Everything you need to know about mindful eating for weight loss
What does mindful eating mean?
You’ve probably heard of the term mindful eating, but what does it actually mean and why bother doing it? Mindful eating is about checking whether you’re really hungry, and if so, being fully present when eating, enjoying each mouthful and watching for signs you’ve had enough so you don’t overeat. So what does mindful eating avoid? Gulping food quickly in front of a distraction (such as a phone, tv or computer), or eating a meal just because it’s midday or routine - rather than when your body signals that it’s genuinely hungry.
The benefits of mindful eating
It’s easy to not think about what or how we eat during a busy day, says Melbourne-based psychologist, Dr Naomi Crafti, but making an effort to eat mindfully has many weight-loss benefits.
Turns out, people who eat more mindfully eat less overall and have a better sense of how much they've eaten than people who eat while distracted. What's more, they tend to weigh less than those who eat quickly.
To be clear, mindful eating isn’t about finding the time and space to eat in absolute silence. (That's just crazy.) It just helps you to slow down so you can recognise how much you've eaten and whether you've had enough. Ready to eat more mindfully? Start here:
How to become a mindful-eating master
- Do away with distractions. Like eating in front of your phone, TV or computer.
- Set a meal space. Choose a place to eat that has few distractions—think kitchen table vs. in front of the TV. Turn this into the place where you always eat; if you only eat at the kitchen table, you'll be less likely to think "snack time!" every time you settle down on your couch.
- Stop and check that you’re genuinely hungry. Make sure you’re not just eating out of habit or because of certain feelings or boredom.
- Take a quiet moment. Before you begin eating, stop to reflect on your mood, the meal, your day... anything. Pausing for a moment ahead of your meal can help you switch off automatic eating.
- Take it all in. Use your senses – smell the aromas of the food you’re eating, and notice the temperatures, textures and flavours in your mouth. Be in the moment while you’re eating, rather than thinking about what happened yesterday or what your plans are for tomorrow.
- Downsize your bites. Take smaller bits and chew slowly. Making the most of every bite allows you to enjoy it more.
- Put down your fork. Setting your fork down between bites can help slow you down and eat less, as it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register fullness, after you’ve eaten.
- Sip water between bites. Taking breaks to rehydrate clears your palate and makes your meal last longer. Plus, water's just plain good for you.
- Pace yourself with the slowest eater. While eating with others, conversation can distract you from what and how much you’re eating. But hey, eating alone can be lonely. When dining with company, locate the slowest eater and go bite for bite to pace yourself.
- Reflect before refilling your plate. Give yourself some time before going for that second helping. If you're still hungry, have more.