How to Eat Mindfully in 10 Easy Steps

cartoon plate

Learning how to eat mindfully truly IS the single most important skill after weight loss surgery. Doing so will assure you eat the right portion sizes and avoid unwanted vomiting.

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. Unitask When You're Eating

It's not ok to be a multitasker in the realm of food. When you eat, eat. When you watch tv, watch tv. 

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. 

2. Chair, Table, Plate

Sit in a chair, at a table, with a plate when you eat. That instantly eliminates eating in the car, eating at your desk, or standing over the kitchen sink and eating. If you eat at the refrigerator, pull up a chair and a plate. 

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 mies while you're eating. Simply taking a big deep breath or taking a moment for gratitude or prayer is all it takes to create the space for how to eat mindfully. It will instantly slow you down.

4. Use Small Plates and Bowls

If you want to eat less, start with less. The nice thing about small plates is that small portions look adequate on small plates. Small portions on large plates send a message saying you're deprived. And who wants to feel deprived? We eat with our eyes, so make those small portions look satisfying for the brain. 

5. Use Small Utensils

Intentionally taking small bites is a natural when you have a small utensil. It's also a visual reminder of what you're trying to accomplish. You probably don't want to eat with a fork that looks like it belongs to a 2-year-old, so in invest in smaller utensils like cocktail forks, or kids flatware. 

6. Cut all Food Before Beginning 

Get all your food cut up into tiny little pieces before you ever take the first bite. Translation of tiny bite size pieces = small as an eraser, pea, or bean. This is similar to the way you prepare a plate for a small child before placing it in front of them.

Cut everything once and be done with it. Remember my mantra, “One and Done!” This way, you have less chance of forgetting to keep cutting food into small bites as the meal progresses and you get distracted.

 "One and Done"

7. Free Your Hands

Put your fork down between bites and put your hands down in your lap. Another mantra for you: “Fork Down, Hands Down!”

"Fork Down, Hands Down"

8. Chew, Chew, Chew

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, and thus satisfaction from the food.

(Ever notice when you're sick that you can't taste your's because you can't smell it.) Focus on what your food really tastes like, feels like, smells like. Use all of your senses.

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 or less to achieve that.

9. Insert a Pause

Wait 1 min between bites. 

Use a timer on your phone, watch, or clock, or invest in a 1 minute sand timer that you can leave on the table where you eat.

It’s in this 1 minute pause that you decide whether to take another bite or not, based on how you feel. Another mantra for you… Wait for it…

…“Master the Pause.”

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 full

"Master the Pause"

10. Stop When You're Full 

"Full" feels different after surgery. Learning how to eat mindfully will help you identify 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! 

In life before weight loss surgery, you know you’re full when you feel pressure 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
green nauseated face

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

See my short video for a reminder of How To Eat Mindfully and to practice mindfully eating with me!

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