How to Eat Mindfully:
10 Tricks of the Trade

cartoon plate

Mastering the ancient art of how to eat mindfully is the secret weapon to success after bariatric surgery. If you get it right, you can forget counting calories and measuring portions, and ditch pre-determined meal size.

By simply listening to your body's cues and sensations each bite, you can prevent unwanted vomiting and ensure you're enjoying the right portion sizes.

Mindful eating means you never decide in advance how much you’re going to eat. Rather, you evaluate how you feel after every single bite and gauge whether or not you should take the next bite. 

How to Eat Mindfully: 10 Key Steps

1. Uni-task When You Eat

Focus on food, forget the phone.  Don't let your phone or the TV (or your work or whatever else!) distract you from the deliciousness in front of you. 

It's not ok to be a multitasker in the realm of food. Give your meal the attention it deserves, not your Instagram feed. 

Eating should be your primary focus when you eat. This lays the foundation of how to eat mindfully. If a tv is on in the background and it's secondary to eating, that's ok. If you're watching tv and paying attention to the tv while you eat, that's not ok. 

When you eat, eat. When you watch tv, watch tv. When you check your fb, check your fb.

2. Chair, Table, Plate

Sit in a chair, at a table, with a plate when you eat. No more eating in the car, at your desk, or standing over the kitchen sink.

It's time to sit down and make it a proper meal. Even if you're eating at the refrigerator, pull up a chair and a plate. Sit, dine, and shine!

3. Create Separation

There's a great saying: "How you do anything is how you do everything." That means, if you're going 100 miles an hour before you start eating, then you'll probably keep going 100 miles while you're eating. 

Slow down. Before digging in, take a moment for gratitude or a deep breath. It helps you shift gears and separate from the hustle and bustle of your day to savoring your food.

4. Small Plates, Big Taste 

Size matters. Small plates and bowls may seem insignificant, but they can make a big difference in how much you eat. The trick is to make small portions look satisfying to your brain by placing them on small plates. Because who wants to feel deprived? No one!

If you want to eat less, start with less. Use the smallest plates and bowls you have or invest in some portionware.

5. Cut It Up Buttercup

Before you even take the first bite, chop up your food into tiny pieces. And tiny means tiny. I'm talking pieces as small as an eraser, pea, or bean. It's like a buffet for ants, but for humans.

Cut before you commence. Kinda the same way you do for a small child before giving them a plate.

Cut it all at once and be done with it. You have less chance of forgetting to do so as the meal progresses if you just get it all over with to begin. Think "One and Done."

Now go forth my bariatric warrior...Cut to conquer!

 "One and Done"

6. Tiny Tools, Mighty Meals 

How to eat mindfully isn't just about taking small bites, it's about taking small utensils too. Who needs a fork the size of a garden rake when you can dine like a dainty monarch with cocktail forks or kids flatware?

Small utensils = big impact. Intentionally taking small bites is a natural when you use a small utensil. It's also a visual cue of what you're trying to accomplish.

7. Keep Your Hands Free Like a Bumblebee

That just rhymes so I had to say it ;)

Take a tiny bite, off of your tiny plate, using your tiny utensil, then put your fork down between bites and put your hands down in your lap. Whew...that should certainly help you slow down, savor each bite, and eat mindfully.

Another mantra to live by: “Fork Down, Hands Down!”

"Fork Down, Hands Down"

8. Chew, Chew, Chew like a Champ

Chew your food thoroughly to applesauce consistency before you swallow it. Chewing heightens your sense of smell, which in turn heightens your sense of taste, which in turn heightens your satisfaction.

(Ever notice when you're sick that you can't taste your's because you can't smell it.) 

If you like to count your chews, use 25-30 chew per bite (25-30 cpb) as a guide. Personally, I suggest the guideline of chewing to applesauce consistency, because some foods will be need to be chewed more and some less, to achieve that texture.

It's starting to look like you're ready to dine like tiny royalty with small utensils, cut up food, and well-chewed bites now, isn't it?!

But there's more...

9. Master the Pause

Take a bite. Take a break. Wait 1 min between bites. 

Master the pause, and savor the flavor. Set a timer for 60 seconds: Use a timer on your phone, watch, or clock, or invest in a 1 minute sand timer. Between each forkful, give your stomach a chance to catch up.

Ask yourself, "Am I still physically hungry or is it just my taste buds talking?" Learn the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. 

After the minute comes to an end, decide if you need to take another bite. If so, repeat the steps:

  • Take a bite.
  • Fork down, hands down
  • Chew to applesauce consistency
  • Pause 1 minute
  • Make a decision about the subsequent bite

Repeat. Continue repeating the process until you feel comfortably full...not stuffed.

"Master the Pause"

10. Stop Before You Pop 

Learn to stop when you're full, not stuffed.

"Full" feels different after bariatric surgery than it did beforehand. Before surgery, "full" felt like pressure coming from behind the bottom of your sternum.

“Full” feels different after surgery. You may have:

  • Pressure high up in the chest
  • Back pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Sneezing
  • Excessive salivation
  • Hiccups

If you eat too fast and mindlessly, you’ll miss the “cues” that you’re full and wind up overfilling your stomach.

Learning how to eat mindfully helps you notice the first sensation of “full" so you can stop before it's too late (vomiting).

It's ok to stop when you’re full regardless of whether you eat 1 Tablespoon or 1 cup of food. Your stomach really will tell you what the proper portion size is! 

The Bottom Line for Your Bottom Line:
Eating Mindfully

Are you ready to step up your meal game and say goodbye to the days of eating on the go while scrolling through your phone?

Eating mindfully is the real secret to feeling great and mastering the right portion sizes after bariatric surgery. Practice mindful eating with me in my short video tutorial How To Eat Mindfully.

Bon Apetit!

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