The concept of mindful eating is an interesting one, especially in light of recent studies showing that our concentration when eating can have a huge impact upon how much we eat, and how we feel about that food.
I spotted the above info-graphic which reminded me of a blog post I wrote ages ago. It’s actually from the same person I wrote about back then too…
Susan Albers wrote a book called, ‘Eating Mindfully’, and on her website asks if the following habits sound familiar:
Eating until you are too full and then feeling guilty
Emotional eating – eating when you are bored, stressed or anxious rather than hungry
Grazing on food without really tasting it
Mindlessly munching on snacks while zoned out in front of the TV
Eating a meal at the same time each day whether you are hungry or not
Skipping meals, not paying attention to your hunger signals
If they do sound familiar, then it is likely that you would benefit from taking a more mindful approach when eating. Mindful eating has nothing to do with changing the food you eat. It is a series of actions that you can use with any eating plan, and focusses you so that you become more aware of your eating habits, the sensations you experience when you eat, and the thoughts and emotions that you have about food. Susan tells us that it is more about how you eat than what you eat.
I picked up a few tips, some of which I wasn’t too fussed about myself, but I thought that there were a good few that I could integrate into my life fairly easily. There are about fifteen of them, so here goes…
1. Switch Hands
If you’re a righty, put your fork or spoon in your left hand for a change. You’ll have to work a little harder on hand-mouth coordination, which will shift you out of autopilot or mindless eating (i.e., inhaling your lunch in mere minutes) into mindful eating which involves eating consciously, staying more focused during mealtime, and ultimately eating less while still feeling satisfied. Now I actually tried this after watching ‘Secret Eaters’ when they showed cinema goers I think it was eating popcorn with their opposite hand. I thought that it might slow me down with my crisp eating habit…and it did, so much so that I got a bit frustrated and switched back as I NEEDED my crisps at the time. So I can vouch for this one working; you just need to be a little more open to it than I was!
2. Turn Your Fork Upside Down
Do you stab or scoop with your fork? Americans tend to scoop up food, which can promote mindless eating; British people, on the other hand, keep their forks turned down and stab food to pick it up. I am a bit of a switcher depending on what I am eating…and if I really want to shovel it in then I use a spoon! Another utensil trick is to pick smaller ones; a set of child’s cutlery will slow down your eating pace and help you take smaller bites. I did try eating with teaspoons once and again, this is a technique that works.
3. Take One Bite at a Time
We’ve all wolfed down food too quickly while trying to rush-eat before a meeting or finish breakfast on a hectic weekday. You will eat more mindfully if you take small bites, chew them thoroughly and finish one bite before moving on to the next. Don’t let yourself go for another bite until your mouth is completely empty of the current one. I have never been one to shove more food in whilst finishing a mouthful, but I did – still do – have quite a lot on my fork when eating. I have managed to slow down my eating though and my other half recently commented that it seems to be taking me a lot longer to finish my meals.
4. Introduce an Intermission
Deliberately slow down a meal by setting a break, like at a play between acts. Use the intermission to take a drink, put down your fork to tell a story, or just get up stretch your legs. Hmmm…I wasn’t convinced by this one until I thought about my eating at the moment. As I am now addicted to Twitter, I have to admit to being a sad-case and taking a couple of breaks during my meals to check updates and stuff. So whilst it is incredibly sad on one hand, maybe it is helping me to become more mindful? I don’t shove my food whilst checking Twitter or Facebook, I just take a little break; so my food is registering with me yet I manage to slow down the rate at which I eat. Although it isn’t too social I guess…but then again, my other half is a ‘Football Manager’ freak and will eat his dinner with one eye on the screen checking his gaming progress!
5. Pace Yourself
Are you always the first member of the Clean Plate Club? Consider it a sign you’re chowing too quickly. Use your fellow diners to help set a pace—observe who is eating fastest and slowest, and aim to eat on par or slower than the slowest eater at the table. As above; I used to be the first to finish but now I tend to be one of the last.
6. Try Chopsticks
They’re not just for sushi! Use this Asian staple instead of a fork and knife. Challenging the way you usually eat will help you take smaller portions, eat more slowly, and look at your fod more closely. I do love eating with chopsticks but haven’t done so in ages…I might give this one a go for a laugh!
7. Eat, Don’t Multitask
If it’s hard to imagine eating lunch away from your desk or dinner not in front of the TV, challenge yourself to eat without distractions—and your waistline may thank you. Research shows that eating in front of the TV increases food intake by 14%; talking to a friend while you chow can boost consumption by 18%. Albers says that doing two things at once inhibits concentration and awareness. This was another important area for me to work on. I used to sit and graze all evening – or binge really – and would not notice that I had done so. I now focus on my meal and my evening snacks and really do feel the benefit of this.
