Attentive eating is a hot topic in nutrition research. A recent review of the research to date finds that mindful eating can be a powerful behaviour change in helping with weight loss.
Diets come and go, yet few offer any real long-term solution for weight loss and weight maintenance. An overall change in lifestyle and behaviour is fundamental to addressing decades of slow weight gain and failed dieting.
One very simple strategy to help with weight loss, so simple that it puts to shame many complex dietary recommendations, is to be more mindful when it comes to eating. Mindfulness can be described as learning to pay attention to the present moment experience and to let thoughts and feelings come and go without providing judgement.
Applying the principle of mindfulness to eating can be as simple as focussing on what is currently being eaten. Removing distractions such as television watching at meal times, savouring the taste of food as it is eaten slowly, and even a simple recall of what has been eaten recently all appear effective in changing future decisions about what and how much to eat.
Just how effective attentive eating can be has been the subject of a recent review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. From 24 studies examined, the findings were clearly in favour of attentive eating being able to change food consumption habits.
Eating when distracted was seen to increase food intake not only at the meal time, but several meals after the distracted eating episode as well. In contrast, having a better memory of what was recently eaten reduces how much is eaten.
What it all means
Mindful eating free of mindless distractions combined with mindful recall of food previously eaten is an important part of any weight loss behaviour change targeted at eating less.