While the disappearance of hunger is almost instantaneous after you start eating, the arrival of pleasant fullness takes some time. The less you eat during the time that it takes the stomach to notify your brain that it is full, the less you will overeat.
The solution is obvious: slow down
- Pause-Are you hungry? How hungry are you? What are you hungry for?
- Think-How do you want to feel when you’re done?
- Relax-Give yourself the time to enjoy your snack or meal mindfully. You’ll feel more satisfied with less food.
- Savor-Make eating a multi-sensory experience. Notice the appearance, aromas, textures, and flavors.
- Chew-Take one small bite at a time. Chew slowly.
- Enjoy-Enjoy the setting, the company, and the occasion!
When we eat, we tend to eat the entire portion. This kind of eating doesn’t factor in the delay between your stomach’s knowing you are full and your brain’s knowing you are full. As a result, we overeat (by eating beyond the point of pleasant fullness). The following are two pace-eating schedules based on the idea that the more you eat in the first sitting, the longer you should wait before you eat again.
Half-by-5: divide the portion in half, eat the first half, and take a five minute break. If still not pleasantly full, eat the remainder of the food.
All-by-10: eat all that’s in front of you. Wait ten minutes. If still not pleasantly full, have a second helping. For habit-modifying effect, apply the pace-eating schedule of your choice to the largest meal of the day.
Resting your hands between bites will help you slow down the pace of eating to give fullness time to emerge. Lay down the utensils, rest your hands on the table for 10-20 seconds. No need to keep track of time. Just a simple touch-down of your hands on the tablecloth.
Inverted Eating Race
When eating with a like-minded mindful-eating partner, try to outdo each other in how slowly you can finish the meal. Fill in the pauses with talk. Instead of leaving room for dessert, leave some room for conversation.
One of the commonly overlooked phases of digestion is chewing. Chewing takes time, and time facilitates fullness. Conscious chewing is a good way to slow down eating to give fullness time to emerge. Some writers recommend chewing for a certain number of reps; but that feels too much like exercise. I suggest you study chewing. What side of the mouth do you chew on? What’s your natural average number of chewing motions per bite? What’s it like to have food in the mouth and not chew, just letting it sit there for a moment. How do you decide when you have chewed enough and it’s time to swallow? Focus on adding 10 more chews to your normal bite when you are ready to swallow.
Slow Eating Record
Buy a bag of Hershey kisses. Take one out. Stow the rest away. Now that you have only one Hershey kiss, make this kiss last. Let your tongue gradually unlock the nuances of the flavor. You are in control, you can slow-eat when you choose to.
Eating links people, places and things of our pasts, and as such, can be a great way of going down memory lane, on a journey of self-remembering. Reminiscent eating is an opportunity to turn a simple act of eating into an existentially meaningful experience with the added advantage of slowing down the process of eating (and thus giving fullness time to emerge). Next time you eat, look at the food in front of you and allow yourself to free-associate about the past. What does this dish, this smell, this taste remind you of? Give yourself a taste of the past and turn what could have been mechanical and meaningless into sentimental and mindful.
Think of the times you burnt your lips on a bowl of soup: isn’t it amazing that we are in such a rush to eat we are willing to burn ourselves?! Next time you have a bowl of soup in front of you give it a few moments to cool off. Stir it, mindfully, watching the vortex of colors swirl. Gently blow air on it, unlocking the aroma. Look around. Enjoy the wait, exhale the impatience, chill.