Mindful eating – how not to gorge on food

When I first started my paleo lifestyle, I felt liberated. I could eat whatever I want (within the paleo limits) and know that it’s nutritious for my body. So I started gorging on pork belly, which I love, and it wasn’t enough to have just one portion. I needed to eat two or three portions in one seating because they were too delicious. I also ate all the cheese and nuts I wanted and polished off a few ounces of cheese every day.

Sure, it was liberating. But at the same time, I realised I was becoming obsessed with food and thinking constantly about my next meal. I’ve never been like that. Since I was a child, I was always “eating to live” rather than “living to eat.” Food to me was just a way of getting energy into my body. I was never interested in travelling all over Singapore for the best roti prata or trying out a different restaurant each week. I once told my friends, “All food tastes the same to me!”

As well, it was physically uncomfortable to have my belly stuffed all the time. My stomach also looked bloated from too much food. In addition, I was adding unnecessary calories to my diet by eating things that I didn’t like (but was told it was good for me), such as heavy cream and butter in my coffee (a la bulletproof coffee). What happens is that I ended up eating things that do not satiate me because they were things I didn’t like.

Recently, it got me thinking that I should start listening to my body instead of following prescribed guidelines. That means that:

  1. I practise mindful eating. I eat only when I’m hungry and stop when I’m satiated.
  2. I stop eating things I don’t want to eat. This means no more cream or butter in my coffee, even though all the healthy fats are supposed to be good for me.
  3. I eat what I want to eat. Previously, I’ve been avoiding fruits because of the sugar content. But I’ve started eating them again as and when I want. I feel better with less cravings.

So far, I’ve been quite good with (2) and (3). It helps as well that I don’t have cravings for junk food so it’s not like I start eating garbage. It’s (1) that I struggle with. I still have a tendency to stuff myself until my belly hurts. So I took a look online to see what strategies I can utilise to practise mindful eating.

  1. Use smaller utensils. This reduces each bite size and increases the frequency of putting food to mouth.
  2. Hara Hachi Bu. Remember the traditional Okinawa diet – eat until you’re 80% full. This is because it takes 20 minutes for the body to process that it’s full.
  3. Savour your food. Concentrate on what you’re eating and the flavours in your mouth rather than eating and watching TV at the same time.
  4. Chew your food more. This will enable greater enjoyment of food and also gives your stomach time to process that it’s full.
  5. Choose food that you want to eat (with the caveat that it’s nourishing for your body). Go ahead and have that square of dark chocolate if you’re really craving for it. Savour every bite.

I found a graphic that suggests some strategies for mindful eating.

mindful-eatingSource: Visual.ly

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