Mindful Eating for Weight Loss: 5 Strategies to Change Your Relationship with Food
A nutrition expert reveals easy ways to shift your approach to eating.
When it comes to weight loss, most experts are unanimous that there is more to it than just reducing calories and upping exercise. According to Tara Collingwood, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD/N, ACSM-CPT, a Board Certified Sports Dietitian, mindful, intuitive eating can help change your relationship with food and lose weight. "The ability to feel hunger and fullness is a quality that we were each born with," she explains to Best Life. "Over time, we develop habits that prevent us from eating intuitively: Cleaning our plates, eating in front of the television, eating because the food is there, multitasking, and more." Here is how to incorporate mindful eating into your life.
Collingwood explains that most of us eat more than we think. "Believe it or not, we make 200+ food decisions every day, regardless of whether or not we're hungry," she says. "If you're not physically hungry, there's another trigger for eating."
According to Collingwood, triggers include eating not only because of hunger, but things like family, social, smells, boredom, habit, stress, distraction, reward, needs, wants, tiredness, emotion, time of day, and more.
First, ask yourself if you are physically hungry or just "want" to eat, encourages Collinwood. "If you are truly hungry, then have a snack or meal. If you are just eating out of boredom, emotions, or time of day, redirect yourself to a different activity until you are physically hungry," she says.
Second, eliminate any distractions. "Turn off the TV. Shut down the computer. Put that book away. Eat in the moment, so that you can enjoy the sensory experience of eating. Pay attention to the aroma, the presentation, the texture, and the taste. This will help you to eat slower and gauge whether you're eating because you're hungry or due to some external trigger," Collingwood suggests.
She also explains that where you eat is important. "Maybe you've grown accustomed to eating breakfast on the way to work, having lunch at your desk, or eating an afternoon snack in the car. Whatever it is, eating on-the-go rather than at a table is not conducive to mindful eating," she reveals. "Taking the time to sit at a table to enjoy a meal will help you tune in to what your body needs."
She also recommends eating off a plate. "Eating out of the package leads to overeating. Putting your food on a plate is a visual trick – it forces you to acknowledge what you're going to eat before eating it. Your portion may appear to be a lot larger on the plate than it would have appeared in the bag, causing you to put some back for later," says Collingwood.
Finally, be aware of your hunger-fullness meter. "We are all born with the ability to eat mindfully, but it's a skill that's lost throughout life," explains Collingwood. "Relearn how to eat mindfully using a hunger-fullness meter that ranks your hunger on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being starving and 10 being stuffed. Over time, you'll learn to put down the fork when you're satisfied (6-7) and eat when you start to experience hunger (3) and not wait until you are absolutely starving."