Mindful Eating: A Surprisingly Simple Way To Cut Calories

If you’re having a snack while you read this article, here’s a great reason to put your fork down: Distracted eaters–people who dine while watching TV, surfing the Web, playing video games, or reading–tend to consume more calories, according to a review of two dozen earlier studies, published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In fact, distracted eating can boost the amount of calories consumed by up to 50 percent, reports lead study author Eric Robinson, of the University of Liverpool, in the UK. Additionally, mindless munching during one meal or snack also increased the amount the person gobbled up at the next meal by up to 25 percent.

Attentive eaters, on the other hand, had the opposite pattern. Remembering what they’d eaten earlier in the day reduced the calories they consumed in subsequent meals that day. The researchers classified study participants as “attentive” if they had such habits as sitting quietly and making a mental note of how much they’d eaten (or kept a food diary), while distracted eaters had the opposite habits.

In the studies that were analyzed, some participants were given food in situations that influenced their attention, memory, and awareness of what they were eating. For example, in one study, people snacked on pistachio nuts and the researchers immediately removed the shells, so it was harder for the participants to recall how many nuts they’d eaten.

In another study, people who ate while watching TV were compared to those who weren’t staring at a screen as they dined. On average, attentive eaters consumed about 10 percent fewer calories than their distracted counterparts. Based on the findings, the researchers recommend that dieters include mindful eating in their weight-loss plan as an easy alternative to rigorous calorie counting.

In my book, The Omni Diet, I offer strategies to avoid “zombie mode” for both eating and shopping. One twist that makes mindful eating even more effective is to plan ahead. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail! Here’s how to effectively journal and plan ahead:

  • Write in your food journal before you eat–not afterwards. A study reports that overweight women who kept a daily food diary lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. Not only is a food journal a great way to hold yourself accountable for what you eat, but making entries in advance helps reflect on your food choices–and select the healthiest options.
  • Pack your lunch and bring healthy snacks to work. The better prepared you are when you leave your home in the morning, the easier it will be to stick with the Omni Diet. A study found that people who packed their lunch at work lost 5 more pounds than those who ate at restaurants or ordered takeout one or more times a week. The study found that eating out frequently tended to sabotage weight loss, but restaurant or takeout lunches were the worst culprits.
  • Plan your grocery list to avoid impulse buying. It’s easy to zone out at the supermarket and scoop items into your cart mindlessly. As I wrote in my Huffington Post blog, one solution is turning grocery shopping into an interesting adventure. Think of yourself as hunting and gathering the tasty, wholesome foods that will nourish the minds, bodies and spirits of your entire family. Note which foods are good for you (the ones without labels) and consciously choose accordingly.
  • Travel with a “Omni Survival Kit”: Don’t let travel be an excuse to sabotage your success. Keep a survival kit ready to go. A few of my basics for the road are: canned wild salmon, coconut wraps or vegan flat bread, raw nuts, protein bars, stevia, hummus, veggies, apple, grapefruit, protein powder (to mix in water), packs of dried greens, sugar free dark chocolate.
  • Know how to party! When you are attending a party, call ahead and ask the hostess if you can bring a dish or two. It not only gives her the heads up that you have special dietary needs, but it is a gracious gesture and makes a healthy statement! It’s easier if you are throwing the party. There are dozens of delicious, nutritious dishes that you can prepare. People are always amazed when they attend a party at our house. In my book, The Omni Diet, I provide over dozens of party friendly recipes and amazing dessert recipes that will delight your friends.

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