Do you sometimes find yourself finishing a meal only to realize that you rushed through it in a few minutes’ time? You’re not alone! Plowing through meals can leave us feeling dissatisfied, can cause us to lose touch with our hunger and fullness cues, and can leave us feeling deprived because our brain doesn’t register that we’ve paused to have a meal. So, what can we do to slow down and enjoy our food?
Good news! It’s possible to learn how to avoid distracted eating. Here are some tips that have worked for me and my clients:
- Take a tech break. Make sure the TV is off, your phone is out of reach and your computer is nowhere near you while eating. Minimizing distractions will help you enjoy your meal (and focus on the people with whom you’re sharing it, should you be eating with company).
- Chew your food. Remember being told by your parents to chew and swallow your mouthful of food before taking your next bite? While this might have bothered you as a child, there was good reason for it. Try chewing each bite of food a minimum of 10 times.
- Sip water between bites. Proper hydration is important for a number of healthy bodily functions (like helping fiber in what we eat do its job), but drinking water while eating will also encourage you to put your fork down and slow the automatic fork-to-mouth action.
- Make space for yourself. If you’re eating at the office, sit at a breakroom table or clear off your desk to make space for your meal. When at home, make sure you’re eating at the table, not on the couch or on the floor in front of the TV or computer.
- Make meals social. Whether you’re eating with family, friends or colleagues, talk with them, but do so when your mouth isn’t full. The simple exercise of waiting to speak until you’re done chewing will force you to slow down. And remember, good conversation and a good meal make a great combination.
- Don’t wait to eat until you’re ravenous. It’s true; the hungrier we are, the faster we eat. Try to avoid pushing meal time to when you’re likely to gulp your food down. Instead, plan ahead whenever possible, so you can satisfy your hunger before it gets out of control.
- Use real plates and silverware. This might seem like an inconsequential change, but the reality is that using a non-paper plate and non-plastic silverware can positively affect your overall eating experience.
- Eat foods that require some work. Eating foods which require peeling, cracking, opening, etc., like pistachios, artichokes, pomegranate, lobster, and citrus, will force you to slow down.
- And finally, perhaps the simplest of all my hacks: put your fork down between bites. It sounds simple, but we’re so accustomed to rushing through our meals, that we often don’t realize how quickly we eat. By making yourself pause between bites, you’ll come to appreciate your meal, while learning to pace yourself and avoid overeating.
Ultimately, slowing down to enjoy a meal will help you feel more satisfied with your food and will help you enjoy what you’re eating. I share these tips and many others in my upcoming book, The Little Book of Game Changers: 50 Healthy Habits for Managing Stress & Anxiety, which you can pre-order here.