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Eat Like Someone’s Watching

by jenny sansouci on March 19, 2012

We all know the classic phrase, “dance like no one’s watching.” Basically, dance with wild abandon. I agree with this idea in theory…when it comes to dancing.

But not when it comes to eating.

(if you’re trying to lose weight)

Here’s why:

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling. When I got back from my travels, I noticed something interesting. I felt lighter. Just a bit thinner. It definitely felt like I had shed a couple of pounds.

I thought this was so weird. I hadn’t been following any exercise routine at all (I walked a lot, but that was it – no running, no yoga, etc). I wasn’t cutting out any certain food group or sticking to a specific diet (in fact, I ate at restaurants for every meal for 2 weeks, and felt like I really indulged). I wasn’t even paying attention to my weight whatsoever. So what gives?

As soon as I got home and had my first day alone without my travel companions, I found myself mindlessly walking to the kitchen out of boredom to get a snack, and then eating it without really thinking about it at all. The snack was gone and I hadn’t even paid attention to it. That’s when it hit me.

2 things were true while I was traveling:

1) I never ate alone

2) I never ate mindlessly of boredom

While I was away, every meal was like a celebration. I was always with someone else and we savored every new taste. There was no mindless snacking throughout the day, because I was always busy doing things with people. I had packed a big bag of raw almonds, and I just grabbed a handful of those anytime I felt hungry. I realized, there’s a big difference between reaching for a handful of almonds when you feel physically hungry vs. aimlessly looking around the kitchen for food out of boredom or habit.

Part of my trip involved going to the IIN Mega Conference, where Geneen Roth was a speaker. Geneen is an expert on emotional eating, and she has a list of “Eating Guidelines” to help people be more mindful when it comes to their eating habits.

The one that struck a chord with me the most was this one:

  • Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.

  • When she said that, I found myself nodding in agreement. This, I thought, could really be the key to weight loss (for some people). A lot of people who struggle with weight issues also have a habit of overeating when they’re alone, or eating things when they’re alone that they might not eat in front of others. When it’s your emotions running the eating show instead of physical hunger, that can often be a clear path to weight gain.

    So. If this strikes a chord with you, here are a couple of things you can try to put this guideline into action:

    • Before you eat something, ask yourself if you’d eat the same food (or the same amount of food) if you were in full view of everyone you know. Most likely, if you’re overeating or emotionally eating, you wouldn’t.
    • Start a food journal and write down everything you eat. That way, you’re being accountable to someone, even if it’s just you and a piece of paper. Even if you do eat mindlessly or overeat out of boredom, write it down. You’ll start to become more aware of when this is occurring and eventually you may be able to stop the habit in its tracks before it happens.
    • Find a buddy to check in with about your food – ideally someone else who can relate. It helps to take pictures of what you’re about to eat with your smart phone and send it to your buddy. 🙂

    So what do you think? Does this eating guideline resonate with you?


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    { 5 comments… read them below or add one }

    Elaine March 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Hi Jenny! I was at the Mega Conference, too and enjoyed some great meals and great company.

    Your post today really hit home. I set an intention this week to work to break my mindless eating habit – and I was also influenced by Geneen Roth’s eating guidelines. Even though I have moved through my binge eating era, I think I still harbor the hangover of eating quickly and mindlessly. I also have the bad habits of eating in front of the computer, eating with my phone or an iPad, book or magazine at my side, and eating in the car. I really feel like the quality of my nutrition, enjoyment of food and satisfaction with life would increase if I put into place the habit of sitting down at the table, with food on a plate and no distractions. I’ve started recommending this to my coaching clients, and I should walk my talk!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and strategies!


    jenny sansouci March 19, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Elaine, thanks so much for sharing! I totally relate. Sometimes I catch myself making a meal and sitting down with it to do some work on my computer. It totally takes the pleasure out of eating! Good luck w/ your journey!! xo


    Tina April 11, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    As someone who has struggled with disordered eating for my entire life this post really hits a bad chord with me. One of my main issues is that I have been shamed by others for eating in public because I am overweight, to the point that I get scared to eat in front of other people. I used to make my boyfriend order food with me even if he wasn’t hungry just so I wouldn’t be seen eating alone and judged. It’s one thing to say, “eat every meal like it is a special occasion” because that lends an air of importance and celebration to your choices…but I think the idea of eating like someone is watching is potentially damaging for women who are too often shamed into acting and looking how society deems acceptable.


    jenny sansouci April 11, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Hi, Tina- Thank you for the input. I can definitely see how this method wouldn’t work for you – I never thought of it that way! I think this method can definitely help for people who have a tendency to only overeat when they’re alone, and they don’t have as much of an issue with overeating when they’re in front of others. I know it helps me, but everyone has their own story. Good luck on your journey!


    Giovanna July 19, 2012 at 6:33 am

    Hi Jenny, I do totally agree with what you describe. When I am with others I make it about the company, I forget about the food and eat very mindfully. When I am alone I tend to over eat and you know that method of cook tonight and eat tomorrow as well. Usually if I cook for myself I will eat the two portions, the one for the evening and the next day’s lunch too. So yes, those are good tips to keep in mind when alone and eating.
    A few things that have worked for me lately:
    – Ask myself what do I really want to eat, so I have a satisfying meal
    -Drink a large glass water with the juice of half lemon as soon as I wake up
    -Exercising as little as 20 minutes a day. I find that even that little bit, will help me control my levels of anxiety.
    -Limiting coffee throughout the day.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Cheers, Gio


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