I’ll admit it:
Sometimes I enjoy a good cookie, ice cream, or pizza.
Usually, once I start I’m unstoppable. If I can get my hands on more, it doesn’t stand a chance. One turns into three. Without preparation, three becomes a box.
Appalled onlookers don’t realize the extent of the damage control I’ve already applied,
- Supplements like berberine to stabilize my blood sugar.
- Exercise earlier in the day so that sugar preferentially fills my muscles.
- Strategic mindful eating hacks to slow me down.
Mindful eating might sound woo-woo. When I want to cut weight, it’s my secret to consuming 450 fewer calories every day without thinking about it. Below are the tips you can try for yourself to find what works.
1. More Trips to the Kitchen
I intentionally packed on 40+ pounds for college Football.
I learned to put up with overeating pain. Health concerns aside, I could only physically eat enough calories if I minimized the time from first to last bite. I had to put the food down like Kobayashi. No time for savoring tastes. By the time my stomach signaled my brain to end the feeling of hunger, I had cleared (all) my plates. Not fun nor enjoyable, but I stayed strong.
I relied on extremely large plates and bowls. My plates spilled over into adjacent seats. But this way I “wasted” no time dishing out more. It worked great. I gained muscle (and an inevitable layer of fat).
I’m well past those days.
The exact opposite strategy can work wonders to limit food intake. Here’s why:
- Smaller containers fit smaller portions
- Each trip to the kitchen gives your brain more time to re-calibrate satiety.
2. Wield a Different Weapon
Unlike forks (affectionately referred to as “dinner shovels”), chopsticks are preferred in some Eastern cuisines.
Wherever you are in the world, chopsticks have unique advantages over forks:
- Less volume of food per bite.
- A meal takes much longer and gives you more time to socialize.
- Your body has more opportunity to produce the enzymes necessary to break down your meal
- You get full faster and eat less.
- Hand-eye coordination improves.
Bonus points for using your non-dominant hand.
No chopsticks on hand?
Choose the smallest fork and/or spoon possible. I’m often the laughing stock of the table. The biggest person brandishing a tiny crab fork.
3. Never Eat Alone
Whether you call it socializing, eating with friends, or just lunch, sharing a meal with others positively changes your physiology.
A researcher named Dan Buettner wrote a book called Blue Zones, where he identified traits common to different centenarian populations throughout the world. Can you guess what he discovered?
Eight typical health factors including exercise, diet, and recovery. But one in particular gets little attention:
Social connection. And according to Dan, a strong social life reduces cognitive decline, and increases physical wellbeing.
Something to celebrate! Good company can negate questionable meal chocies.
4. Prime the Body for Feeding
Do you know that feeling after a heavy meal? Like a rock in your stomach. What if you can skip that feeling altogether.
Priming your body for digestion can help.
When in a “fight-or-flight” stress state digestion completely shuts down and food passes through our system before we can extract the nutrients. Basically, that healthy meal did nothing. Instead, we can shift into “rest-or-digest”. You can make this shift in moments.
Intentional breathwork signals our body and brain that we are safe. It engages our parasympathetic nervous system and prepares the body to extract any good stuff in our meal. Of the dozens of parasympathetic breathwork routines, I prefer the simple:
- Inhale for 4 counts from the abs
- Pause for 6-7 counts
- Exhale for 8 counts through the nose or mouth
- Repeat 3X
The key to shifting into “rest-or-digest” comes from intentional exhales that exceed the inhales.
It’ll feel strange the first few sessions. Briefly focusing my attention on my breath creates a separation between the meal and the craziness of the day’s activities. I feel better, eat less, and notice flavors that I otherwise miss.
5. Eating When Hungry
Sounds obvious, I know. But sometimes I find myself blankly opening the fridge. Not hungry, but just for something to do.
When I do eat, I fully focus on the experience itself. It’s helped me find emotional eating triggers. I’m not alone. Participants in one study cut binge eating episode severity and frequency from 4 to 1.5 per week by practicing mindful eating.
Anyone can try the basics of mindful eating:
- Listen to your body, eat when hungry, and stop when full
- Focusing on eating and not multi-tasking
- Choosing nutritionally dense foods
- Chewing more
- Pausing to consider everything that went into the meal
Biohacking Hunger: The Strategies I Use to Feel Full Fast
Mindful eating can be as simple or complicated as you make it.
Serve your food in smaller dishes and set the table with smaller forks (bonus points for chopsticks). From breathing practices to taking a few moments to appreciate the experience.
Experiment with each of the above to find what works for you.
You can always add the more exciting blood sugar biohacks on top.
Occasionally I’ll still put down 2,500 calories in a single meal. But for the most part, I eat slower and get full quickly. I leave the table feeling great, light on my feet, and completely satisfied.
What are your pre-meal rituals?