Mindful eating

Want to know the secret to stopping yourself overeating? Dietician Jo Travers (aka The London Nutritionist) shares five easy steps to taking control and feeling more satisfied

Do you eat lunch at your desk while sending out emails? Or become so ‘hungry’ between meals that you’re always rushing to the vending machine? It might be time to try eating more mindfully. Mindful eating is about stopping to listen to your body’s signals around food and eating, rather than going on autopilot. Paying more attention to everything from hunger pangs to the way you prep and even chew food means you’re more able to make rational – rather than emotional – decisions about food. This can improve your digestion, leave you feeling more satisfied and help you to stop overeating.

Dietician and author Jo Travers gives five achievable steps you can take to more mindful eating, starting with your next meal…

1. Take control when hunger pangs strike

There’s a big difference between the need to eat and the desire to eat. Next time you think you’re hungry, you can tell by stopping what you’re doing and focusing on something else for a while, like going for a short walk or working on a different task. If the feeling goes away, you probably just desired food as a reaction to boredom or stress. If your stomach continues to grumble, it’s likely time to fuel up. Your body should naturally feel hungry around three to five hours after you eat.

2. Prep your food more mindfully

Pay attention when deciding what to eat and when preparing it. It sounds simple, but this helps you think more about what you’re putting into your body and is a great way to care for yourself. The difference between popping a ready meal in the microwave as opposed to preparing a meal from scratch is that this allows time for your digestive systems to kick-start. Your brain needs to tell your body to secrete chemicals ready for digestion and engaging with your food prep starts this process off.

3. Give your full attention to your meal

Senses such as sight and smell help us make better decisions about food and help us digest it properly. Focusing on the television while eating dinner means you’re more likely to miss information about your food – particularly about how much to eat, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Leaving your desk or eating at the dining table will help you concentrate on your meal and help you recognise when you’ve had enough. It may even help you make healthier choices.

4. Take time to taste and chew food properly

The taste and texture of your food, number of mouthfuls and how many times you chew all affect your appetite and how satisfied you feel. If you eat while doing something else, you miss out on pleasure signals, which could leave your brain wanting more. Instead, think about how the flavour and texture changes as you eat, notice the aromas and take pleasure in each mouthful. This allows us to slow down and feed the mind as well as the body. If you think you might struggle to take things slowly, experts at Harvard Medical School suggest using chopsticks or eating with your non-dominant hand to help you focus.

5. Get to know when you’re full

Satiety is when you’re no longer hungry and your stomach feels comfortable. A lot of us eat until we’re ‘full’ but, actually, this might be too much. It can take up to 20 minutes for the stomach’s receptors to message the brain saying it’s full. Consciously eating slower and leaving some time before having seconds will help make sure you don’t go beyond ‘enough’.

Do you suffer from bloating after eating? Read our dietician’s guide to beating the bloat.

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