04/11/2012 09:39 EDT | Updated 06/11/2012 05:12 EDT

How to Avoid Mindless Eating

Grab a pencil and write down everything you ate for dinner yesterday.

Stumped? Can't remember every last morsel? You're in the majority.

All too often we sit in front of the TV, at our desks, in our cars, multitasking through our meals; not allowing our brains to become part of the eating process. It's called mindless eating and most of us are becoming pros at it. Coined by Cornell University food psychologist Brian Wansink, PhD, mindless eating is a contributing factor to our ever-expanding waistlines.

It takes at least 20 minutes for the brain and stomach to connect with the "I'm full signal." For the majority of North Americans, at 20 minutes, we've gone way past full and are headed full throttle for stuffed.

The French are known to eat slowly, making a meal, any meal, an occasion. The Pixar animated feature film Ratatouille was right bang on when the skinny rat with chef aspirations yelled at his fat rat brother after literally inhaling a cheese platter -- "Don't hork it down, savour." OK, I know I messed up the quote but the gist was: slow down and enjoy what you're eating.

By and large, Canadians are a society of rapid eaters. We power eat and then dash off, bypassing the time-consuming part of the meal: the enjoying of the flavours part. Dinner hour is melting down to dinner five minutes as our behinds get bigger and bigger.

Wansink asked 150 Parisians when dinner was over and they responded with, "When we're full." When he asked the same question to the same number of Chicagoans the answer was, "When the plate is empty."

Here's a plan -- let's slow down, stop eating when we're full and not when we've cleaned out plates; which, when compared to the 1950s dinner plates, are about four inches bigger. A bigger plate equals bigger portions equals more calories and yields bigger behinds.

Let's re-introduce ourselves to the piece of furniture formally known as the dining room table and have a sit down meal. No dining room table? The kitchen table totally works.

Just in case it's been a while, here are the sit down meal rules:

• Eat at the table, or anything that has four legs and isn't your desk or a TV table

• Grab placemats and lay out the eating areas

• Grab a plate one size smaller than what is normally used

• Place food on plate in the kitchen (that would be the room with the stove)

• Set the plated food on top of the placemats

• Take a long look at what you are about to eat -- ask everyone to do the same

• Be grateful for the food

• Pick up fork slowly and don't do anything but eat slowly. OK you can talk, but no reading or watching TV

• When you just start feeling full stop eating, put down your fork, back away from the table, and clean up

OK, I'm being flip. But the point is we need to sit down, slow down, and enjoy our meals.

6 Ways To Avoid Mindless Eating:

How To Avoid Mindless Eating