5 Tips for Mindful Eating and Weight Control
While enjoying the warm weather on a group bicycle ride last weekend, I overheard several cyclists discussing the seasonal phenomenon of post-winter weight gain and strength loss.
Even the fittest of the community experience this.
More sunshine and warmth, soon to arrive, naturally encourages strength-building physical activity. Spring is also a great time to really pay attention to what and how you are eating for weight control.
According to a recently published review of studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “attentive eating” may be the best way to battle weight gain.
Based on the review of 24 studies, three main strategies can help you eat less: avoiding distractions, enjoying the food you eat and remembering what you ate at your previous meal.
Studies showed that eaters who were distracted by television, radio or reading ate more at that meal, but even more at the next meal. Conditions that caused eaters to be less aware of the food they consumed, such as eating in a dimly lit room or removing empty plates from tables in a buffet restaurant, also caused people to eat more.
When eaters were asked to recall what they had for lunch, they ate less at an afternoon snack compared to people who were not told to pay attention to their food intake. If a meal was remembered as satisfying and filling, it reduced calorie intake later.
The theory is that anything you do to enhance your memory of what you eat can help control how much you eat at that meal and especially later on. Scientists speculate that when we make decisions about eating, we draw on memories about the satisfying effects of our most recent meal.
The following 5 tips will help you eat attentively and, very likely, maintain a healthy weight.
1. Avoid eating distractions. Eating in front of the television, while reading, checking e-mails or while driving takes your focus off the food you are eating. Doing so will make you more likely to overeat and be less likely to remember what you ate at your last meal.
2. Think about the food you are eating. Be conscious of every bite to help regulate how much you consume. Engage your senses to notice the smell, taste, texture and color of foods being eaten in the present moment.
3. When you sit down to eat, recall your last meal or snack. Make a mental list of the foods you ate, how they tasted and how satisfied you felt after eating.
4. Pay attention to hunger. It takes practice, but listening to your body’s hunger cues can help you reduce your calorie intake. Stop eating when you feel satisfied. If you wait until you feel full, chances are you’ve overeaten.
5. Slow down. Eating slowly forces you to enjoy your food more and eat less. It also leads to better digestion. To slow your eating pace, consider dining to relaxing music with a slow beat.
Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (828) 264-3061.