DAY # 7
EAT UNTIL 75% - 80% FULL.
Good Morning! Whew has it been a week of challenging mindful eating exercises or WHAT? And today will take it up a notch. Make sure to do your challenge for at least one meal, ideally more… I find that dinner can be a good time to practice this skill.
Today I will pause often during my meal, breathe and tune into my belly. I will stop eating when I feel 75-80% full and satisfied versus “full/stuffed”.
Continue to rate your hunger levels and to tune into your belly before your meal to help determine where you are on the hunger scale. If you already practice the pre-meal hunger check then you can also assess your hunger mid-way through the meal to see how you are feeling, and then afterwards to rate your fullness level.
The Okinawans call this 80% full eating guideline “Hara Hachi Bu” because they know that when you are about 80% full, you are actually full since it takes 10-20 minutes for your stomach to signal to the brain “hey, I’m good down here!”
The key to cultivating this skill is to rate your hunger on a scale of 1-10 before your meals and snacks, chew your food well and just slow down. Fast eaters can really struggle with this one (but the way I see it - a great opportunity for change and reprogramming). If you eat too fast, you set yourself up for overeating and being unable to stop when you feel 75-80% full. Remember, that text message from your stomach to the brain that hey I'm full, it takes time. In the beginning of my mindful journey I became acutely aware of my personal unmindful eating habits, especially related to a stressful day and unchecked hunger levels when I failed to plan my meals/snacks well.
Your goal today is to stop midway through your meal and assess your hunger levels. Are you content or still physically hungry? Some people do not know what it feels like to experience the sensations of hunger or fullness. If this is you, continue to work on being able to recognize and gauge your hunger and satiety levels.
Where this can truly be a real struggle is when the food is too amazing to stop eating. I struggle with that on vacation too, but not nearly as much as I used to before mindful eating. Remember, it’s a process. Non-judgment is key.
Over time, when you pay attention to how food feels in your stomach, you can identify that FIRST sign of fullness, a little pang in the stomach. That is the signal you are looking for. You can then stop, take a 4-5 minute rest, engage in conversation or just stop and then see how you feel. Observe any emotions that this may stimulate (like “this is a waste of time”, or “I am angry that I have to stop”, and “this reminds me of childhood”…. are just a few). This is one of the more mindful skills to cultivate because instead of gauging your satiety levels on how much food you've eaten, similar to the clean plate club, you gauge it on how you are feeling physically.
The goal: stopping when you feel that you are comfortable instead of stuffed. You can always eat more later, that is the beauty of mindful eating. Nothing is off limits and you can always eat whatever you want. So by stopping before your plate is clean to assess your satiety levels, you start to become more of an instinctive eater. If this exercise stimulates any emotions, just be observant of them and curious about where they may be coming from.
Clients who grew up in big families can typically become fast eaters because if they didn’t eat fast everything would be gobbled up from everyone else, causing feelings of deprivation. I witnessed this first hand when I dined at a tapas restaurant with a friend who grew up in a family of four girls. As the dietitian who picked the restaurant, she insisted that I order all of my favorite foods that were “Jennifer approved.” It was a horribly stressful, then insightful experience as I found myself eating at the same pace she was - at wolf-like speed! And not because I am a fast eater, quite the contrary. We were sharing all of my favorite tapas choices and it was so unnerving that I kept eating faster so I wouldn’t “miss out.” Sigh. It was a great mindful experience but moving forward, I decided to switch gears and only took yoga classes with her. Problem solved!
LONG-TERM CHALLENGE RESULTS
This mindful eating skill can lead to easy weight loss because you naturally decrease your portion sizes, but let go of any expectation during the challenge and reconnect to your intuitive eating skills that you are born with.