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The unconscious eating saboteur I call Sleep-eating

by Berta Prevosti

posted in Health and Fitness : Nutrition

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A funny thing happens to us when we're not paying attention. The problem? You hardly even realize it's happening since you're not even consciously in the same room with yourself at these moments. I'm speaking about the unconscious eating you so often indulge in.  You know, you're chatting and cooking, having a stress free hour or so and tasting this and that. Have you ever noticed that when you sit down to eat at your own dinner party that you aren't at all hungry?  You might even think to yourself, Wow, I've got this thing down! I cooked it up and dished it out and remained in complete control!  I can't recall ever being in this powerfully in control. I don't think I need to go on with the obvious ending of this particular story, instead let me share a client's story.


A client and friend was doing an amazing job having lost about 60 of the 100 pounds she planned to drop.  It was slow going to say the least, but not a problem since it all did eventually come off.  Every week I would review her food list for the previous week and would never see anything that stood out; mostly it was a portion control issue for her and we were dealing with it, or at least "we" thought we were.  I say "we" because I she truly had no idea that she was engaging in unconscious eating


Our story takes place one winter evening when Sylvia decided to have a bunch of kids and adults for an impromptu dinner.  The plan was to feed the kids while the adults visited in the living room.  As it happened, I had a clear view of the kitchen from my perch on the couch, and watched as Sylvia busily served up plates of spaghetti to the ten kids. As I watched, not spying mind you, just casually observing, I was amazed at what was unfolding in that kitchen. To my utter amazement, this woman whose fierce determination had enabled her to monitor every ounce of food that had entered her body for the last year, was scooping up a forkful of spaghetti, placing it on one child's plate, and then forking an equal portion into her mouth. After serving each child's plate, she served herself an equal portion.  By the time the kids' meals were in front of them, Sylvia had consumed the equivalent of a very large dish of spaghetti!  I was stunned, and not wanting her to think I was spying, I quickly scooted out of sight and waited for dinner with the rest of the group.  When the adults were served, Sylvia enjoyed a glass of white wine and a moderate, healthy meal. She looked fabulous and felt confident in her ability to control her portion.


As you might imagine, I was anxious to review Sylvia's food journal with her when she came for her weekly weigh in.  I don't recall if she was up or down, and honestly that was insignificant. What we needed to discuss was not a matter of good or bad, right or wrong. It was a matter of behavior, or more to the point, unconscious behavior. As anticipated, I read her food journal and low and behold, she happened to have completely omitted the kitchen caper with the kids.  I shared what I witnessed that evening, and Sylvia was as shocked to hear it as I was to have seen it. She had no recollection of that extra course, and I believed her since she was meticulous about owning up to every morsel she consumed each week.  The habit of tasting her children's food or anything else she cooked was so ingrained that she wasn't even aware of doing it.  Almost like sleepwalking, Sylvia was sleepeating!


This was an enormous eye opener for the two of us, and by bringing her "tasting" to consciousness, Sylvia was able to stop the behavior and lose the remaining pounds.  I gained an even greater awareness of how certain habits are so deeply ingrained that an outsider's observant eye is sometimes needed to pick up on them.  Therefore, the next time you're cooking or serving food, please pay attention to what you are doing. If you are munching away oblivious of the amount you are taking in, you must stop yourself! This is not "free food"; these food calories contribute to your weight just like any others, and they might be the reason you aren't having the level of success you desire.


Question:  If you eat in the middle of the woods and no one is there to see you, will you gain weight?

Answer: Not if the tree falls on top of you.

About the Author:

Berta is a respected weight loss counselor who has educated and empowered hundreds of women JUST LIKE YOU to lose the excess weight that prevents them from living their dream and becoming the woman they were meant to be.  Her gift, and the reason her program is SO SUCCESSFUL, is her ability to break down every detail of your weight loss journey so you can be prepared for the challenges and understand the emotional components behind them.    If you liked this article, you'll LOVE her blog and FREE e-zine sign up at


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