Fog eating occurs when a person eats despite not being hungry. They may or may not realize they are snacking on autopilot and may not even remember what they ate. This is a classic sign of mindless eating; too much of this habit can affect your physical health and your relationship with food. Keep reading to learn how you can move past fog eating!
Types of Eating
There are several reasons why a person chooses to eat. Learning about the different reasons, without criticism or judgment, can give you insight into your eating patterns and help you make changes that suit your needs.
Eating for Energy
All bodies need energy (in the form of calories) from food to function. They also need fiber, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to stay healthy. But, sometimes, you make all the best choices and still catch yourself snacking mindlessly by the kitchen sink. If this sounds like you, you’re probably not eating for energy, and other driving forces are at play.
Coping with Emotions
You may eat to cope with your emotions, especially if you’re having a bad day. The diet industry can blame this behavior on a lack of willpower, but that’s not true or fair.
Using food to deal with big feelings is a tool many of us learned in childhood. You are rewarded with a lollipop or treat when you scrape your knee or get a scary shot at the doctor's office. It happens for positive moments, too, like going out for ice cream sundaes after getting a stellar report card. It’s not surprising that many people turn to food to help themselves feel better.
If you catch yourself snacking even though your emotions feel stable, you probably aren’t eating to self-soothe.
A lack of awareness at meal times is a symptom of mindless eating. Consistently engaging in this type of eating strips away the pleasure of food and can make it harder to recognize when you are hungry or full. Losing touch with these signals can make it more difficult to eat a balanced diet that will meet your nutritional requirements and leave you feeling satisfied after meals.
You are demonstrating fog eating behavior if you eat without thinking about what you're doing, even while you aren’t hungry.
What is Fog Eating?
If you imagine being stuck in the fog, you know it doesn’t matter which direction you turn; you’ll still run into more fog. Fog eating is similar to that; it doesn’t matter what is in front of you, you end up blindly eating and might even forget what happened.
Eating without any thought can lead to overeating. This is because you are eating for the sake of eating instead of eating to satisfy your hunger.
Doing this once or twice probably won’t change your weight, but chronically consuming more calories than you need can lead to unwanted weight gain. The CDC recognizes that excess weight gain can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.1
Examples of Fog Eating
Everyone’s daily routine looks different, but there are common moments when a person might start eating, even though they aren’t hungry. Here are some examples of fog eating:
- Habit: Every time you watch TV, you snack. It doesn’t matter what the food is; as soon you sit to watch your show, your hand wanders for the snack bowl.
- Avoiding food waste: You cooked a meal and don’t want anything to go to waste.
- Soothing: Work can be stressful, and it is common for someone to reach for a snack to soothe stress.
- Boredom: Many people snack when bored, which is a type of fog eating.
If you finish eating and barely remember the taste or the experience, you probably were fog eating.
How To Stop Fog Eating
Bring your attention back to food anytime you choose. This is the first step of practicing mindfulness at meals, which is a wonderful way to regain control over your habits.
Start by listing five sensory components of your food choice. Paying attention to details in the food you are about to eat builds anticipation and excitement, which will increase satisfaction. Some buzzwords describe your foods:
- Taste: sour, tangy, sweet, savory, salty, spicy.
- Smell: citrusy, vinegary, fishy, fried, fresh, floral, bland.
- Sight: colorful, round, stringy, shiny, greasy.
- Touch: crispy, rough, smooth, creamy, rubbery.
- Sound (this one’s tricky!): crunchy, crackly, fizzy.
Let’s apply mindfulness practices to a grilled cheese sandwich. Imagine it is hot off the grill and sitting on a plate before you. You might describe it as melty, gooey, crunchy, rich, and hot. After this exercise, take a bite and see how close your imagination was! Savor the bite and again reflect on how it is affecting your senses. This is mindful eating.
You don’t have to do this type of exercise at every meal, but it can help when old habits start to creep back. Remember, change takes time, so be gracious to yourself as you explore this new way of eating.
Nourish Can Help
A registered dietitian specializing in mindful eating can help you move past fog eating habits. You’ll feel back in control at meal times, and your satisfaction from food can go up.
Reducing the chances of overeating can also improve your health down the road. Some weight fluctuations are inevitable in life and can be part of the natural aging process. But regularly consuming excess calories can lead to significant weight gain beyond the healthy expected scope which can negatively impact your health.
Nourish has a team of dietitians that offers 100% virtual appointments. Every dietitian is covered by insurance. Book an appointment today.
1. Healthy Weight. (2023, January 19). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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