Sticking to a healthy meal plan is never as simple as we think. While we can make a conscious decision to eat healthily and adjust our habits accordingly, some of our eating habits are unconscious. Our need to eat stems from more than just the need to survive, and eating fulfills many different purposes in our lives. People eat for enjoyment, comfort, and out of boredom, to name a few. While there is nothing wrong with eating food for enjoyment, eating mindlessly out of habit is a different story. This type of mindless eating is sometimes referred to as fog eating, and will be further explored in this article.
What is Fog Eating?
Eating can be grouped into 4 categories: fuel eating, fun eating, storm eating, and fog eating. Fuel eating is consuming nutritious food that helps to energize your body. Fun eating is eating food you love regardless of its nutritional value. Storm eating is out-of-control eating, usually in the form of binge eating or emotional eating. Fog eating is unaware, mindless eating.
Fog eating serves no real purpose and has no connection to hunger. It is unconscious and therefore uncontrolled, hence it often leads to unhealthy eating and weight gain. Because you don’t pay attention to what you are eating, fog eating often involves consuming unhealthy foods. It can stem from boredom, stress, or being distracted while you eat.
Are You a Fog Eater?
If you mindlessly munch on your kids’ leftovers while you clean up the kitchen, eat your meals while scrolling on your phone, or finish off a bag of chips without even noticing, you might be a fog eater. The truth is that we all engage in fog eating once in a while, but if it is a consistent habit in your life it may be negatively affecting your health goals. If you feel that this is the case, there are steps you can take to break this habit and minimize fog eating.
How you can put a stop to fog eating
Practice awareness. Since fog eating is an unconscious habit, being aware of your eating is key to controlling it (1, 2). When you eat, be mindful of every bite and take your time enjoying your food. Try to eat without distractions such as TV or work. And if you catch yourself fog eating, make a conscious decision to stop yourself before you overdo it.
Eat filling meals regularly. While fog eating does not stem from hunger, if your appetite is not totally satisfied you may start snacking, which can lead to unconscious eating even after you’ve filled your tummy. Making sure you eat a balanced meal with proteins, carbs, veggies, and healthy fats will reduce your need to snack, which in turn may stop you from unconsciously overeating. If you feel like you still have cravings after your meals, you may want to try an appetite suppressant.
Be prepared. Whether it’s stocking your pantry with individual-serving sized snacks or portioning your meals ahead of time, this extra step will help you cut down on your unconscious eating. Make sure that reasonably-sized portions are always available to help cut down on eating when you’re full.
Keep busy and de-stress. Two common causes of fog eating are boredom and stress. In order to avoid using food to cope with these feelings, try keeping yourself physically active and mentally stimulated. This will help you keep your unconscious snacking at bay and restore the feeling of purpose to your meals.
Get some sleep. Overeating is often a result of tiredness (3). Being tired makes it harder to exert self control while making you feel like you need more calories than you actually do, which leads to mindless eating. In this case, what you need is probably sleep, not more food. Take a nap or go to bed earlier instead of reaching for that box of cookies.
Fog eating is a type of unconscious eating habit in which you don’t pay attention to what or how much you are consuming. If left unchecked, it can lead to unhealthy eating patterns and weight gain.
The main way to stop fog eating is to be mindful of your eating by focusing on your food and not on other distractions. You can help yourself achieve this by dedicating a specific time and space for meals, as well as eating healthy, satisfying meals and portioning them ahead of time. Finally, take time to move your body or engage in a hobby you enjoy, and make sure to get plenty of sleep.