Controlled eating Vs mindless munching

Controlled eating Vs mindless munching

Nitin K Sethi, MD


        Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, Department of Neurology, NYP-Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York, NY (U.S.A.)


I read a very interesting article in the health section of the Wall Street Journal this Friday. As it has something to do with the brain, I thought I shall talk about it here. It was titled ” putting an end to mindless munching” and basically talks about how little attention we pay to food and to the very act of eating. Most of the times when we sit down to eat, we are in a hurry, hurry to get back to the job, hurry to go pick up the kids, do the laundry etc etc, you get the point. And when we do eat at leisure ( as for enjoying a meal with family or friends like at dinner) we still do not pay attention to the food and how we eat. We are at that time too engrossed in our conversation, eating and talking at the same time. How many times do we actually try to savour the smell and taste of the different ingredients that form our food. Biting into the freshy juicy tomato, enjoying the subtle tangy flavor of the olives on the side, letting the spices soak into the tongue before rushing to toss more food into our mouth.

This as the article points out leads to mindless munching. Mindless munching because your brain is not conscious of the act of eating. You see eating like walking occurs on a subconscious level in our brains. The act of eating is hardwired into our brains. You do not have to teach a child how to eat. It comes naturally to him. This hardwiring of the brain is seen for other acts like walking, when we are walking it is occuring naturally. You are not consciously aware of every step you take, you take one and then another–it is smooth, without the conscious participitation of the brain.

But what does this mindless munching lead to? As the article says, in some it is a major cause of obesity. You are eating without thinking about the food, not even about its taste so waht to talk about its quantity. These people end up overeating and becoming obese.

Controlled eating can help people trying to lose weight. What do I mean when I say controlled eating. I mean making yourself aware of the food which is in front of you and which you are putting into your mouth. Take a small bite, use a small spoon and savour the first taste. Think how hungry you were, or if you are not so hungry think about it too.  Think how much you were looking forward to this good food. Let the taste hit you, as your saliva mixes with the food and coats it across your tongue. The tongue is a wonderful organ, richly supplied with taste buds which are tuned to differentiate different tastes: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. It is richly innerverated by sensory nerves which convey these sensations to the gustatory center of the brain. At the same time allow your nostrils to smell the food. Let the exotic smells drift to the olfactory cortex of your brain. The olfactory cortex is one of the oldest parts of the human brain and there is a reason why it is there in all animals.

As you do this controlled eating, you automatically shall know when and how much to eat. It shall prevent overeating and moreover you shall enjoy your food more. The hypothalamus in the human brain houses the satiety center. It consists of a group of cells in the ventromedial hypothalamus that when stimulated suppress a desire for food. Controlled eating shall give the hypothalamus cells time to get signals and thus suppress the desire for further food.

Controlled eating Vs mindless munching : I shall let you all do the math

Happy controlled eating everyone.  All this talk got me hungry!!

Address for Correspondence:

NK Sethi, MD

Comprehensive Epilepsy Center

Department of Neurology

NYP-Weill Cornell Medical Center

525 East 68th Street, York Avenue

New York, NY 10021

Fax: 212-746-8984