Want to eat less? Become a mindful eater

January 5, 2014 in Leslie's Featured Content

Anyone who’s followed a calorie-reduced diet has probably witnessed weight loss slow months into his or her program – often as strict adherence gradually wanes.  And for many dieters, lost pounds creep back on.

According to researchers, the best strategy for keeping weight off is becoming an attentive eater. Studies show that practicing three strategies while eating can help you eat less during the day: 1) avoiding distractions, 2) thinking about your food when eating and, 3) remembering what you ate at your previous meal.

Eaters who are distracted by watching television, listening to the radio or reading eat more at that meal, but even more at the next meal.  What’s more, anything that causes people to be less aware of the food they consume – eating in a dimly lit room or removing empty plates from tables in a buffet restaurant – prompts them to eat more.

Researchers have also found that participants who are instructed to recall the foods they ate at lunch eat less at an afternoon snack compared to people who were not told to pay attention to their food intake. If a meal was remembered as satisfying and filling, it reduced later calorie intake.

The theory: anything you do to enhance your memory of what you eat can help control how much you eat at that meal and especially later on.  Being distracted or less aware while eating diverts your attention away from food. Both scenarios can impair you memory of how much food you ate and, as a result, lead you to overeat.

Don’t get me wrong.  Portion size still counts when it comes to cutting calories.  But given that 77 percent of Canadians report eating at least once a day while doing something else, incorporating attentive eating strategies may give you an edge in shedding excess weight and staying lean.

The following five tips can help you eat attentively and mindfully and, very likely, maintain a healthy weight.

Ban distractions.  Eating in front of the television, while reading, checking emails, or while driving takes your focus off the foods you are eating. Doing so will make you more likely to overeat, and be less likely to remember what you ate at your last meal.

Reserve the kitchen or dining room table for meals and pay attention to the fact you are eating.

Think about food when eating.  Be conscious of every bite while eating to help regulate how much you consume. Engage your sense to notice the smell, taste, texture and colour of foods being eaten in the present moment.

Cue food memories.  When you sit down to eat, recall your last meal or snack.  Make a mental list of the foods you ate, how they tasted and how satisfied you felt after eating.

To help you feel satisfied, include a source of protein at meals and snacks such as lean meat or poultry, egg whites, tofu, legumes, nuts or Greek yogurt.

Pay attention to hunger. Take a moment to determine how hungry – or satisfied – you feel before you eat, halfway through a meal, and after you finish eating.  

The signal to stop eating is when you feel satisfied. That means you should no longer feel longer hungry, but not full.  If you wait until you feel full, chances are you’ve overeaten.

Slow your pace.  Eating slowly forces you to savour your food and eat less. After every bite, put down your knife and fork. Chew thoroughly.  Take sips of water between bites.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.