How to be a more mindful eater

How to slow down and enjoy your food

Eating the right food is important. But how fast you eat that food is also very important. If you wolf it down you’ll not only enjoy your food less, you’ll also end up eating more. A study published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, for example, found that people who ate their food quickly consumed around 10 percent more calories and felt less satisfied than when they ate their food slowly.

It’s easy to consume more food when you eat quickly, simply because it takes time for certain hormones to signal your brain that you feel full. In fact, as people who enter food eating competitions show us, you can fit an amazing amount of food very quickly into your stomach before your natural sense of fullness kicks in. One competitor, Joey Chestnut, even ate 76 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes at a hot dog eating contest recently!

It’s actually easy to slow down the pace at which you eat. The key is being mindful of what you’re eating and savoring every mouthful.

Eating is such a sensory experience. It not only involves tasting the food, but also feeling the textures of the food in your mouth, smelling the aromas, and admiring it visually. Being fully aware of all these senses working in unison when you’re eating not only helps slow down your eating, but also makes your eating experience far more enjoyable. The best environment for doing this is, of course, at the dining table. If you’re in front of the TV or doing some other activity while you’re eating you’ll be easily distracted from the food, which makes it very hard to be a mindful eater.

To show you how much more satisfaction you can derive from food by being a mindful eater why not try this experiment. Get two small squares of chocolate. Eat the first square as you normally would. Then, before you eat the next square of chocolate take a moment to appreciate it visually and take in its aroma. When you put the chocolate in your mouth, feel the texture against your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Then eat the chocolate and take time to savor the taste as if you were a wine taster sampling a fine wine.

Now compare your two chocolate eating experiences. It’s easy to see that without being mindful you could easily gobble down a lot of chocolate without truly being satisfied. Yet mindfully eating a small amount of chocolate can give you just as much satisfaction (if not more) than eating a large quantity of chocolate mindlessly.

Eating your meals mindfully and luxuriating over them is something that people from Mediterranean and Asian cultures have been doing for thousands of years, which is part of the reason obesity rates have traditionally been very low in these regions. And by adopting these same mindful eating practices in your own life you’ll not only enjoy your food more fully, you’ll also feel more full on less food.