8. Take Advantage of the Pistachio Effect
Working harder for your food helps you eat less of it. That’s what Eastern Illinois University researchers found when they gave two groups of study participants pistachio nuts; one got the nuts already shelled and the other had to de-shell them. The former consumed 211 calories on average; the latter had only 125 calories—and both groups rated their fullness and satisfaction the same. Another study from the same research center found that using the shells as “evidence” of your eating habits can also help you cut back. People who kept their shells in sight while they continued to eat consumed 216 calories on average; those who threw them out as they ate consumed 264 calories. The same principle applies to empty drink cans, sweet wrappers, chicken bones, etc. I saw this in action on Secret Eaters again…chicken bones…and it was amazing! The difference in the amounts that people ate if their chicken wing bones were cleared away was crazy.
9. Wake Up, Smell Coffee
Before you dig into breakfast, have a mindful moment with a cup of coffee (herbal tea works well too). Sit down and pour a steaming cup, then allow yourself to sniff the hot vapors (at a safe distance). Inhale deeply and savor the fragrant aroma, which can be very invigorating. This was one that I was a little more sceptical about…who knows, maybe tea and coffee drinkers amongst you can let me know if this works, as I don’t drink either – apart from the odd herbal tea!
10. Study How You Finish a Meal
Do you use external or internal cues to wrap up mealtime? External cues are things like your waiter removes your plate, lunch hour is over, the bag of popcorn is empty. Internal cues are things like you feel full, you consider the portion size, you feel thirsty. Listen to internal cues to stop eating.
11. Crunch an Apple
One study found that eating an apple before lunch can cut how much you ultimately eat by 15 percent, thanks to its filling fibre preventing you from overeating. Another fiber-rich fruit, like pears or berries, should work as well. I prefer the bowl of veggie soup trick! On Slimming World you can make a huge pan of superfree veg soup – which is really low in calories but quite filling. Having a small bowl, or mug of this before a meal can help cut down on the amount you eat and also counts towards your superfree…perfect if you are a salad-dodger like me!
12. Chew Gum
Yep, gum is good for you! One study found that that chewing gum for at least 45 minutes can reduce appetite, increase fullness, and make you feel less hungry for snacks. Next time a craving strikes, whip out a stick of gum instead and see if it passes. This made me wonder…I used to chew gum all of the time and could easily go all day without eating – not that I advocate this at all – but it did get me wondering about this one…so I might be adding Wrigleys Extra to the shopping list tomorrow!
13. Snack Consistently
Make your snacking routine more mindful by designating a particular bowl as your “snack bowl.” Make it small, and use it for whatever you’re munching on. This will help you get used to eating the same amount of food. Hmmm…another one that I can see the logic in, but not sure of…if I wanted more I would just re-fill the bowl surely?!
14. Get Smart About Leftovers
One of the worst times for mindless eating is right after dinner—because it becomes part of the clean-up ritual. (You tell yourself, “If I take one more bite of this garlic bread, I don’t have to put it in container or throw it away.”) Downsize your cooking so you’re less tempted to pick at leftovers, or commit to packing up leftovers right away. I have got into the habit of taking a portion out of what I cook and saving it for the lunch the next day. You don’t miss the extra food on your dinner plate and you have the added bonus of knowing that lunch is sorted for the next day!
15. Use Your Slow Cooker
Another common time for mindless eating happens during the witching hour between work and dinner, when you’re tired and hungry and need to eat before your meal is ready. Use a slow cooker to have a healthy meal waiting for you and you’ll be less likely to graze on unhealthy or excess food. I love my slow cooker and wouldn’t be without it now…especially in the winter for stews and stuff – yummy!
There we have it then, mindful eating tips. The biggies for me are slowing down and learning to taste the food properly – savouring each mouthful; having a half-time break; and saving some food for leftovers.
Right then – I have had a fairly quiet day. I did some work this morning, and have had a couple of sessions with coaching clients, I took my dog to the vets as she had a tick on her ear – so the little bloodsucker was removed! If only it were that easy to remove other bloodsuckers and energy drainers eh?! 😉 I am in a quiet mood this week. A little reflective. I know that I have done well so far, but 8lbs on in 3 weeks feels like a kick in the teeth. I can deal with it though! I have a good day planned tomorrow – a picnic with my adopted old lady up the road, and then a BBQ with my trainer, his girlfriend, and his brother. Not much exercise happening this week as I am having a restful week…which is quite nice but I think exercise helps my mood so I will be back in the gym soon.
Thank you for reading,
Weight Loss Bitch xxx
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