How can you start incorporating mindful eating into your life? Use your five senses in five new ways! Learn how from these experiments:
1. The Crunch Effect.
Research indicates that eating loudly actually helps you eat less. In a recent study, participants were told to eat cookies quietly, loudly, or normally. Those who ate loudly ate the least. It may be that the participants were less worried about social rules and simply enjoyed what they were eating. Put a little cookie monster into your next meal and enjoy the munch.
2. The Shut-Eye Effect.
Try closing your eyes when you eat. When you take away one of your senses, you rely more on the others. Participants in a recent study were either blindfolded or ate normally. Those who ate in the dark rated the food as more enjoyable, and they ate less. So before you take a bite, close your eyes for a moment and tune in.
3. The Smell Effect.
Do you go gaga over the smell of fresh bread or newly-baked cookies? One way to lessen the impact is to actually smell it more, not less. In a study on the smell of coconut, initial ratings of people's desire for coconut sweets were high. After repeated exposure to the smell of coconut, the wanting and liking of coconut decreased rapidly—subjects got used to the smell, or even sick of it. And after smelling coconut 120 times, participants didn’t want to smell it anymore. To help curb emotional eating cravings, repeatedly inhale the scent of chocolate.
4. Touch It.
Unwrap it! In a recent study involving chocolate, participants who had to unwrap each piece of chocolate ate 30 percent less than those who ate pieces that had already been unwrapped for them. Using your hands to unwrap food makes a difference because it slows you down. So, if you have a choice between chocolates that you have to open individually or a candy bar that can be eaten at once, the Kisses or other individual pieces are the better choice.
5. Taste It.
What makes food taste better, without the addition of spice or sugar? Simply paying more attention. In a study on food intake, people who focused on their food rather than a distraction rated their food as more pleasurable, and they ate less later. Why? Because they remembered the experience more. People have very short-term memories, so we become forgetful when we don't give something our full attention. In fact, the first taste of something is often the most pleasurable because we become habituated to the taste after a few bites.
Dr. Susan Albers, a.k.a. "The Mindful Eating Doctor" is a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and New York Times best-selling author.