Tips for helping to curb thoughtless eating

SAN DIEGO – It’s common for many people to find themselves eating and overeating without rhyme or reason, especially during the holiday season. They may feel hungry or eat “just because.” TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, explains some of the triggers that cause these behaviors and offers solutions to help curb thoughtless overindulgence.

Because it’s there

A local sandwich shop offers a free cookie with the purchase of a combo meal. The auto body shop replenishes a spread of sweet treats throughout the day while people wait for service to be completed. When food is in plain sight, it’s convenient to grab a handful simply because it’s there. One should be mindful, take personal inventory, and consider whether they are truly hungry at that moment.

Skipping breakfast

Breakfast is considered the “most important meal of the day” for a reason. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that people who regularly skip breakfast are nearly five times as likely to be obese than those who don’t. Breakfast provides a body and mind with the fuel necessary to take on the day and get one’s metabolism out of its resting state and back to burning calories. 

“In reality, skipping breakfast is much more likely to cause weight gain, rather than weight loss. Overweight and obese individuals are much more likely to skip breakfast in comparison to healthier and leaner individuals,” said Nicholas Yphantides, M.D., M.P.H., medical editor for TOPS.

Unprocessed, fiber-rich foods like steel-cut or slow-cooked oatmeal, grapefruit, whole-grain and low-sugar cereals, and low-fat dairy are all best bets. If possible, one should prepare breakfast ahead of time or bring breakfast to work if they aren’t able to find the time to eat at home.


An individual’s emotional state of mind can be an eating trigger. One may typically celebrate happy news with a gourmet dinner and dessert, or soothe sadness with a large bowl of ice cream. Anger or stress can lead to munching on a seemingly bottomless bag of chips. While eating creates a temporary sense of physical fullness, it only temporarily distracts from the feelings that are bothering a person.

Instead, one should reach out to a friend or family for support and guidance. Even a quick workout releases tension, generates extra energy, and stimulates feel-good endorphins. Relaxing behaviors, like getting a quick massage or taking a hot bath, also help calm the system. When celebrating an occasion, remember it is about being with loved ones and creating memories – not about the food.


Those who know boredom is a trigger for their thoughtless eating should have a list of strategies in place to keep busy and entertained when they feel like they don’t have anything else to do. An activity that occupies the hands is ideal, like giving one’s self a manicure, reading a book, playing a game on the computer, or writing in a journal. Go for a walk with a friend and/or dog. Getting away from the kitchen should help cravings subside. Or, drink a glass of water, which is filling. Snacking on celery or watermelon or chewing a piece of gum can also help curb appetite.

Short on sleep

Lack of sleep, or just the typical mid-afternoon energy slump, can lead a person to binge on sugary or salty treats and beverages for a boost. Researchers at Columbia University note, people who sleep two to four hours a night are 73 percent more likely to be obese than those who get seven to nine hours. Those who get five or more hours of sleep a night are 50 percent more likely to be obese than normal sleepers. 

“There is substantial and growing medical evidence suggesting some important links between adequate sleep and a healthy weight,” said SAID notes Yphantides. “Inadequate sleep can influence hormone levels in our body in such a way that when we are sleep-deprived, we may not be as satisfied when we eat and our appetite may be enhanced.”

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) meets weekly in Fallbrook on Friday mornings from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at Crestview Mobile Estates, 1120 E. Mission Rd.

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