Have you ever tried to go on a diet, only to feel hungry, cranky, and deprived all the time? What if I told you there was something simple you could do to eat less without feeling deprived?
Most of you probably know, I’m not a huge fan of diets. They can certainly be useful to help people who want to lose weight get started and have some initial success, but they can be hard to sustain. People get on the diet rollercoaster and can’t seem to get off.
As we talked about last week and the week before, rather than severely restricting ourselves, a way to make healthy eating more sustainable is looking at foods on a continuum of ‘Eat More,’ ‘Eat Some,’ and ‘Eat Less.’
There’s one more little trick that can help us with our healthy eating behaviors, and I wanted to share that with you today. The one trick that can help us eat less and enjoy our food more is….
Eat slowly and mindfully.
That’s it. Sounds too simple, doesn’t it? It is simple, but this one little thing can make a huge difference. Eating slowly and mindfully can be more important than most of the other things we do when it comes to our eating habits.
Why? Because when we eat slowly and mindfully, we generally eat fewer calories at each meal, which can add up to hundreds of calories saved over the course of a day. This is, as the folks at Precision Nutrition (1) say, “the secret weight-loss weapon everyone has access to, but nobody knows about.” It’s not just about losing weight though. Eating slowly and mindfully can also help us in other ways.
The Benefits of Eating Slowly and Mindfully
Here are just a few of the benefits we get from eating this way:
It can help us eat less without feeling deprived.
How does it help us with this? There are a couple of reasons.
- It takes about 20 minutes for our brains to catch up with our stomachs when we’re eating. It generally takes about 20 minutes for our satiety signals to kick in. If we’re eating quickly, that might not happen until after we’ve already eaten past the point of fullness. Think about it — how many times have you finished a meal and then felt absolutely stuffed?
- When we slow down and really savor our food, we get a lot more enjoyment from it, feel satisfied with less, and don’t feel we’re being deprived.
It can help us feel better.
Eating slowly can help us avoid bloating and improve digestion. That’s because when we eat quickly, we tend to not chew our food as well. When we don’t chew our food, we make it harder for our stomach to do its job of breaking those bigger pieces of food down. That can not only cause gas and bloating — it can also reduce the absorption of vitamins and minerals from our food.
Eating slowly and mindfully can help us get back in touch with our body’s ‘hungry’ and ‘full’ signals.
Over time, we can start to tune out our hunger and satiety cues. Whether it’s eating simply because it’s time for a meal or eating everything on our plate just because it’s there, we can start to lose touch with what feeling hungry or full really feels like.
When we make a regular practice of eating slowly and paying attention to how we’re feeling as we eat, we learn to recognize what our bodies are telling us. Over time, it can help us retrain ourselves to eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full.
It can give us a tool that we can use anytime, anywhere.
You know, we can’t always control the food that’s available to us, but we can control how we eat it. For instance, when we go out to dinner with friends, or go to someone’s home for dinner, we might not get to choose the type of food we eat, but we can take the time to savor the food, enjoy the fellowship, and pay attention when our body tells us we’ve had enough.
With these benefits, it’s easy to see why we might want to give slow and mindful eating a try. Although it is simple and effective, it isn’t always easy. We’re such a ‘fast food’ society — we’re used to doing things quickly and moving on to the next things. It doesn’t usually come naturally. It’s something that we have to work at.
How to Eat Slowly and Mindfully
Here are a few things that might make it easier to slow down:
Take a breath.
One simple thing we can do is just to pause before we eat. Take one breath. Once you start eating, take a bite, then take another breath. Do this between each bite of food.
Add just one minute to mealtime.
If the idea of slowing down makes you feel anxious, try just adding one minute to your mealtime. That’s doable, right? Starting out small can help us ease into this new way of eating, and we can add time as we get more comfortable with it.
Avoid distractions while eating.
This means not watching TV, playing on our phones, or eating while we’re on the way from one place to another. This can be easier said than done, as many of us use our mealtimes to catch up on the news or watch that great new show we’ve been wanting to see.
When we do other things while we eat, though, it’s hard to pay attention to the signals our body is sending us. It’s easy to eat mindlessly because our attention is elsewhere.
Put your fork down between bites.
This is an oldie but goodie. Putting your fork down after each bite stretches out the time it takes to eat and gives your satiety signals time to kick in.
Make your meal “special.”
This isn’t feasible for every meal, but making a meal feel a little more “special” can help us slow down. Special doesn’t mean a fancy meal — it just means making it more of an event. Setting a nice table, turning on some soft music, maybe even lighting a candle or two can make any meal feel more memorable.
In last month’s newsletter, we talked about a study that showed when we listen to music while eating, it can actually help us eat more slowly. The key to using music to help us eat more slowly is to play music that has a slower tempo, around 45 beats per minute.
These are just a few suggestions for eating more slowly and mindfully. There are other things that may make it easier for you. Remember, we’re all unique, and finding what works best for us make take a little experimentation.
Try It For 30 Days
If slow eating isn’t already a habit for you, it may seem difficult at first. As coaches, when we introduce this concept to our clients, we ask them to give it 30 days. It takes time to develop new habits and become comfortable with new ways of doing things.
As we talked about earlier, eating slowly and mindfully is one of those tools in our toolbox that we can use anytime, anywhere. It can help us eat less and enjoy our food more, and help us feel better in the process.
Are you typically a faster or slower eater? How do you feel about the idea of trying to eat slowly and mindfully for 30 days? Please share!
If you found this helpful, I’d love for you to share it!
The Essential Guide to Food for Health, Nutrition, and Fitness Coaches, www.precisionnutrition.com