How to Eat Slowly to Avoid Overeating
1. Reprogram your mind.
Do not even attempt to acquire the habit of eating slowly before mentally rehearsing it in your mind for at least 21 days. Relax and use your imagination to create mental images, virtual pleasant experiences that your brain will register and remember. As part of this visualization process, imagine yourself:
- Eating slowly and savoring your food.
- Trying to taste both the flavor and the texture; imagining how the texture changes as the food is slowly broken down by your saliva.
- See a glass of water to drink before, with and after your meal to get the sensation of fullness in your stomach.
- Be sure to visualize a desired end result such as a lean, fit and energetic body. Also see in your mind the end result: how you are going to look in that dress or those jeans, suit, etc.
- Consider keeping a food journal during this time, to map out the triggers surrounding your hunger. Note where you are, what you're eating, how fast you've consumed and how you feel after eating it (especially how hungry or otherwise you feel). This will be a useful source of information to draw on, as each person's hunger triggers and set points differ.
2. Remove as many processed foods from your pantry or food storage as possible. Eating slowly isn't just about slowing down the chewing; it's also about slowing down your dietary choices and preparation processes. If you're worried that you don't have time to prepare food from scratch, ask yourself whether your internal health is as important to you as it should be or if you'd rather fast-track to degenerative disease by putting nutritious food low on your list of priorities. Start making time for healthier food because a busy life can only be fueled by healthy choices and slowing down to cook is an act of caring for yourself and can even be therapeutic in a busy life. As you toss out the processed food, replace it with healthy, unprocessed or much less processed choices. For example:
- Remove white pasta and white rice and replace with wholemeal pasta and brown rice.
- Remove pre-made meals in cans, packages and frozen forms and replace with the ingredients that go to making that item from scratch.
- Remove processed desserts and replace with fruit, yogurt and healthy dessert choices.
3. Try to eat when you start feeling hungry. The problem with leaving eating until you're starving and feel like eating the proverbial horse, then you're bound to eat quickly and therefore risk eating more than needed. Feeling so hungry that you're dizzy, weak and irritable means that you've deprived your body of much-needed food for too long and the payback will include an inability to eat your food in a relaxed and enjoyable way. Instead, you'll be obliged to shovel in the food to try and alleviate the symptoms of weakness and feeling irritable won't help your cause any!
4. Always relax before you start eating. Take a few deep breaths through the nose and out through the mouth. As you do so, hold your breath briefly and exhale slowly by the mouth. Get rid of the stress before you start eating – in this way, you start to remove any risk of comfort eating, where food is used to alleviate stress and bring yourself to focus on relieving stress independently of food.
- Remind yourself of the rewards (good health, good looks, etc.).
- Look at the clock and mentally add 20 minutes. That is your goal: take at least 20 minutes to enjoy your food.
5. Drink a glass of water and/or eat a small bowl of light soupbefore your main dish. Drink water with your food. This will help your sensation of fullness.
6. Put the fork down after putting food in your mouth. Take a sip of water, engage in conversation. Savor each bite, make it a pleasant experience so you will want to repeat it. This is the essence of slow eating and it's about reconnecting with the people you're sharing a meal with and treating meal time as a true break, worthy of your attention and cherishing.
7. Concentrate on your food and really enjoy it. Your brain will keep a record of that pleasant experience and this new way of eating will become automatic (second nature) with practice. This means not eating in front of the television, not reading while eating and not trying to surf the internet when eating. Distractions from the food belittle the value of the food and encourage you to think you've eaten less than you have and your ever working brain will be likely to trick your appetite into thinking you need to eat more food. Give your brain and body a rest and truly focus on the food before you. Savor it, appreciate it and be present for the food and the ritual of eating.
8. Dedicate at least 20 minutes to finish your meal. Have a wall clock in plain view from the table to adjust your eating speed; eat your last portion really slowly. If you are still hungry after 20 minutes, it means you are eating too fast!
9. If you feel still a little bit hungry after this, stop anyway. Drink a little bit more water. This is where you will need to use a little willpower and to recall your motivation and visualizations. In five more minutes, you won't want to eat more, even if food is delicious, because you will feel satisfied and full.
- Use distractions if visualization on your reason for eating slowly fails at this point. Go for a walk, watch a favorite TV show, write a poem, call a friend on the phone, go for a swim, knit a sweater, feed an animal, groom your pet, wash the car, change the sheets, etc.
- Having a hot drink can help to overcome residual hunger feelings. Try a coffee, tea, warm water with lemon, etc.
- If you're still feeling hungry after eating slowly, you might have nutritional deficienciesor an illness; there may also be continuing underlying psychological problems. It is wise to speak to your doctor about this if it's still the case for you.