FOOD

6 Tips To Eat Slower And Avoid Overeating

It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register fullness.

03/10/2017 7:15 AM AEDT | Updated 03/10/2017 7:34 AM AEDT
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Let's see if these scenarios sound familiar: you're hungry, sit down at your desk and eat lunch while scrolling through Facebook; or you get comfy on the couch with your dinner and resume your TV show binge.

In both circumstances you might look down to your meal and realise it's all gone, without you remembering exactly how you ate it or how quickly. Chances are you still feel hungry or unsatisfied and reach for the snacks shortly after.

Eating while distracted or in a rushed manner are things most people do and often results in overeating, which can certainly mean weight gain over time.

"Eating with distractions (for instance, in front of the TV or at your office desk) means that you are more likely to eat on autopilot and not register how fast or how much you're eating," Anna Debenham, accredited practising dietitian of The Biting Truth, told HuffPost Australia.

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Eat meals away from your desk and any distractions.

And don't forget there's a delay of 20 minutes for your brain to register fullness, so if you eat lunch in five minutes and eat more because you're 'still hungry', that's potentially an extra 15 minutes of (unnecessary) food you're eating.

"Eating too fast can mean that the body doesn't have a chance to recognise and respond to these signals, which can cause us to overeat," Debenham said.

"It's all too easy to scoff down a delicious meal, only to realise at the end that you're feeling stuffed and uncomfortable."

The solution? Eating more mindfully, which is easy to do.

"Mindful eating is a way of eating your food so that you are truly aware of the experience of eating," Alexandra Parker, accredited practising dietitian of The Biting Truth, told HuffPost Australia.

"Mindful eating engages all the five senses -- taste, smell, touch, sound, sight -- and aims to help people eat enough to be satisfied and to enjoy the experience."

The next time you have a meal, try these six tips to eat slower and avoid overeating.

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1. Remove distractions

Yes we're all busy people doing busy tasks in a busy world. But you can take 20 minutes out of your day to eat a meal without distractions. Eat outside if you can or at your dining table.

"Turn off the TV, don't eat at your desk and put your phone away," Parker said. "We usually recommended taking at least 20 minutes to eat lunch and dinner.

"Immerse yourself in the eating experience. Put your food on a plate and set the table. Creating this supportive environment to enjoy a meal will help you to enjoy your food with all your senses."

2. Think about the five senses

When we eat we usually register taste and smell, but try to also focus on the other three senses while you're sitting down to eat: touch, sound and sight.

"Start to think about all of the senses of the food you're eating. Are you aware of the taste, texture, smells?" Parker said. "Try to think about how these might differ every time you take a bite of the food, and this will help you to slow down while eating."

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Think about the smooth avocado texture and green colour, the zingy lime taste and fragrance, the crunchy sound and feel of the bread as you chew it.

3. Chew, chew, chew

The next time you eat something, take note of how much you chew the food.

"Try chewing each mouthful at least 15 times before swallowing," Debenham said.

"Chew well, put down your cutlery between mouthfuls and sip a glass of water before you take another bite. By slowing down, you give your body the time to relay satiety signals from your gut to your brain, which prevent you from overeating."

4. Eat off a plate

This might sound obvious but many of us eat lunch and dinner out of large tupperware and takeaway containers which look deceptively small. Serving your food on a plate allows you to really see how much you are about to eat and can help 'trick' the mind into thinking you're eating more than there is.

"Plate up your servings before sitting down and pack any leftovers away to prevent yourself from going back for more," Debenham said.

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5. Tune into hunger signals

When there's a delicious plate or table of food in front of us, especially if we're distracted on our phones or watching TV, it's easy to ignore hunger and full signals. After every mouthful, put down the cutlery and ask yourself: 'How full am I really?'

"Try eating until you feel 80 percent full (not completely stuffed). You don't have to eat everything on your plate," Parker said.

"You may have been disciplined into eating everything on your plate when you were a child, but it's time to take control of your own portions."

6. Eat with chopsticks

If you're still finding it hard to slow down and eat more mindfully, replace your fork with a pair of chopsticks. Unless you're well versed in using chopsticks, switching your cutlery helps you to enjoy smaller mouthfuls.

"You can try eating with chopsticks if you really want to give yourself a challenge and teach yourself to eat slower," Parker said.

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