Healthy Choices

New Year’s resolution for weight loss: Slow down when you eat

If you are planning to lose weight over the coming year, it may be helpful to practice what’s called “mindful eating.”

The idea is part of the popular Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction program founded at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine by well-known practitioner Jon Kabat-Zinn. The program teaches people how to be mindful of living in the present moment, rather than ruminating about a problem in the past or anticipating future events.

When it comes to meal time, that means slowing down and using your five senses to consider each bite of food. What does it smell like, what does it look like, how does it taste? Is it crunchy? You get the idea.

Keep your mind on the food in front of you, and skip distractions like reading material, work or TV. Local mindfulness teacher Gayle Wilson said that, often, people find they eat less this way. Wilson lives in El Dorado County and teaches eight-week sessions there.

Researchers cited by the National Institute of Health’s online publication, HealthDay, asked 70 people to eat lunch in a special kitchen for two days. Half were normal-weight, and half overweight or obese. When participants were instructed to take small bites, chew thoroughly and pause and put their spoon down between bites, the normal-weight people ate significantly fewer calories than when they were rushed and told to gulp their food down quickly.

There was no statistical difference in the overweight group based on eating speed. (Researchers said this may be because the overweight people were self-conscious and ate less food overall.)

Both groups, however, reported less hunger an hour after the slow meal compared to the fast meal. And both groups drank more water during the slow meal.

So practice mindfulness as you are eating, slow down and you might find you feel more full before finishing everything on your plate.