Are Your Eyes Bigger Than Your Stomach? Try This...

When I was a kid, my dad frequently told me that my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

This would often happen after Sunday mass at the pancake house when I would faithfully order Pigs in a Blanket—three sausages each wrapped in a fluffy buttermilk pancake topped with powdered sugar, a dollop of butter and a massive flood of syrup. 
Dad was right; I could never finish the entire plate. But, man, would I ever try!

These days, I still struggle sometimes with “eyes-bigger-than-my-stomach syndrome.”

While it’s no longer pancakes that tempt me, I can easily overload my plate or return for seconds and thirds when it comes to salmon, broccoli, beans or almond butter. Although these foods might be healthier, eating any food past the point of comfort is an unpleasant experience. 

Stomach Voting Rights
There are many reasons why we overeat, and I have numerous strategies for not doing so. A very simple one is giving your stomach a vote—and truly listening to what it has to say—before taking more food.

I’ve discovered that my mind can be a greedy beast. Wired for survival, it will pretty much always vote “Yes, give me more food!”  

However, if I pause and literally ask my stomach if it wants more, 99.9 percent of the time, it votes “NO.” My stomach doesn’t mess around; it doesn’t play mind games. It knows when it’s had enough. 

Simple, But Not Always Easy
Although simple in theory, this strategy is not always easy to execute.

It requires a willingness to disrupt deeply conditioned behaviors—like eating on autopilot and disembodying from the experience.

It necessitates stopping in the heat of the moment, checking in with your stomach, and truly honoring what it says.

Trust that with commitment and consistency, this practice will become easier over time and the reward of feeling better in your body will be worth your efforts. 

Of course, there will be moments when your mind completely overrules your stomach. No biggie. Drop any self-judgment while remembering that this is not about having a perfect relationship with food and your body, but a more attuned, trusting and peaceful one.

How to Eat Mindfully at Summer Parties

Summer means lots of fun in the sun, and lots of yummy food at park picnics, poolside potlucks and backyard barbecues.

With all the excitement and distractions, it’s easy to eat mindlessly.

Mindless eating can spoil a great party if it leads to gas, bloating, cramping, indigestion, sluggishness and other uncomfortable feelings.

It's definitely a show-stopper if it results in the desire to go home and lie on your coach.

The following five practices will help you eat more mindfully, including choosing foods that are pleasurable, satisfying and nourishing to your body.

1/ Pause and check in.
Pause before grabbing a plate to check in with your body’s desires and hunger level.

Is your body craving something light, cool and crisp or something hearty, warm and juicy? Is it yearning for sweet, salty, bitter or sour flavors?

On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being not hungry at all, 5-6 being moderately hungry, and 10 being really hungry, gauge where you're at. Let this inform what type and how much food you need to feel satiated (versus stuffed).

2/ Scan and plan.
Explore all your food options first to determine which dishes are really calling to you, and how those foods will feel in your body.

For example, I love a cold bean salad on a hot summer day, but my stomach revolts against raw onion, so I’ll skip it if it includes it. 

3/ Make a sampler plate.
Put just a small amount of your most desired foods (including desserts) on your plate so you can sample everything to determine which items you want more of.

Sometimes that delicious looking potato salad ends up tasting just ho-hum. For many of us (especially Clean Your Plate Club members), it’s easier to toss a few spoonfuls of something we don’t like, rather than a few large scoops.

4/ Return for seconds.
Go back for seconds of the foods you enjoyed the most. But first, assess your hunger level again to help guide your choices and portions.

5/ Slowly savor every bite.
This can be more challenging to do while socializing and absorbing the party scene, but strive to slowly savor every bite and pause throughout your meal to check your body’s satisfaction and fullness levels.

Mindful What?
Sometimes, it can be tough to remember these steps or put them into practice when you’re in party mode.

If you do happen to eat mindlessly or overeat, the most important thing is how you treat yourself--not with judgment or criticism, but with kindness and compassion. 

There's no need to feel bad or guilty or regretful. You’ll have many more opportunities to wear your mindful eating party hat, should you wish to.

Do You Do This When You Eat?

On my way to the market the other day, I passed a guy walking down the street while eating from a takeout container.

At the market café, I noticed every diner was staring at a laptop or phone.

While shopping, a woman passed by me pushing a cart while snacking on a bag of chips.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

When was the last time you just ate when you ate?

The Downside of Distracted Dining
When we dine while distracted—that is, eat while working, watching TV, reading, texting, driving, folding laundry, etc.—we miss out on fully experiencing the pleasure and satisfaction food can provide.

We are also completely disconnected from our body's internal cues of hunger and fullness.

Researchers have found that distracted diners are more likely to:

  • Eat faster
  • Overeat
  • Feel considerably less full
  • Not recall eating
  • Experience more cravings
  • Snack more
  • Desire larger meals later in the day

I Always Want More
When I multitask while eating, I’m unsatisfied when I look down at my empty plate. I want more food even though I’m no longer physically hungry.

I also feel a brick in my stomach from eating too fast, not chewing and overeating.

Plus, it’s disappointing when I’ve taken time to prepare a yummy meal then don’t take time to truly savor it and barely remember eating it.

Show It Some Love!
Many of us say we love food, yet we don’t show it any love when eating it!

What would happen if you ditched the distractions, slowed down and gave your food your undivided attention? 

Try picking one meal or snack a day to eat more mindfully. Note any differences in how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally.

You may feel restless or bored at first, but I promise you, the results will be worth it.

“At its most essential, the apple you hold is a manifestation of the wonderful presence of life. It is interconnected with all that is. It contains the whole universe; it is an ambassador of the cosmos coming to nourish our existence. It feeds our body, and if we eat it mindfully, it also feeds our soul and recharges our spirit.” 
―Thich Nhat Hanh, Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life