About 10 years ago I read a book that changed my life. 

Mindless Eating, Why We Eat More Than We Think opened my eyes to part of the eating problem we face, and lit a FIRE in me to do something about it.

In his book, Brian Wansink goes deep into the psychology behind why and what we eat. Have you ever thought about that?

Why do you eat the foods you eat? And what guides your choices?

Oftentimes we use external clues to tell us the “when” of eating. When dinner is ready, it’s time to eat. A plate full of food needs to be eaten until everything is gone. Everyone around us is eating, we better fill a plate as well.

One of my favorite studies in Wansink’s book is the bottomless soup bowls. He rigged a table with tubing so that two of the four bowls at the table were constantly refilling (without the student knowing), and the other two were normal bowls.

He brought in 60 college students and had them sit at this table, four at a time, and eat and converse for 20 minutes. At the end of the 20 minutes, his researchers would ask each student to estimate how many calories they had consumed, how many ounces of soup had been eaten, and how full they felt on a 9 point scale. Then the soup was drained from the bowls, tubes, and pots, and weighed to figure out how much each student had consumed.

Those who ate from the normal bowls, ate about 9 ounces. While those who had the bottomless bowls ate an average of 15 ounces, and some ate more than A QUART. So what’s the lesson here? External cues are not a good way to determine the amount of food to be eaten and when to eat.

But when we switch to using internal cues in determining when and what we’re eating, everything changes. Learning to listen to our bodies cues takes time and practice, but is worth the effort.

So where to begin? Here are a few steps to ease into mindful eating:

  1. Take less. When we get to dinner time and we’re really hungry, we often pile our plate high, kind of like the saying that our “eyes are bigger than our stomachs”. So put what you would normally put on your plate, and then put 20% back.
  2. Slow down. When you sit down with your food, set the timer for 20 minutes. It takes up to 20 minutes for our brains to register that our stomach is full, but the average American has already started consuming a second plate after only 10 minutes. So slow down. And, if at the end of 20 minutes you’re still hungry, by all means, have some more.
  3. Hydrate. 10-20 minutes before eating a meal, drink a full glass of water. Not only is this going to aid in digestion, but it will also help your body be more alert and aware of the hunger/fullness cues.

Learning to listen to your body takes time and practice, but it is effort worth making! To learn more tools for listening to your body, check out our 5 Steps to Diet Freedom course!