Have you ever been driving down the road, when you suddenly stop at a red light, and realize you’ve been daydreaming for quite sometime, and didn’t realize how far you’d driven, or how long you’d been on autopilot? This is the opposite of mindfulness. Being mindful means bringing your attention and awareness to whatever you are doing, in the here and now, focusing on the entire experience, observing everything around you, and not judging it good or bad, just letting it be. We often prolong emotional distress in our lives by attempting to control or avoid certain experiences. And when we are on automatic pilot, we tend to continue repetitive, unhealthy patterns of behavior, which can be disrupted and altered with more mindfulness.
One of the reasons I recommend mindful eating to my clients, especially those looking to lose weight after years of yoyo dieting, is because old thoughts won’t produce new ways. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, so breaking the old habits, really requires making new thought patterns. Just by interrupting the old patterns and shifting to a new mindset in just a few small ways, can add up to significant results. Mindful eating means focusing, not so much on what you eat, but how you eat. Mindfulness dieting is actually considered the anti-diet, which can alleviate the stress, complication, and frustration associated with traditional or fad diets. Taking time to slow down and enjoy your food doesn’t have to be time consuming, spending hours at the dinner table chewing every bite five hundred times. There are a few proven ways you can begin to incorporate more mindfulness into your eating habits, one day at a time, rather than overwhelming yourself by focusing too hard.
The benefits of mindful eating, are lower body weight, overall better health, are more awareness of your physical symptoms, like hunger, and knowing what you are actually hungry for. So the next time you catch yourself standing in front of the open fridge, wondering what you might be in the mood for, try some of these tips to increase your awareness of your hunger needs, verses your hunger wants. Learn to listen to what your body needs, rather than giving in to emotional cravings, by making adjustments to the way, and even where, you eat.

Use A Bigger Fork
A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that restaurant-goers who eat with really big forks (20 percent bigger than a normal fork you’d find at a restaurant) eat less food and leave more on their plates than people who eat with really small forks. A possible explanation for this finding is that when people use small forks to eat, they feel like they are not making any big progress in eating their meal and quelling their hunger pangs, TIME reported. In addition, the restaurant-goers who ate with the smaller forks and were served larger portions of food ate substantially more food than if they just had the smaller forks or the larger portions.

Eat From A Smaller Bowl
Research from the Georgia Institute of Technology shows that people eat 31 percent more ice cream when they eat out of a 34-ounce bowl, rather than 17-ounce one, ScienceDaily reported. Researchers explained that’s because people eat about 92 percent of what they serve themselves — so if you serve yourself more, you’ll eat more.

Get Some Sleep
Columbia University researchers found that sleep deprivation can also lead to more calories consumed. They found that women who only got 4 hours sleep the night before ate 329 more calories in a nine-hour period compared with if they weren’t sleep deprived, while men ate 263 more calories when sleep-deprived. “It has an impact on cognitive restraint,” study researcher Marie-Pierre St. Onge told ThirdAge. “High-fat food is tempting, and maybe on short sleep you can’t restrain yourself as well, while on full sleep you can resist more easily.”

Mind Your Environment
WHERE you eat your food could also factor in to how much you eat and whether you’re munching even though you’re not hungry, according to research from the University of Southern California. Researchers had movie-goers state if they were regular popcorn-eaters or not, and then they had them eat either stale popcorn or freshly popped popcorn. The regular popcorn-eaters ate just as much stale popcorn as fresh popcorn, while people who didn’t consider themselves regular popcorn-eaters ate significantly less stale popcorn than fresh since it didn’t taste as good. “The results show just how powerful our environment can be in triggering unhealthy behavior,” study researcher David Neal said in a statement. “Sometimes willpower and good intentions are not enough, and we need to trick our brains by controlling the environment instead.”

Hide The Junk Food
Research from Cornell University shows that we are three times more likely to eat the first thing that we see, compared with the fifth thing we see. In that study, researchers took photographs of 100 kitchen cupboards and asked the owners to keep records of what they ate. Researchers also tried moving the food around in the cupboards to see if that impacted their food choices — and found that it did. The research shows that “we end up being masters of our own demise, to some extent,” study researcher Professor Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,” told HuffPost.

Eat Using Your Non-Dominant Hand
Research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin shows that eating with your non-dominant hand can help you to decrease the amount of food you consume, CNN reported. The finding was part of the same movie-theater/popcorn study, where it was discovered that environment plays a part in mindless eating. Like in that experiment, researchers gave study participants either fresh or stale popcorn. They found that people who used their non-dominant hands and ate the stale popcorn ate 30 percent less than if they used their dominant hands, CNN reported.

Just a few tips and tricks to hack mindful behaviors in your new year of new healthy habits. For more insights-as well as a new year, new you clean eating challenge-visit #eatbetterfeelbetter.com for more information. Jennifer Otts, an integrative nutrition and lifestyle consultant, works with individuals who are wanting to improve their health and wellness by making better food and lifestyle choices, and creating sustainable change by forming better health habits in their daily lives. She can be reached at jennifer@jenniferottsinc.com for a strategy session or group coaching.