Do you often eat until you are full? Or even stuffed? Do you know that eating until full or over-full is a habit that can be changed? One of the most important aspects of healthy eating is often overlooked, and that is the need to eat slowly and mindfully. If done properly, mindful eating will slow down the process, making you more aware of what you’re eating and allowing you to eat more of what your body needs, while decreasing your overall calorie intake. So, stop eating until you’re full! Seriously!
How do you know if you need to slow down?
After your last few meals, did you feel bloated, heavy, gassy, or ‘heartburny?’ Did you enjoy and savour your food while you ate it? Could you describe the flavours and textures? Or did you just go through the motions of eating because it was meal time or you felt hungry? Were you satisfied and guilt-free after you finished eating, or were you just happy to be finished so you could move on to another part of your day?
If you can identify with any of those situations, you need to slow down when you eat. Eating more slowly allows your body to know when you’re full, which helps you recognize when you are physically satiated. It will also facilitate the digestion of your food, while giving yourself a chance relax, de-stress and feel more satisfied once your meal is complete. There is a 20-minute gap between the time your stomach actually becomes full and when your brain receives that ‘memo.’ Since the stomach can expand up to four- or five-times in volume, this leaves a big window of time for you to continue stuffing food into your belly before you realize you’ve eaten too much. A good way to make sure this doesn’t happen, is to eat slowly and mindfully, and stop eating when you are approximately 80% full.
Eating too much, too quickly causes problems, including:
- decreased ability to recognize your body’s hunger sensations/signals
- decreased ability to enjoy your food and mealtimes
- decreased ability to gauge food quantity
- decreased ability to sense how certain foods make you feel/how your body responds to them
- decreased ability to sense external factors that can contribute to overeating
How can you translate mindful eating into your daily routine? Here are some simple strategies you can try:
- Set extra time aside at each meal. Budget an extra five or 10 minutes for your meals each day. Even if you’re extremely busy, five minutes is a small amount of time to invest in yourself and your eating habits.
- Use a smaller-sized plate so you can better control your portions.
- Put the utensils down in-between bites and count to 10 (or 30) before picking them up again.
- Eliminate distractions. Turn away from the computer, TV, or whatever you’re working on to truly pay attention to what you’re eating. If you tend to eat at your desk, move the keyboard to the side, or eat at another area of your desk. (Your Smartphone won’t run away, I promise!)
- When you are no longer hungry, take two or three more bites and stop eating.
You can also be mindful of tastes and textures while you’re eating.
Think about describing them and also think about all of the different aspects of each item. Some things to consider:
- Do you really like what you’re eating? Do you like how it has been prepared (the sauce, seasoning, etc.)?
- What does it feel like to bite into the item? What is the texture like?
- How is the taste? What do you like about it/not like about it?
- What is it like to chew slowly and savour every bite? Does the flavour change while you’re chewing?
Ask yourself how it feels to eat this way and whether or not you think eating slower and more mindfully is challenging. If resistance comes up, recognize it and decide why that is happening, and consider which parts of the process you find easier than others. Go easy on yourself – new habits take time to develop.
Eating more mindfully can have a positive impact on your overall health and fitness. There’s no need to add to your stress level; minimize the rushing and eat as slowly and as mindfully as you can.