Nutrition Blog

3 Mindful Eating Strategies for Weight Loss

A woman shovels food into her mouth from a plastic container on what looks to be a lunch break, mindful eating for weight loss

Mindful Eating for Weight Loss

Do you find yourself eating quickly and mindlessly? This may be why you are having a hard time on health journey. Although most of us are looking to lose or manage our weight with quick “fixes” like pills, teas or laxatives, the answer to weight loss mostly lies in mindful eating: “how” we eat and not just “what” we eat.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average American spends 1 hour and 8 minutes every weekday consuming food and drink. That’s less than 23 minutes per meal, or even less if snacks are consumed during the day. Conversely, the average American spends 2 hours and 36 minutes watching television! We definitely have our priorities all wrong if watching television takes front and center stage rather than paying attention to how we eat.

We also might be resorting to emotional eating when we are stressed, anxious, or angry. This is when we mindlessly munch on a bag of chips or clean a pint of ice cream after a long, stressful day at work. These negative emotions can trigger bad eating habits.

…the average American spends 1 hour and 8 minutes every weekday consuming food and drink. That’s less than 23 minutes per meal…

In this article, we’ll look at 3 mindful eating strategies and techniques you can start practicing immediately that will help you get to a leaner, happier you without counting calories or eating diet foods. But first, what is mindfulness?

A young happy woman holds a bowel of cereal topped with fresh berries, she's taking a spoonful of it and is mindfully considering what she is eating, mindful eating for weight loss

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is being aware of and present in the moment while you are eating. That means no multi-tasking, no eating on the go, and no distractions like TV or your phone.

While mindful eating sounds easy enough, it’s actually quite difficult to do for most of us.

Our eating habits have become so ingrained that we often eat without even thinking about it. We mindlessly shove food into our mouths without really tasting it or enjoying it.

When you start to pay attention to your eating habits, you may be surprised at how often you eat without really being aware of it. Maybe you eat when you’re bored, stressed, or emotional. Or maybe you eat because the food is there, even if you’re not really hungry. These are eating behaviors that have become habits and are often unconscious.

If any of this sounds familiar, don’t worry – you’re not alone. But the good news is that with a little practice, mindful eating can become second nature.

Practicing mindful eating can help break these unhealthy eating habits and help you to become more aware of your eating behaviors. When you’re more aware, you can make better choices about what and how much to eat. You may find that you naturally start to eat less because you’re paying attention and stop eating when you’re no longer hungry.

You may also find that you enjoy your food more when you eat mindfully. When you’re not distracted, you can savor the flavors, textures, and smells of your food. Your food tastes better! Mindful eating helps you appreciate your meals and be less likely to experience food cravings.

Just by practicing mindful eating, your relationship with food will start to change. You’ll become more in tune with your physical hunger cues and learn to trust your body to tell you when it’s time to eat and when it’s time to stop.

A happy smiling woman delicately holds up a small spoonfull of a chocolate mousse dessert, mindful eating for weight loss

How Living in the Moment Using Mindful Eating Can Help Your Weight Loss Efforts

Before we dig into these mindfulness tips to help manage your weight, take a pause. Relax for a moment and consider where you are. Look around and try to notice your surroundings—the light, the temperature and the noise level. Consider how you’re sitting or standing. Listen to your breath – is it shallow, or is it rapid?

This is mindfulness!

It’s simply getting in touch with your body. You learn to pause and take everything in, in order to be present and in the moment. Practicing mindfulness can also be a natural transition to tools such as meditation.

Mindfulness is more than just a “passing fad”. It is based on an ancient Eastern Buddhist concept and has been proven to positively influence health outcomes and behaviors throughout the body.

Being fully aware of what is happening in your surroundings and within you, can help you reprogram negative self-talk and habits impeding your weight loss efforts.

Three Ways to Incorporate Mindful Eating into Your Weight Loss Journey

A smiling older woman in glasses sits at a dining table in her home with a croissant in her hands and orange juice on the table

1. Be Fully Present When Eating

It helps to understand what being fully present means when using mindful eating for weight loss. When eating meals or snacks, you need to consider being fully present and eliminate distractions such as looking at your phone, driving, watching a movie, or multi-tasking at work.

Eating needs to be your main focus when you are practicing mindful eating.

Being aware and mindful during meals is key to reducing mindless eating and binge eating. Listening closely to your body also allows you to notice real feelings of true hunger and fullness.

If you feel you are eating out of emotion (anger, stress or depression), you need to look at the root causes and address them instead of resorting to food. You can end the emotional eating by focusing on stress management techniques, deep breathing exercises and meditation. If you feel you are not able to cope with these emotions, seeking the help of a medical professional like your primary care doctor or clinical psychologist, might be helpful.

A birds-eye-view of a dining table with fresh foods being passed around and the diners at the table filling up colorful plates of salad and cheese and crackers

2. Fully Engage Your Senses

As you eat, notice the colors, smells, flavors and textures of the food. Consider the warm smell of cinnamon and pumpkin spice or the crunch of an apple.

