If you struggle with overeating, then you might be as surprised as some of my clients when I tell them it’s not really about the food.
What you eat, is only a small part of the overeating story. The other part that’s often overlooked – is how you eat, and how you eat is a major component of Mindful Eating.
(In my book Unhooked: A Holistic Approach to Ending Your Struggle with Food, I explore why we overeat from 6 different perspectives, including: environmental, physiological, behavioral, emotional, mental and spiritual. Learn more about getting Unhooked here.)
Many of my clients have been able to curb overeating, reduce food cravings and work towards healing a disordered relationship with food through the simple, yet powerful practice of mindful eating.
Top 10 Mindful Eating Tips to Help You Eat Less
Here are ten quick and easy ways to incorporate mindful eating into your life to help prevent overeating.
1. When You Eat, Only Eat: Remove All Distractions
When it comes to mindful eating, this is one of the best first places to start. It’s hard to be mindful of what you’re eating when you’re distracted by the TV, are multitasking on the phone or while driving in your car – when you really should pay attention to where you’re going!
Tip: Adopt the mantra: “When I eat, I only pay attention to eating”
Make a conscious effort to remove as many distractions as possible. Pause your conversations, put the phone down, close the paper or magazine, turn off the TV and tune into you, your body and the food in front of you. It sounds simple because it is but it’s also incredibly profound, and surprisingly challenging for many people to actually follow through on. Are you up for the challenge? You might be surprised by what you discover.
2. Sit Down to Eat – Except While Driving
Eating on the run, munching on snacks at the kitchen counter or standing in front of the fridge grazing on last nights leftovers are all mindless eating traps. Of course you can practice mindful eating while standing or walking, however, it’s much easier to practice while sitting down. Sitting down encourages you to slow down and take the time to tune into the process of eating.
The one place you don’t want to sit while eating is in your car, especially when you’re the one driving! Sadly about 20% of food is eaten in the car, don’t let that be true for you.
3. Pause Before You Eat
If you struggle with overeating then you might be familiar with that underlying urge or craving to eat – whether you’re hungry or not. Although it’s easier than it sounds, pausing before you eat, even if it’s only for a few seconds can help interrupt that underlying momentous energy driving you to eat, and help you tune into mindful awareness. Pausing can act as a speed bump to help slow things down and tune you into what you’re feeling in your body and allow you to be guided by your body rather than your mind or emotions. It’s only in this state of awareness that you empower yourself with conscious choice.
Tip: Pause by taking a few deep breaths, tuning into your senses or by giving thanks with a mealtime blessing.
4. Become a Leftie, or a Rightie
For most people, eating has become a habit. That’s why some of the mindful eating tips I recommend revolve around getting yourself out of habitual ways, which prompts you to pay more attention.
Eating with your non-dominant hand, which would be the left hand for 90% of the population, will surely encourage you to pay attention – watch out for that red sauce on your white shirt!
5. Take First 3 Bites With Your Eyes Closed
Many people eat and overeat because of food triggers. Seeing a particular food, seeing other people eat food or catching a glimpse of a food ad are all examples of powerful visual triggers that can prompt us to eat – despite being hungry or not. But by constantly looking and watching others and the external world you, it’s easy to forget to tune into your inner reality and what you’re feeling within yourself and your body.
By closing your eyes, you immediately shift your awareness within. Most times when people eat with a blindfold they naturally eat less than they otherwise would. This just goes to show how often we eat with our eyes and proves the old saying “your eyes are bigger than your stomach” to be true.
6. Chew, Chew, Chew Your Food
Did you know that the more you chew your food, the less likely you are to overeat? Research shows a correlation between increased chewing and reducing overall food intake. Could it really be that easy? Yes! But it does require being mindful of chewing and remembering to take your time.
Chewing is one of the ways you activate the specific enzymes required to digest your food and by breaking down food to a smooth consistency, rather than gulping down large chunks of food, your lending a helping hand (or set of teeth) to your digestion process.
Tip: Chew your food as if you’re savoring every bit like your last.
7. Put on the Brakes Between Bites
Given our fast paced lifestyles, many people have become accustomed to eating at a hurried pace. Eating in a rush means you don’t have time to enjoy your food, especially when you’re so focused on your next bite before you’ve finished the one that’s in your mouth! Pausing between bites or even implementing a longer pause mid-way through the meal allows you to prolong the enjoyment of your food and tune in with your body and how hungry you still are. Reminding yourself to put on the brakes and pause between bites will help you to eat more mindfully.
Tip: When eating with other people, try to eat slower than the slowest eater at the table. Remind yourself to put down your knife and fork, spoon or chopsticks and really savor the bite of food your experiencing.
8. Eat In Silence (For at Least 2 Minutes)
We all know that social events are prime territory for mindless eating. Even the seemingly simple task of engaging in conversation can divert attention away from the experience of eating and can prompt overeating.
Wether you’re eating with other people or by yourself, try to make it a habit to eat the first few bites in silence. This will help you tune out of the outside world and tune in with yourself and your process of eating.
9. Make Each Meal Special
When you make something special out of the ordinary, you’re more likely to pay attention, the essence of mindful eating. It can also make you feel more satisfied with a meal, which directly helps prevent overeating.
Whatever you’re eating, even if it’s just takeout, take the time to put it on a nice plate and even light a candle or use nice placemats. Pour yourself a drink in a nice wineglass, or even whip out the good China!
The second benefit to this is preventing yourself from eating out of a package which is another mindless eating trap. Visually seeing all the food you’re about to eat on one plate in front of you is another mindful eating trick that will help prevent you from overeating.
10. Remind Yourself to Remember!
Just like everything else, mindful eating has to become a habit in order for you to adopt it as a regular part of your meals. New habits are easy to forget, so use any reminders you can think of to help you remember to eat more mindfully.
Stick a reminder on your fridge to slow down while you eat or place a reminder on your table to remind you to put your fork or chopsticks down between each bite. If you train your brain to eat more mindfully, it will become second nature and so will overeating.
What are your favorite mindful eating tips to help you eat less?
Aloha from the Big Island of Hawaii!
Laura Dawn, Author of Mindful Eating for Dummies