealous and bitter.

Fixed mindset– You either have it or you don’t. The outlook of the world is scarce. Success is due to being naturally gifted. This person avoids failure and setbacks like the plague to avoid looking weak and incapable.

There’s a glass ceiling on how smart you can become. This person blames genetics for their fitness shortcomings. It’s never their fault, but always someone else’s.

This person fails to take responsibility for their own actions and life. This mindset traps themselves within a box where they are forever stuck in neutral.

How do you see yourself when looking in the mirror

The people who are consistently told they’re naturals at their craft, or geniuses within their work are also the same type of people to fold up when the resistance hits.

“The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life” states Dr. Dweck. This view of yourself determines if you’ll become the person who owns their goals or if you’ll just become the person who always wishes and stays inside a comfort zone.

Dr. Dweck states “the passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times of their lives.”

Dr. Dweck states, “just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training.”

Many famous inventors, painters, and professional athletes weren’t born with amazing abilities, but instead put the work in each and everyday to develop their abilities.

Thomas Edison had plenty of assistants (around 30) to assist him on the invention of the light bulb. These assistants weren’t just undergrads or people looking for a simple paycheck, but instead were well trained scientist. Edison was far from a genius, but was an seeker of knowledge and this dedication to his craft became the sum of his inventions.

Many people claim to suck at fitness and blame their shortcomings with various excuses.

Many experts claimed Jackson Pollock lacked talent and potential and judging by his early work—no one would argue with that. However, by showing up daily and putting in the work, he became one of the greatest American painters of the twentieth century.

Your goals, whether fitness, artistic, or whatever else is the result of your dedication to the craft. As Twyla Tharp states in ‘The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life’, “creativity isn’t a magical act of inspiration, but instead it’s the result of hard work and dedication.”

Muhammad Ali wasn’t a natural at boxing. According to boxing analyst he lacked the prototypical metrics that defined a great boxer. However, Ali possessed mental strength that was incomparable to anyone else.

Michael Jordan wasn’t a naturally gifted basketball player. But, he possessed one of the greatest work ethics in the history of sports. He was cut from his high school varsity team, didn’t go to the college of his choice, and he wasn’t even the 1st pick in the NBA draft.

Jordan was a basketball player at one point who had glaring weaknesses in his game. However, displaying the growth mindset, Jordan attacked his weaknesses (his defense, ball handling, and shooting) and turned those into some of his greatest strengths. Even at the peak of his game, Jordan consistently outworked everyone because he was always steadily trying to improve (no wonder everyone wanted to be like Mike).

fitness mindset
The greatest to ever play the game- Photo Credit: efraimb via Compfight cc

Wilma Rudolph, 3 time gold medal winner for sprints and relay in the 1960 Rome Olympics, wasn’t always the fastest woman alive. Born prematurely, consistently sick, and the twentieth of twenty-two children—her outlook wasn’t remarkable. At age 4, she contracted double pneumonia, scarlet fever, and polio—thus ending up with a paralyzed left leg. Of course, doctors gave her no chance of a normal life, but at age twelve she left the leg brace behind and started to walk normally.

From the examples above, natural talent and instant creativity isn’t a pre-requisite to becoming a master of ones craft.

Are you quick to label yourself and other people into a category? Do you use the excuse that this person is a artist, writer, marketer, or genetically gifted specimen to let yourself off the hook for not trying things or as a built up excuse for when things don’t pan out as expected?

If so, it’s imperative you release these fixed mindset traits and adopt a mindset of growth and abundance to succeed with your fitness mindset.

How to adopt a growth mindset

Our mindsets are just beliefs which will lead us on a path to happiness or misery. As Dr. Dweck states, a “mindset change isn’t about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s abut seeing things in a new way”.

At one point, I had a fixed mindset. I constantly needed to prove myself and if I failed…it meant I wasn’t smart enough, creative enough, or good looking enough. As for fitness, it meant I wasn’t lean enough, strong enough, or fast enough.

Just being aware of these mindsets will allow you to take the first step toward changing them. Once you have awareness, you can think and react in more positive ways.

A growth mindset doesn’t need a tank full of confidence to get started. “Sometimes you plunge into something because you’re not good at it You don’t think you’re already great at something to want to do it and to enjoy it” states Dr. Dweck.

All of us are born with a curious mind that continually seeks knowledge, but a fixed mindset unravels your mind from this state of curiosity and wonder.

Think about something you enjoyed, but then the difficulty rose and you wanted to quit or someone stated you weren’t good enough. For me, it was art and creativity, but the opinions I received as a child and expectations of the status quo took that away for 2 decades. For you, this could be fitness and chasing after your true passions.

However, never quit because the weight isn’t flying off quickly. Fitness is a skill that takes time to master.

Next time you catch the blues and want to quit your fitness goals, quit your book, quit your business, or quit pursuing your dreams—don’t forget the growth mindset.

Don’t forget about the many successes that came before you that implemented this and stayed persistent to become masters of their craft. It won’t happen tomorrow, or even next week, or maybe even in a year, but it’ll eventually happen if you approach the situation with the correct mindset.

Think abut the immense knowledge and experiences you’re accumulating along the process, the challenges you’re tearing down, and the obstacles that are trying to stop you. Let these become a positive burden.

Treat your journey like a folk tale, and tell yourself that you’ll have a great story to share with others years later who will travel down a similar path.