Mindful eating is an effortless way to cut back on calories and get closer to your weight-loss goal. The best part? Even though you’re not eating as much, the movement is all about notdepriving yourself. “Mindful eating is not a diet,” says Susan Albers, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and author of Eat Q: Unlock The Weight-Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence. “It revolves around behavioral tips that change how you eat, not what you eat.” Read on for easy ways to start eating mindfully and seeing results.
Put Your Fork Down Between Bites
After you take each bite, give your fork a rest instead of preemptively loading it up with the next mouthful. “We get into an automatic hand-to-mouth flow when we eat,” says Alberts. “As you put your fork down, you intentionally slow your pace, and that gives you more room to tune into your body’s cues.” When eating mindfully, you’re aiming for feeling satisfied (no longer hungry) instead of a complete fullness that indicates you’ve overdone it.
Cut Your Portions in Half
This move combats the effect of your eyes being bigger than your stomach. “Because we’re conditioned to clean our plates, we tend to eyeball our portion sizes according to how big the plate is instead of our hunger,” says Albers. When you slice your meal in half from the start, you’ll likely be surprised that it’s enough to fill you up. Remember, you can always have the rest if you don’t feel satisfied!
Savor That First Bite
Eating isn’t only about taste—it’s an entire sensory experience. “We eat a lot of food that’s mediocre but don’t realize it because we aren’t paying attention,” says Albers. Pause for three to five seconds before you start eating, and really focus on your food: What does it look like? How does it smell? You can even go so far as to come up with three quick adjectives to describe it. As you’re eating it, concentrate on the texture and sound, then envision its movement from your throat into your stomach. Really relishing and focusing on the food will not only slow you down, it’ll give your body time to release satiety signals before you overindulge.
Turn Your Fork Upside Down
This tip comes from European eating habits, so you can pat yourself on the back for being worldly. Instead of using your fork to scoop food with a traditionally American approach, flip it so you have to pierce your food instead. “You’re not used to using a fork that way, so it will help you focus on the actual process of eating,” says Albers.
Turn Off the TV
Pausing for a meal doesn’t mean it’s time to multitask. “You tend to eat 14 percent more if the TV is on,” says Albers, who points out that you can’t practice mindful eating if you aren’t fully engaged with your food. Put down the remote control, and keep your eyes on your plate instead.
Drink Water 30 Minutes Before a Meal
Sometimes people mistake thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated is key to warding off any misleading signals, says Albers.
Make a Fist as You Eat
ven the weird-but-true tips can pay off. This one is rooted in the psychological theory of embodied cognition, which means that our physical actions can influence our minds. “When we think the word ‘no,’ our minds connect that sentiment with a clenched fist. That’s the movement we lean towards making because it means stop,” says Albers. With the hand you aren’t using to eat, make a fist at the beginning, middle, and end of your meal to remind you to stop and pay more attention to your food—and how hungry you are.