Practice mindful eating to avoid weight gain

Published on Friday, 5 January 2018 11:18 - Written by PATRICE DUNAGIN, Texas A&M Agri-Life Extension Service

Do you continue eating, just because food is on your plate? Do you continue to eat even though you feel full? Have you ever gobbled down your food only to realize you weren’t really hungry? These questions all refer to mindless eating, which is eating without really considering what you are doing.

When you eat mindlessly, you are more likely to overeat and gain weight. You tend to enjoy your food less because you don’t really notice its flavors and textures. When you try to enjoy your food, you will learn to be satisfied with smaller amounts.

Mindful eating, on the other hand, is paying attention to the process of eating. It is giving full attention to the smell, taste and texture of food and the environment in which it is served. It is also a growing awareness of what your body is telling you. As you pay more attention to the food you are eating and what you put on your plate, you may find yourself more aware of whether you are truly hungry. This awareness will help you to avoid overeating to the point that you feel uncomfortable. Mindful eating is selecting foods your body needs for good health and learning to enjoy the experience of eating it.

In Okinawa, Japan, most residents are at a healthy weight, and more than a quarter live to be 100. Their secret may lie in the tradition of Hara Hachi Bu. It means to eat until you are 80 percent full. Eating until you are 80 percent full helps you to stay in tune with your body and maintain a certain level of fullness. The more you fill your stomach, the more it will stretch. Overtime, this stretching of your stomach causes it to get bigger, making you less in tune with when you are actually full. The principle of Hara Hachi Bu prevents this stretching from occurring.

The French usually take about two hours for dinner, which is the largest meal of the day. They see dinner as an opportunity for family and friends to spend quality time together recounting the events of the day. The French portions are about 25 percent smaller than typical American sizes and they have smaller snack and beverage sizes. Their smaller portions and slower eating may factor into why French can eat long meals and still stay slim.

It takes 20 minutes for food to reach the first part of the small intestine. When that happens, chemical signals are sent back to the brain that tells the body to stop eating. When we eat too fast, our body does not have time to recognize the signals that are telling us that we are too full and we have had enough to eat.

MINDFUL EATING TIPS

- Eat only when you are hungry. Don’t allow the clock to tell you when it is a good time to eat.

- Try not to wait until you are famished to begin eating. It increases the chances of overeating. Pay attention to your body and listen for signals of hunger.

- Create an appealing environment. Set the table nicely; add some flowers and other decorations for a pleasant atmosphere.

- Avoid distractions. Do not eat in front of the television, and resist the urge to take telephone calls during the meal, unless it is an emergency.

- Have meals at the table with the rest of the family.

- Take some time to enjoy the aroma and colors of the food. This moment is a good time to be thankful for the meal. Many people go without food each day, and you are privileged to have something to eat.

- Take small bites of your food and appreciate the texture and flavor. Chew your food slowly.

For more information, contact Patrice Dunagin, Smith County FCH agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, at 903-590-2980.