Sometimes, the mind just goes into autopilot. Some people drive to work and can’t remember a single thing about their commute. Others will write dates with the wrong year time and time again, because their mind is so used to writing the previous year. The same kind of behavior happens with food. Sometimes we don’t really think about what we are eating, and meals just become part of the daily blur of activity. There are several reasons why this isn’t good, and some simple ways to become more mindful about what goes into your body.

Auto Pilot Eating

Many people have been eating the same foods for years and years. This isn’t necessarily bad, unless those foods are not nutritious. More often, people simply develop eating patterns that can be harmful. For example, a person may have a habit of eating out for lunch. This is just what they do. Or maybe there is just always a Diet Coke in your hand. It’s just the way you live, like taking out the garbage on Tuesday. You don’t really make a conscious decision to drink a Coke every day, because it’s an autopilot activity. Your body is used to the sugar and caffeine, and craves them both on a daily basis.

Cognitive Eating

Changing the aisles you walk through in the grocery store, and changing the questionable eating habits you have can be difficult when they are on an unhealthy autopilot. Breaking patterns that have been cemented over the years is a tall challenge. Creating new habits, or a new and better “autopilot” approach to food is a must.

The first step is to simply pay attention during meals. Turn off distractions, leave your phone in the other room, and be alone with your food. Don’t try to do work while you eat. Use all five senses to experience the taste, smell, texture and color of what you’re consuming. Think about where the food came from and the nutrients in it. Be present in the meal. This is called mindful eating.

Mindful eating improves your relationship with food. You’re better able to recognize when you’re full, and when you’re satisfied. You’ll also learn to recognize which foods make you feel good and which make you feel worse. You come to respect food, which will change how you shop and will make you rethink mindless eating.

So remove those distractions and begin experiencing food anew. Make mindful eating your new autopilot behavior, and see the wonderful changes in your life.