Mindful eating might sound like a terrible 70s concept album, but anyone facing a battle with fat should pay attention because it might just be the single easiest way to lose weight ever devised. We’ve published a beginner’s guide to mindful eating, but here MAN v FAT user and doctor Ben George tells us how he’s used it to help him shift weight.
One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my weight loss journey was getting my appetite under control. I have tried loads of diets and I always found at some point the amount I ate was always a challenge. If I ate less I would spend hours with my stomach in perpetual pain and grumbling.
Other times I would be on a diet where no restriction was required and you could eat freely… and so I would. I have had so many moments of continuous eating, regardless of how full my stomach felt, I wouldn’t stop eating until the feeling of being full became uncomfortable. Oddly enough it feels like being drunk, no alcohol just a belly full of so much food you feel tired, sluggish, slow and almost literally drunk.
I have always eaten a lot of food and I love it, or so I thought. It wasn’t until I read about mindful eating which challenged my understanding of what it means to enjoy your food that I was able to not just control my appetite, but forget about it altogether. How many times do you get a meal that looks and smells so gorgeous that you just rush through it? I often did, I could get a bucket of KFC (7-10 pieces with chips) and just rush through them in about 15-20 minutes. Much as I enjoyed the food I ate, I always felt a bit of disappointment after I ate, like it was good, but it just didn’t taste great.
Believe it or not, I once spent a whole year looking for great tasting food. I’d buy it rush through it, feel a little disappointed and think, “No, that wasn’t it.” Only now do I understand the reason why I wasn’t enjoying the food as much as I wanted was because I was so eager to taste all the food, that I rushed it.
When you eat too quickly, you don’t fully appreciate the taste of your food. You tend to overeat, you feel stuffed but you still eat more, because you just don’t feel satisfied.
Food may look good, but you somehow find you don’t enjoy it as much as you expect to and just to be grim, I bet you need more than 10 wipes after using the toilet for a poo.
With mindful eating, you are meant to eat with intention and attention. The easiest way to describe it is “When you eat, eat”! The idea is that by rushing through your food, you don’t really taste it and as such cant be fully satisfied by it. However by paying attention to the textures, and flavours and smells of the food. Really actively thinking about the way it tastes in your mouth as you eat, you enjoy it more and you eat less.
The science says by eating mindfully, you slow down how much you eat, you give the body time to actually absorb the nutrients from the food as it is passing through your digestive system. As such you actually absorb more nutrients from the food you eat and you need less of the food to feel full. There have been studies measuring the ability of people to absorb nutrients from their guts and they show that just by getting people to talk about topics unrelated to food, you absorb a lot less value from the food, just because you’re distracted!
The other advantage of slowing down your eating is that you give the body more time to produce hormones and signals from the stomach going back to the brain to say I am full. Then you can stop eating. I am often shocked since using this method that sometimes by eating an apple slowly, I get full within a few bites and don’t finish the whole apple. I have even been known to take up to an hour to finish my meals, and even so I still feel full and satisfied.With mindful eating, you are meant to eat with intention and attention.
There are mindful eating methods which suggest asking yourself questions as you eat, about when you’re eating, are you hungry, what are you eating, how are you eating? I personally just keep it really simple and just pay attention to the way the food really tastes in my mouth as I eat, because asking all those questions I find just gets annoying and stops me from enjoying the meal, which is the whole point.
So again with the apple I pay attention to the first crunchy bite, the wash of juices in my mouth as I start to chew, the way the bits change as I chew them and how the tastes changes. I make sure to get all the bits in my mouth in all the corners and really enjoy it. When eating meals entirely finish your mouthful before you start preparing to take another spoonful, I don’t just shovel one spoonful after another into my mouth. I credit this method with being one of my main tools for losing two stones in weight in the last four months.
I hope you try mindful eating or at least a version of it to help you control, or even better forget about your appetite. To help you with your mindful eating journey here are 5 tips on how to go about it.
1) Eat with family and friends
French and Mediterranean people have the reputation of eating together as a family, they enjoy the food, they eat slowly with each other and make an event of it. They generally eat more fatty food and drink wine regularly and yet as a nation they are thinner than Americans and Brits. I know this is a generalisation to an extent but there a lot truth in it, so much so the government is now promoting eating with families.
2) Get rid of distractions
Don’t watch TV while you eat, it just takes up too much attention, which means you are not conscious of how much you are eating. It cheats you of satisfaction and makes you eat more.
3) Space out each bite
When you eat, finish what is in your mouth before you start getting ready to shovel more food in. It is an indication that you are rushing your food and are not paying attention to what is in your mouth. Don’t start getting the next mouthful ready until you’re done with the previous one.
4) Have sips of water
I very often just have a little sip to cleanse and refresh my mouth before I take another bite while I am eating. This works for me as it helps me taste the food better and helps slow me down and pace my eating. Don’t make it a big deal or a routine out of it unless you want to. You hear lots of advice about drinking a full pint before you eat or don’t drink and eat together. Just do what works for you.
5) Enjoy your food
This is the most important part and does take a little bit of effort, but is great. Pay attention to the way food tastes in your mouth and how the taste and textures can changes as you eat it. Not to get all arty farty but you can actually find each mouthful is a bit of an adventure with an explosion of flavours. As a consequence of this I have found I eat less food, but I also want to eat fresher home cooked foods which are healthier anyway. You can eat a takeaway if you want but I have actually found the more I pay attention to the taste of food, the less takeaways I actually really enjoy. It is almost like an illusion of good food has been lifted with some dishes. I am not being judgmental, I feel you should eat what you like, this has just been my personal experience. Love your food and lose weight.