Are you really hungry or was that just a craving? Lose weight and improve your relationship with food by following these 7 methods to stop eating mindlessly.

Slow the (Bleep) Down

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf

Tell me if this sounds familiar: you empty your plate at the restaurant and feel just fine, but about 30 minutes later, you find yourself with a bellyache so excruciating that you want to curl up in a ball and cry. It takes approximately 15-20 minutes for your body to experience satiety (the feeling of fullness that occurs after a meal), so if you shovel your food down your throat without thought process, it’s awfully easy to overeat.

1. Put your fork down between every bite.

Only take one bite at a time. Put your fork down and chew slowly while focusing on the aroma, taste, and texture of your food.

2. Drink a glass of water before your meals.

An estimated 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated, so it’s quite likely you’re one of them. The sensations of hunger and thirst are almost indistinguishable, so drink a big glass of ice water before every meal to ensure you don’t eat past the point of fullness.

3. Give yourself an extra 5-10 minutes to eat.

The faster you eat, the more likely you’ll over-eat. If you take 5 minutes for breakfast now, give yourself 10 minutes tomorrow. Do that for a week and then increase it to 15 minutes. Practice patience by fully immersing yourself in the eating experience.

4. No more distracted eating in front of the TV or at your desk.

Have you ever eaten something and felt like your stomach was satisfied but your mouth was still hungry? This mixed message was due to the cephalic phase digestive response (“cephalic” is just a fancy word for your head). To effectively use the nutrition contained in a meal, your brain must experience pleasure; and to experience pleasure, you must pay attention to the qualities of your food (taste, texture, aroma). If you eat while you’re distracted, you won’t notice any of that and your brain will interpret the missed experience as hunger.

Are those late night eating binges starting to make more sense now? I hope so.

Become a Mindful Eater

“I am not a glutton—I am an explorer of food” – Erma Bombeck

Now that you’ve managed to slow down at the dinner table, let’s do a little exploring to discover how food makes you feel and why you eat the way you do.

5. Start a food diary.

Write down every meal, snack, and beverage you consume for the next month. Include any relevant details like:

  • Your surroundings (a restaurant or home?)
  • How you felt after eating (fulfilled or lethargic?)
  • A rating describing how much you enjoyed your meal (on a scale of 1-10)

6. Pay attention to how different foods make you feel.

Using your food diary as a guide, pay attention to how different foods influence your mood and energy in different ways. You’ll probably discover that natural, healthy foods like fruits and veggies make you feel a whole lot better than processed stuff. This should come as no surprise, but keeping a diary detailing your relationship with food will make it more difficult to dodge this reality.

7. Be aware of the external cues driving your eating decisions.

By “external cues,” I mean things like:

  • How stressful your day was
  • Who you’re hanging out with
  • The amount of food that is available

Before you eat any food, ask yourself: “Am I in full control of this eating decision, or am I being negatively influenced by an external cue outside of my control?”

I hope these 7 ways to stop eating mindlessly help you improve your relationship with food. If you struggle with cravings, this guide to breaking bad habits might be helpful. How To Break Bad Habits Once and For All

Featured photo credit: young woman eating potato chips against a wooden backgroundvia Shutterstock

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