How to Mindfully Eat to Lose Weight: A Step by Step Guide
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Instead of focusing on restricting foods, when you mindfully eat, you focus on having high quality, relaxed and pleasurable eating experiences. With Mindful eating, you learn to eat only when you are hungry and only when you are truly enjoying your food. This means you would avoid grabbing a chip from a serving bowl at a party or while cooking dinner. When I am not focusing on mindful eating I sometimes grab food from my toddler’s unfinished plate. Afterwards I think why did I even do that? Cold chicken nuggets are not even tasty! Whenever I do this mindLESS grabbing, I am never really enjoying my food.
I had a client once tell me that the last bite on her plate always tastes the best because that is the only bite she notices. She then always wants a second helping because she didn’t pay attention while she was eating the first serving. So how do you know if you are mindlessly eating? If you are grabbing bits of food here and there and eating from the serving bag or bowl, you are probably mindlessly eating. Are you are scooping up your next bite while you are still chewing your first bite? If so, you are probably mindLESSly eating. If you are a fast eater, then you are probably mindLESSly eating? So what are the steps to mindfully eating?
(Remember, for every step of the eating process, from preparing, plating, and tasting your food, you should focus on being aware of the moment you are in.)
Step 1: Preparing your food
When preparing, don’t taste and nibble while you are cooking. You should always sit down and eat from a plate.
Step 2: Plating your Food
When plating your food, be conscious of how much you are plating. PAUSE and ask yourself is this a reasonable amount of food? Do not starve yourself. Don’t eat so little at one meal or throughout the day that you binge the next day. Just look and ask yourself is this a reasonable amount of food. Think about a healthy plate vs. an over-the-top plate. How does your plate compare? If you want to see examples of a healthy plate check out myplate.gov plate below.
One technique that may help in combination with Mindful eating is to plate your food on a smaller salad plate. If you use a smaller plate but have issues with piling your food too high; grab another plate, turn it over, and use it as a lid. If the rims of both plates do not touch, you may have piled the food on too high.
Or you may want to mindfully plate your food using a portion control plate which includes a lid. You can use the lid to make sure you are not piling the food on to high. One type of preportioned plate is the Precise Portions 2-Go Healthy Portion Control Plates, Pack of 2, BPA-Free, 3-Section Plate with Leak-Proof Lids, Dishwasher & Microwave Safe, Helps Manage & Lose Weight, Metabolism & Blood Sugar. This plate includes the lid so that you can be sure you are not piling the food on to high. (If you would like more of these tips to use in combination with Mindful Eating, click here.) Before sitting down, PAUSE to make sure you were not mindlessly piling on the food. You will notice pausing is crucial to the Mindful eating process.
Step 3: Eating your Food
Remember to sit down and eat from a plate. Before putting a bite in your mouth, PAUSE. Really notice the food. Thank God for this time to enjoy your food. Notice the color, textures, and smells before your first bite. Continue to do this for every bite. Put your fork down between each bite. DO NOT PREPARE the next bite until you have swallowed and taken a sip of drink. Take a sip of drink between each bite. During the meal, PAUSE occasionally to notice if you are full and ask yourself questions. Ask questions like “Am I full?”; “How does this bite taste?”; “Am I enjoying my food?” “Am I hungry or emotionally eating?” Asking these questions helps you stay mindfully aware throughout the meal. You will be surprised at how full and satisfied you will be on less food. The key is pausing before you put food into your mouth.
Step 4: Snacking on Food:
Just like with a meal, PAUSE before and during the snack to ask yourself if you are mindfully snacking. Before putting a bite in your mouth, ask yourself “Is this mindLESS eating?” If the answer is ‘yes’, then don’t do it. Save your food for when you can truly enjoy your food. No sense in wasting your allotted calories on food you are not enjoying.
Examples of mindLESS snacking are during cooking, store samples, social nibbling, dinner clean up, and (my issue) cold toddler leftovers. If the answer is ‘yes, I am mindlessly eating’, then ask youself why? Are you bored, stressed, or tired and wanting to eat even when you are not physically hungry? If you are not hungry, tell youself you can wait until the next meal, which is only BLANK hours away. Usually you only have 30 minutes to 2 hours before the next meal. If you would like more of these tips to use in combination with Mindful Eating, click here.) If you ask yourslef the question, “Are you hungry?” and you are hungry, get a plate, sit down, and follow steps 1 through 3.
Step 5: Eating at Restaurants
Ask the waitress for a box as soon as your food arrives. Mindfully, fill the box with food from your plate until your plate looks like an appropriate meal. Remember mindfulness is being aware of what you are doing at each moment. Be aware of what you are leaving on your plate. Then, follow step 3 to eat your food.
Why does Mindfully Eating Work?
By eating this way, you will notice that you are full on less calories and are even craving more high quality foods.
Still not convinced that mindful eating can drastically change your calorie intake? Let me put it to you this way. Let’s say you are eating a meal with a big athletic young football player. Of course he will need AND eat much more than most so he scarfs down 3 plates full of food in 45 minutes. You use the Mindful eating techniques and only eat one appropriate plate but it also took you 45 minutes. You chewed slowly and really tasted each and every bite while he gulped down his food.
If you think about it, you had your food in your mouth and were tasting your food the same amount of time as the football player who ate 3 times as much as you. He ate more, but you had food in your mouth and tasted your food the same amount of time as he did. So you were able to enjoy it for as long as if you had quickly eaten 3 plates full.
Develop Your Own Weight Loss Plan
In another blog post, I discuss that we all have reasons for our gain weight. If we don’t understand our reasons, then we won’t be able to develop solutions. Mindful eating can often be used exclusively to help with many of your weight loss barriers or in combination with other techniques.
If you would like to learn more about mindful eating, you may want to read The Mindful Diet: How to Transform Your Relationship with Food for Lasting Weight Loss and Vibrant Health by Ruth Q Wolever, P.h.D and Beth Reardon, MS, RD, LDN with Tania Hannan.
Have you had success with Mindful Eating? When do you mindlessly eat? What are your barriers to weight loss? Were you able to find solutions to those barriers?
*If you would like to evaluate your own diet and determine which tips work best for you, please take the free DIY Diet self assessment and evaluation developed by a registered dieititian.
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