Nutrition Inspiration

August 27, 2018

7 Strategies to Re-Engineer your Eating Environment for Mindful Eating

Why do we eat more than we think? What is mindless eating?

Many of the clients I work with already know WHAT to eat. You might have small questions that get confusing when looking at food trends like, ‘is coconut oil healthy?’ ‘What do you think of the keto diet?’ Everyone agrees adding more vegetables and less sugary foods is a better choice. So today I want to look at changing behaviors and making the healthy choice the easy choice, because even if we know something is unhealthy, it doesn’t mean we don’t eat it. So here’s the WHY of our eating choices.

According to the director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, Brian Wansink, we make more than 200 food decisions every day. What, when, how much, with whom etc. 59 of those decisions are about WHAT kind of food we are eating. Other choices  include – do I want another scoop? Snack before dinner? Should I get the bigger size? Do I want seconds? When we look at each decision alone they seem pretty minor, but they can add up. 

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating means increasing interoceptive awareness, the awareness of bodily sensations, as you eat. That means paying attention to sensations of hunger and satiety: the reduction of hunger as you are eating and satisfaction after a meal. It also means being self aware of other feelings, before you reach for food ask yourself:

Are you tired?

Are you bored?

Are you distracted?

What is your stress level?

Are you thirsty?

Are you sad?

All of these emotions can play a role in how much you eat and what you crave. Many times when our bodies are under stress or distracted by something else we lose the ability to make the best decision and we end up regretting it later. People that are eating while distracted, say from watching a movie, end up consuming many more calories without even noticing. 

How can we re-engineer our environment to make healthy eating easier and naturally cut calories?

1. Just breathe

Have you heard of the 4.7.8 rule? This is a breathing technique designed by Dr. Andrew Weil. You breathe in for 4 seconds through your nose, hold it for 7 seconds, and breathe out through your mouth for 8 seconds. Practice doing that 3 times in a row. It is proven to slow down your heart rate by reducing stress and helping to center your mind. You can read more about how to do it here. Try this before each meal. It will help you to focus on your physical and emotional feelings as well as hunger signs. Slowing you down and getting you ready to fully enjoy the food you are about to eat.

2. Shop Mindfully

Healthy eating starts at the grocery store. What you bring into the house is what will be eaten. Think about what your goals are and write a grocery list. If we shop while we are hungry or without a list we tend to give into marketing or buy more foods that are less healthy. If you go in with a plan and have your best interest in mind from the beginning you are more likely to stick to your healthy eating goals throughout the week.

3. Out of sight, out of mind.

Do you keep a candy dish on your desk or a cookie jar on the counter? Did you know you are more likely to eat between 100-200 calories more per day if you do? That adds up to around 10-12 pounds a year. Now consider eliminating that jar or replacing it with fresh fruit. Making unhealthy foods less convenient will automatically cut the calories without even noticing. A little mindfulness of your environment now will pay off in the future.

4. Leave serving dishes in the kitchen

If you sit down to a family dinner and all the serving dishes are on the table how often do you reach in for another spoonful, even if you are not hungry? By leaving the serving dishes in the kitchen you have to physically get up from the table to get more food. So ask yourself, am I still hungry? Try and wait 1o minutes after eating to see if you are still hungry for more. If you truly still feel hungry go ahead and get more but at least you have given yourself a chance to be mindful about the choice.

5. Dish it out

Do you ever eat straight out of the bag of chips and all of the sudden you’ve eaten almost the whole thing? I’m sure many of you know what I am talking about. Next time think of putting the chips on a bowl before you dig in. You are training yourself to mindfully decide how many you want and you will notice how much you are eating. This goes for parties as well. Rather than munching on all the appetizers from the tray, get a plate and fill it with what you want to try the most, making sure to add some vegetables to the plate. You can visualize exactly what you are going to eat and it will help you to mindfully go back for more.

6. Downsize your plates and bowls

Research tells us we seem to rely on the apparent size of food to tell us if we are full, rather than trusting our gut. If you have the same amount of food on a small plate and a large plate, it will look like more on the small plate. So if we eat off a half-full large plate we might feel half-full. Conversely, if we eat a full plate off a smaller plate we will feel full. So try and reach for the smaller plate and you are giving yourself a chance to check in to mindfully get more if you are still truly hungry.

7. Ask yourself, what am I really hungry for?

There are two types of hunger, emotional hunger and physical hunger. Physical hunger builds gradually, takes place several hours after your last meal and goes away when you eat. Emotional hunger is unrelated to the last time you ate, persists despite having just ate, and might lead to feeling of guilt. If you are experiencing emotional hunger try to replace it with something that will help you feel better unrelated to food. Try the breathing exercise, go for a walk, drink some warm tea, or read a book.

What are some ways you eat mindfully? If you feel like you struggle with eating mindfully and want a little extra coaching, send me a message for a FREE 30 minute consult!


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