You’re sick of diets. Tired of counting calories. Done with measuring portions. Weary of stepping on that scale. You want a better way, but how? Is there a way to improve your diet and manage your weight without engaging in all of that self-monitoring and food math?
Yes! And it’s not as difficult as you think.
How We Eat Matters
The number one tip for improving your diet and managing your weight is to:
Eat slowly and mindfully.
If you’re like most of us, the vast majority of your eating experiences are probably a combination of rushed and/or while not paying attention.
Think about it: how often do you eat quickly or while on the go? And how often do you eat while doing something else? Mindlessly snacking while watching tv? Scrolling social media? Texting friends? Working at your desk?
If you’re like many of us, probably most of the time.
In contrast, how often do you sit down to eat and put away your phone, turn off the tv, shut off the computer, put down your book, and just focus on the meal in front of you?
If you’re like many of us, probably not very often.
Eating Quickly Has Consequences
So what happens when we eat too quickly? We experience:
- Poor digestion (poor nutrient absorption, GI issues)
- Decreased satisfaction with meals
- Weight gain
When we eat quickly, it is all too easy to ignore the signals from our body that tell us we are full.
Think of a comfortable level of fullness as a finish line. If you run up to that finish line at full speed, it’s going to be difficult to stop on the line in time. Most likely, you won’t be able to stop until you’re past it. In contrast, if you walk up to that finish line at a slower pace, you will have no problem stopping when you reach the line.
If you eat slowly and mindfully, you will be far more successful at ending the meal when you are feeling comfortably full and satisfied, rather than when you’re feeling overly full and gross and filled with regret.
When we eat slowly and pay attention to our meals we actually eat less.
Eating Slowly Provides Benefits
So what happens when we slow down? We experience:
- Increased satisfaction with meals
- More effortless weight maintenance or loss
- Increased sense of control over our eating
- Better digestion
When we eat slowly and mindfully, we also tend to make better food choices.
We have the time and the presence of mind to choose more nutritious options, rather than just grabbing whatever is available and easy to eat, which is often processed, high-fat, high-sugar, etc.
You also might discover that your food preferences are not what you expected. When we eat on autopilot, we might not actually be eating the foods we enjoy. How can we know if we’re not paying attention? Personally, when I pay attention to my eating, really tune in to the feel of that food, the scent of it, the flavours and textures in my mouth, and the feel of it in my body, I’m often surprised by what I actually enjoy. Usually it’s less salt, less fat, more vegetables, more protein, etc., than I actually think I want.
Slow, Mindful Eating for the Win
Eating slowly and mindfully can thus ultimately improve our diet, our body composition and our health. There is in fact evidence that how we eat—the manner in which we eat—might have a bigger impact on our health and weight than do our food choices alone.
Slow, mindful eating is a simple way to manage our weight and improve our diet. No dieting or calorie counting required. All that is required is that we start paying attention.
Here are some tips for slow, mindful eating. I’ve also included a couple of printables under Recommended Resources to help you get started.
- Put down/put away distracting devices
- Do something between bites (put down utensils, drink water)
- Chew slowly, look at your food, savour it, note flavours/textures
- Keep a food journal (this will allow you to see patterns)
- Use a meal timer (set a minimum meal time)
- Pace yourself with the slowest eater at the table
- Make note of what affects your eating speed (stress, certain conversation topics, setting)
Is there a certain time every day that you can dedicate to slow, mindful eating? Try it out this week, and note any differences in your eating preferences, mindset, or enjoyment of the meal.
Here are some printables* to help you get started.
*(This content is used under license from Precision Nutrition Inc. and may not be reproduced, transmitted, or otherwise used or reused in any way without the express written permission of the owner. Copyright © 2020 Precision Nutrition Inc. For more information about Precision Nutrition, visit www.precisionnutrition.com.)