Mindful Eating: Less Food, More Satiety

We’re conditioned to constantly overeat, but these simple tricks from the book ‘Eating Mindfully’ can help you have a happier relationship with your plate.

By Lauren Gelman
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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.

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.

Another utensil trick: Pick smaller ones. A baby spoon or shrimp fork will slow down your eating pace and help you take smaller bites.

Take One Bite at a Time

We’ve all scarfed 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.

Institute 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.

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.

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.

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 percent; talking to a friend while you chow can boost consumption by 18 percent. Explains Albers: Doing two things at once inhibits concentration and awareness.

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 cups, candy wrappers, chicken bones, etc.

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.

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.

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 fiber preventing you from overeating. Another fiber-rich fruit, like pears or berries, should work as well.

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.

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.

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.

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 (try these fat releasing recipes) to have a healthy meal waiting for you and you’ll be less likely to graze on unhealthy or excess fare.

Source: Eating Mindfully, Second Edition, by Susan Albers, PsyD.

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