How to Eat Mindfully
Practicing a more mindful approach to eating can enhance the enjoyment of your meals, reduce overeating, aid good digestion, reduce anxious thoughts surrounding food, and improve your psychological relationship with food.
Below are my top tips to help you practice mindful eating:
1. Eat less without feeling deprived.
Sure, many popular diets claim this as a benefit. But with slow eating, this phenomenon can occur even if you don’t change what you’re eating.
For example, in one study, University of Rhode Island researchers served the same pasta lunch to 30 normal-weight women on two different days. At both meals, participants were told to eat until comfortably full.
But they were also told:
Lunch 1: Eat this meal as fast as you can.
Lunch 2: Eat slowly and put your utensils down between every bite.
When eating quickly, the women consumed 646 calories in 9 minutes.
When eating slowly, they consumed 579 calories in 29 minutes.
So in 20 more minutes, the slow-eaters ate 67 fewer calories. What’s more, it also took them longer to feel hungry afterward compared to when they were speeding through their lunch.
These effects, spread across every meal and snack, could add up to hundreds of calories saved over the course of a day.
Why does this happen?
Reason 1: Physiology. It takes about 20 minutes for your body’s satiety signals to kick in. Slow eating gives the system time to work, allowing you to better sense when you’ve had enough.
Reason 2: Psychology. When you slow down, and really try to savor your meal, you tend to feel satisfied with less, and feel less “deprived.”
2. Look and feel better.
Have regular bloating, cramping, or stomach pains? Many of our clients say slow eating helped solve their digestive issues.
Why does speed matter?
Because when you wolf down your food, you take larger bites and chew less.
Your stomach has a harder time mashing those big chunks of food into chyme—the sludgy mix of partially digested food, hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes, and water that passes from your stomach into your small intestine.
When food isn’t properly broken down into chyme, it can cause indigestion and other GI problems. We may absorb fewer nutrients, depleting ourselves of valuable vitamins and minerals.
Besides making you uncomfortable (maybe even miserable), shoddy digestion can also affect your mindset.
For instance, if your meal leaves you bloated, burpy, and sluggish, you may interpret this as “feeling out of shape,” and become discouraged about your efforts. On the other hand, slowing down and digesting your food properly may help you “feel leaner.”
3. Learn what “hungry” and “full” feel like.
Ever have a meal because it’s a certain time of day, even if you’re not particularly hungry?
Or clean your plate, though you’re pretty sure you’ll regret it?
These are just a couple of ways people tune out their internal hunger and satiety cues. There are plenty more, but the point is:
Many of us eat when we’re not hungry, and keep eating when we’re full.
Slow eating can help get you right again. With regular practice, it improves your appetite awareness. You learn to recognize —and more importantly, trust—your body’s own internal signals.
Over time, this retrains you to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Not because some rigid meal plan demands it, but because your body (a.k.a. your new best friend) tells you so.
This is the difference between being “on a diet” and learning how to “listen to your body”… a valuable skill that allows you to make healthier choices for the rest of your life.
Voila—lasting body transformation in a way that doesn’t suck.
4. Disrupt patterns that derail your progress.
If you struggle with binge eating, learning to go slow can help.
That might sound odd, since a binge is driven by an overwhelming urge to consume as much food as possible, as fast as possible. (This quality is what differentiates binge eating from run-of-the-mill overeating.)
But the skills you develop from slow eating can help you mitigate the damage, and build resilience over time.
Here’s how: When you’re in the grip of a binge, slow down as soon as you realize what’s happening.
Pause. Breathe. The food will wait for you. Even just one breath between bites will help.
You might not be able to stop eating right away, and that’s okay. How much you eat isn’t as important as getting back into a more thoughtful state of mind.
With this “binge slowly” technique, most people can regain a sense of control. And the more you practice it, the more effective it will be.
If you keep slowing down, even during your most difficult moments:
You’ll become more aware of why, where, and how you’re binging (so it won’t seem random, and eventually you can break the chain).
You’ll likely eat less and stop sooner.
You’ll feel less panicked and powerless.
You’ll be able to soothe yourself more effectively, and get back into “wise mind” faster.
In time, this’ll help normalize your eating, boost your physical and psychological health, and improve body composition (or help you maintain a healthy body composition more easily, without restriction-compensation cycles).
5. Gain a tool you can use anytime, anywhere.
We don’t always have control over what foods are available to us. But we always have control over how quickly we chew and swallow.
Think of slow eating as the low-hanging fruit of nutrition: super accessible in any situation.
It doesn’t require specialized meal plans or a food scale. No matter what’s going on in your life, or what’s on your plate, you can practice eating slowly. (REF)
Remember to have fun, be grateful and you'll be on your way to living your most optimal life!