Eating slowly can help you better understand your real hunger signals and can help you recognize reasons for faster eating, such as emotions or simply liking the taste of a food. However, eating slowly is not a decision that you make on the spur of the moment; rather, it’s a habit that you’ll need to persevere with and acquire with practice.
The concept of eating slowly as a means to avoid overeating is based on the simple fact that your brain needs about 20 minutes to get the “signal” that you are not hungry anymore and that you can stop eating. Our body needs time for the digestive and hormonal processes to take place at a point or phase far along enough to generate the “satisfied signal”. Prior to the invention of convenience food, more chewing and slower eating was normal and therefore people were likely to reach the 20 minute natural stopping signal without having to be conscious of slowing down. However, given our fast food culture, this set point is often missed because the meal is well and truly over before reaching it. Read on to learn the ways to eat slowly to avoid overeating.
1. Reprogram your mind. Do not even attempt to acquire the habit of eating slowly before mentally rehearsing it in your mind for at least 21 days. Relax and use your imagination to create mental images, virtual pleasant experiences that your brain will register and remember. As part of this visualization process, imagine yourself lean and fit and:
- Eating slowly and savoring your food.
- See a glass of water to drink before, with and after your meal to get the sensation of fullness in your stomach.
- Trying to taste both the flavor and the texture; imagining how the texture changes as the food is slowly broken down by your saliva.
- Consider keeping a food journalduring this time, to map out the triggers surrounding your hunger. Note where you are, what you’re eating, how fast you’ve consumed and how you feel after eating it (especially how hungry or otherwise you feel). This will be a useful source of information to draw on, as each person’s hunger triggers and set points differ.
- Be sure to visualize a desired end result such as a lean, fit and energetic Also see in your mind the end result: how you are going to look in that dress or those jeans, suit, etc.
2. Opt for meals with a variety of flavors and textures. Think of how easy it is to gorge yourself on a bowl of something homogeneous, like macaroni and cheese. A dish with variety, however, will be a little different in every bite.
- Note that such dishes will be more expensive to buy, because they’re more time-consuming to make, and it costs more to use a variety of ingredients. You can save money by making them yourself, or use the price tag as motivation to thoroughly, and slowly, enjoy what you paid for.
3. Try to eat when you start feeling hungry. The problem with leaving eating until you’re starving and feel like eating the proverbial horse, then you’re bound to eat quickly and therefore risk eating more than needed. Feeling so hungry that you’re dizzy, weak and irritable means that you’ve deprived your body of much-needed food for too long and the payback will include an inability to eat your food in a relaxed and enjoyable way. Instead, you’ll be obliged to shovel in the food to try and alleviate the symptoms of weakness and feeling irritable won’t help your cause any!
4. Set aside time to eat. For many of us, eating is just a means to an end, to be over with as quickly and as conveniently as possible. It’s not uncommon to multitask, eating while we talk, watch TV, do homework, and even drive. So try to designate a block of time to eat, and only eat.
5. Drink a glass of water and/or eat a small bowl of light soup before your main dish. Drink water with your food. This will help your sensation of fullness.
- Be aware that not everyone advocates drinking during a meal though, as some people believe that this can dilute the nutrients from your meal. However, this theory doesn’t convince other nutrition specialists, who believe water actually aids in digestion. In other words, listen to your own body’s reaction to consuming liquids during a meal and go with that.
6. Deliberately taste your food. Make a conscious effort to pay attention to flavors and textures. You might even want to keep a journal. The more descriptive you are the better. You’ll probably find that you begin to appreciate well-prepared food in ways you never would have otherwise!
7. Set a minimum number of chews for every bite. Ancient, but nonetheless still wise advice. Start with a low number like 10, and over time work your way up to 20 or more. This slows you down, helps ease digestion, and even sets you up for the next step.
8. Put down your utensils between bites. This will help to break the habit of stuffing a new chunk of food in your mouth shortly after swallowing the last one.
9. Use smaller utensils. The less you can fit onto your fork and spoon, the slower you’ll eat. Look for utensils that are designed for children. Or if you really want to ease your pace, eat with chopsticks!
10. Try to not watch TV, play video games, or read a book while eating. This will distract you with how much you’re eating and you won’t pay much attention to what your brain is trying to tell you.