Mindful eating experts say that paying attention to the sensory details of the foods is a simple way to start eating mindfully. A recent study in The British Journal of Nutrition found that participants ate 9 percent less soup when it smelled strongly compared to a weaker scent.

A second study found that people served a monochromatic plate of food, like Fettuccine Alfredo on a white plate, ate 22 percent more than those served food on a more colorful and visually-appealing plate that provided contrast and more color. If you have all-white dishes, changing up your dinnerware can help you break free of eating mindlessly.

Another research study from Florida found that people tended to eat more softer, smoother food (typically higher in calories like cookies, pasta in sauce, etc.) rather than hard or crunchy foods.

Just paying more attention and being mindful of the aroma, mouthfeel, and presentation of our favorite foods can impact the amount we eat and increase the satisfaction we get from a meal, and prevent overeating… Improving our relationship with food.

A woman slowly, peacefully smells her cup of tea

3. Slow Down Your Eating

In today’s busy world, most people see eating or food as a dreaded necessity that gets in the way of being able to do more with less time. But did you know that eating quickly can affect how much you eat?

A study in children found that 60% of those who ate quickly, also overate. The fast eaters were 3 times more likely to be overweight. Another recent systematic review of 23 studies found that people who ate quickly were approximately twice as likely to be obese, compared to people who eat slowly.

An important point to keep in mind is that it takes the body 20 minutes to register satiety. When we eat, the hunger signals move from our stomach and gut to the brain. So it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register those fullness cues and shut off the urge to eat.

For this reason, it is important to be fully present when eating. Evaluate what you’re eating by how well it satisfies your hunger. Eating slowly increases your level of fullness hormones, which helps you feel more satisfied, and decreases your overall caloric intake, which helps you maintain (or achieve) a healthy weight. When you eat slowly, you also improve your digestion and satisfaction with your food. The whole process becomes more enjoyable and you begin to form a positive relationship with food.

Try identifying which foods bring you pleasure and satisfaction and those that don’t.

Transform your eating experience from a distracted, mechanical habit into a sensory and pleasurable experience. When mindful eating adds value to your life, you’ll be less likely to overeat mindlessly.

A young happy woman holds a bowel of cereal topped with fresh berries, she's taking a spoonful of it and is mindfully considering what she is eating, mindful eating for weight loss

7 Helpful Tips To Slow Down Eating

Here are some ways you can mindfully slow down your eating to help you eat peacefully and manage your weight:

1. Don’t eat in front of screens. Eating in front of a device or screen can cause you to eat quickly and mindlessly because you lose track of how much you’re eating. You don’t need a binge eating disorder to polish off a bag of chips while watching your favorite show.

2. Put your fork down between each bite. This will slow down your eating and make for a more enjoyable experience. Mindful eating is about being present with your food, not just eating it as quickly as possible.

3. Avoid getting hungry between meals. This will inevitably get you eating faster in order to supply your body with energy. This can also lead to excessive carbohydrate consumption since we typically crave carbohydrates when hungry like chips, cookies, and crackers that supply quick energy to the body.

4. Sip on water. Drinking water throughout your meal can help slow down your eating and keep you full.

5. Chew (a lot) and chew thoroughly. Aim to chew each mouthful of food 25–30 times. This will help with satiety and decrease over consumption of food. By doing this, you also help your body recognize true hunger instead of cravings.

6. Eat foods rich in fiber. High-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables take longer to chew so they naturally help slow down your eating. Consider a plant-based approach to eating. Eating more plants can be a part of your healthy eating lifestyle and help you on your weight loss journey.

7. Take small bites. Taking smaller bites may help slow you down and make your meal last longer. By savoring your food, you become more present, and you may even enjoy your delicious meal more.

Like all new habits, eating slowly takes practice and patience. Start with just one of the tips above to practice mindfulness and develop the habit from there, one meal at a time. Decide today which mindful eating tip you will try at your next meal.

A mom puts lettuce on her and her daughter's plates at a dining table while her daughter takes a sip of her drink, both look content and happy

Final Thoughts on Mindful Eating for Weight Loss

Mindfulness can be a very powerful tool to help you manage your weight in a health-forward way, without the fad diets.

When you practice mindful eating by focusing inward and being fully present when eating, you will not only be able to fully enjoy your eating experience, but you will ultimately be able to slow down, better sense your physical hunger and satiety signals – and ultimately better manage your weight.

Although integrating mindful eating might take some time and practice to master, it is ultimately the best way to get to long-lasting weight loss, healthy weight management, and overall health.

As always, a healthy relationship with food is key to sustainable weight loss.

If you’re looking for more tips and guidance on how to form a healthier relationship with food, book a call with me today. Let’s work together to help you establish a healthy relationship with food and finally achieve your weight loss goals!

Voula Manousos’ writing is featured in the “Winchester Living Magazine” and “The Winchester Star” of Wicked Local.

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