Our bodies are continually sending us signals, telling us whether we’re hungry or satisfied. When you listen to these signals and eat mindfully, you can give your body the amount of food it actually needs, which is often less than what we eat when we are distracted. Mindless eating can happen when we’re watching TV or working at our desks. It happens whenever we ignore our bodies’ signals by eating before we feel hungry or continuing on eating when we're no longer feeling so.
Listening to your body
When you feel yourself running out of steam or your stomach growling, it’s time to eat. So, allow yourself a nutritious snack or meal.
When your hunger eases, you’ll sense your energy level rising and feel satisfied, but not too full. This means that you’ve eaten just enough. If you ignore this signal, you might eat more food than your body needs and experience discomfort (or even stomach pain) after your meal.
Take your time when eating. The brain doesn't register fullness automatically and needs some time (about 20 minutes) to understand that you aren't hungry anymore. Savour every bite and relax.
Simple ways to eat more mindfully
Whether you’re at home, at work, or even on the go, try putting these mindful eating strategies into practice more often to gradually reconnect with the signals your body is sending you.
- Before grabbing a snack or sitting down to eat, ask yourself if you’re truly hungry. If you’re not sure, wait a bit to see if you feel that sensation of emptiness or gurgling in your stomach.
- Make every meal a time to relax. Sit at the table and just enjoy your meal.
- Eliminate distractions. Keep the TV off, don’t sit in front of your computer, and put your smartphone down while eating.
- Eat slowly, take time to enjoy every bite, and appreciate each different taste and texture.
- Set your utensils down between bites.
- Ask yourself if you’re still hungry throughout a meal. Stop when you feel satisfied, not overly full.
- Use smaller plates and bowls. Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. If you’re still hungry afterwards, it’s ok to take a second helping. Some days, we just need more.
- Don't force yourself to finish what's on your plate. Keep the rest for later. At a restaurant? Take the leftovers home.
Getting in touch with your hunger and satiety signals takes time and lots of practice. Be patient – people don’t become mindful eaters overnight
Snack the smart way
Snacking is a great way to keep your appetite in check and prevent overeating later on. But keep in mind that reaching for nutrient-poor snacks can leave you famished an hour later or ready to snooze at your desk.
For staying power, choose nutrient-rich snacks containing protein and fibre that can help keep you energized and satisfied until your next meal.
Mind your cravings
Our appetites can play tricks on us. Sometimes what we perceive as hunger is actually thirst – so, be sure to drink plenty of water and stay well hydrated. Other times, the sight, smell or thought of a specific type of food (like chocolate cake, hot apple pie, or crispy French fries) can trigger a false sense of hunger. It’s ok to indulge sometimes, as long as it doesn’t become a habit.
Just listen to what your body is telling you, feed it nutritious foods, and enjoy all the ways that food can delight the senses!