It’s true, paying attention, I mean REALLY paying attention to your food as you eat has been shown to promote weight loss. First I will tell you how to try it yourself, then I will explain why this works.
I suggest the first time you try this when you are going to be eating something you enjoy. It will make the experience all the more enjoyable! Likewise a caution – junk food, will taste junkier! Trust me, it’s true, I’ve tried it 🙁
BEFORE YOU START
- If you are eating at work or a restaurant
- Prepare and pack a healthy meal that you know you will enjoy OR pick a restaurant that serves fresh healthy food you like.
- If you are packing your meal make sure to pack it in a way that is visually appealing.
- Get away from your desk to eat if it is hard to ignore the phone, or if you are likely to be interrupted.
- Either way make sure you find a place where you will not be pestered by anyone.
- Turn off all noise making devices (cell phone, pager etc.)
- If you are eating at home alone
- Make a healthy meal or snack that you know you will enjoy. We are talking about mindfulness as a tool to aid weight loss, so let’s keep it healthy 🙂
- Clear your table off and set it with your nicest dishes and cutlery.
- Serve your food in a manner that is visually appealing.
- Before you sit down to eat make sure you have everything you need so that you don’t have to interrupt your meal by getting up for something.
- Turn off both your home phone and your cell phone. The world can wait 15 – 20 minutes for you.
- If you are sharing a meal with someone else
- Follow the “Before You Start” instructions above and make sure to let the person you are sharing your meal with knows about your experiment so they know what to expect. Ensure it is someone who is OK with getting “the silent treatment” during the meal, preferably someone who is likely to understand and support your experiment.
ENJOY YOUR FOOD!
When you begin, remind yourself that the purpose of this experiment is to fully experience your food.
- As you uncover your food take a moment to really see how it looks. How do you feel about how it looks? Notice everything – Is the food carefully arranged or in a wonderful jumble of contrasting chaos? Are the colours really appealing? Do you like one colour more than the rest? Is there a contrast of light and dark? Heck, maybe all you notice is that looking at it makes you hungry! That’s OK 🙂
- Allow the part of your brain that thinks with words to take a brake. Instead, focus on your sense of sight, smell, touch, taste and even hearing.
- Take a good deep appreciative sniff, really smell your food. Is it strong and pungent? Is it a delicate aroma? Does the aroma make your mouth start to water? (This is a good thing, saliva starts the digestive process, aiding in effective digestion).
- Take a bite and taste the food. Is it sweet, or sour, or salty? Maybe it is spicy hot, or is it a combination of sensations?
- Notice how it feels as you bite into the food. Is it smooth and silky, or crunchy and invigorating? Is it cold or hot?
- Chew your food thoroughly , savoring the flavour(s), smell and texture.
- Listen … does the food make a noise when you bite into it?
- Can you taste the different ingredients? Is one flavour more dominant than all the rest?
- How does the food make you feel? Does it bring up any emotions or moods for you?
- Does the food satisfy your hunger?
Notice every bite, really appreciate it and pay full attention to it.
HOW DOES THIS WORK TO AID IN WEIGHT LOSS?
When eating without attention you can easily eat an extra 3 – 10 bites after you’re actually full before your body gets the message across to your distracted brain that it doesn’t want any more food. Multiply those 3 – 10 bites of food by say 3 meals and 1 or 2 snacks every day easily adds up to 15 – 50 bites of food a day that is not enjoyed, let alone physically required!
It also slows down how fast you eat so you’re less likely to overeat before your body recognizes that it has had enough food. It takes somewhere around 15 – 20 minutes for that message to get to your brain!
Some of the benefits of mindful eating are
- Recognizing when you are satisfied more quickly.
- Really enjoying your food fully.
- In a recent study had 2 groups of people were given the same food to eat. One group was told to stop eating when they were full and the other group was instructed to pay mindful attention as they ate and to stop eating when they were full. The second group consistently ate a little bit less.
- Make it a habit to really taste your food, and a lot of junk food will not seem so appealing because the very nature of junk food is to be Over salted / Too sugary / Too greasy / Artificially flavoured or Over flavoured! While it is probably better to avoid junk food all together, if you do decide to indulge take a smaller portion and really ENJOY it.