How you Eat is More Powerful than What you Eat – 7 Tips to Improve How you Eat

HOW you eat is more powerful for weight loss and overall health than WHAT you eat.

Now don’t get me wrong, what you eat is still a factor in the health equation; however, the state you’re in while you eat plays a larger role.

If your body isn’t in the right state to digest and assimilate food, then you’re not able to extract the nutrients from food.  When your body can’t extract the nutrients from food, your brain doesn’t receive the message that food was ingested, which leads to increased cravings and over-consumption of food.

Brain Power and Digestion

Human Brain and Links to How You Eat

Let’s take a look at the link between your brain and your gut.

Your body is made up of a communication highway, called your bloodstream.

The bloodstream transports nutrients, hormones, and messages throughout your body.

Why Most People Over-Consume and Crave Food

When you’re mentally disconnected while eating – like eating while watching TV, reading, working, or not being present or aware of the food – then the communication highway is blocked.  This prevents your brain from receiving the nutrients, hormones, and messages sent out from your gut.

Plus, here’s the kicker, since your brain didn’t receive any messages about food being ingested and enjoyed, or that any nutrients were absorbed, it continues to crave food until it does!

Thirty to forty percent of the total digestive response of a meal occurs in your brain.

The more awareness and presence you bring to each meal (how you eat), the less you need to eat no matter what the food is.

Improve How You Eat

Now that you know just how powerful the brain is and its connection to the gut, we can improve how we eat by creating a mind-body connection.

These 7 tips will help you slow down, create a mind-body connection, reduce stress, and absorb more nutrients from your food.

Tip #1: Start with 8-oz of Water

Hydration

By starting your meal off with at least 8 oz of water, you not only increase your overall water intake, but you also improve your digestion dramatically.

More water in your gut helps transport nutrients more easily, and quickly, to your cells.

Benefits of Water:
  • Transport nutrients to your cells
  • Maintain fluid balance
  • Decrease cravings
  • Increase energy
  • Reduces Inflammation
  • Flush toxins and waste
  • Lubricate joints
  • Prevent cramps
  • Slows the signs of aging
  • Supports kidney function
  • Moisturizes your skin, eyes, mouth, and nose
  • Regulates your body temperature
How Much Water Do You NEed?

A good rule of thumb is half your body-weight in ounces.

Although, if you’re highly active, drink a lot of caffeine, or live in a very humid climate, you may need more.

Tip #2: 20-Minute Meal

How You Eat - 20 minute meal
20-Minute Meal

When people eat too quickly, they’re not giving the hormonal system enough time to send signals to the brain indicating they are full.

Therefore, the brain doesn’t experience pleasure from eating, which makes the brain say, “Eat more!”

Leisurely eating, however, allows ample time to trigger the signal from your gut to your brain that you’re full.  Typically, it takes 20 minutes for your gut to send this signal, which is why having at least a 20-minute meal will drastically increase the chances your brain receives the messages.   

Tip #3: Put your Fork Down

The next tip in how you eat, is putting your fork, or any utensil, down between bites.

This tip compliments the 20-minute meal by slowing down your eating speed and allowing the body to send and receive messages via the communication highway.

Putting your fork down between bites gives you a chance to slow down without making drastic changes in how you eat.

Tip #4: Breathe Deeply

Oxygen is often ignored as a key nutrient in digestion, which actually speeds up your metabolism.

Oxygen helps burn all of those nutrients in the body better.  So, when you breathe more, you actually burn more.

When the blood lacks oxygen nutrient absorption decreases, but when the blood has plenty of oxygen, nutrient absorption increases and so does the metabolism.

You could eat the highest quality super-food in the word, but if you’re eating too fast or not breathing during the meal, you’re actually decreasing nutrient absorption and slowing your metabolism down.

Tip #5: Emotional Brain Training

Emotional Brain Training is a science-based program that integrates neuroscience and stress physiology by rewiring patterns of anxiety, depression, overeating, and other unhealthy habits.

By answering the following eight questions prior to eating your meal, you transition your brain out of negative, stressful emotions, into positive, relaxed emotions, readying the body for food.

Emotional Brain Training Questions
  1. Angry about…
  2. Sad about…
  3. Afraid of…
  4. Guilty for…
  5. Grateful for…
  6. Happy about…
  7. Secure in…
  8. Proud of…

Have a journal close to the dining table so you can work through these answers.

Tip #6: Eat with All Your Senses

As you’ve seen, the brain-gut connection is an important factor in how you eat, but there is another way to involve your brain while eating.

When you eat your meals using all your senses, you’re brain not only receives messages from your gut, but also from your eyes, nose, ears, and mouth.  When you create a sensual experience, your brain receives more messages and feels more pleasure, which reduces the amount of food your brain “thinks” it needs.

Increasing Your Sensual Experience
  • Sight – Savoring the colors and presentation of the food.
  • Smell – The smell of your food enhances the flavor of the food, which increases your enjoyment.
  • Touch – Feel the texture of your food in your mouth or in your hands (if you eat with your hands).
  • Environment – When you eat a meal, you’re “eating” your environment as well.

Make your meal a special time just for eating.

Allow your brain to hear the messages sent from your gut.  Enjoy the presentation, smell, and taste of your food.  Allow your body to absorb every last drop of nutrients from your food.

Tip #7: Listen to the Hunger and Fullness Messages

The last tip on how you eat is listening to your hunger messages and fullness messages.  This may be the most challenging tip here, but I guarantee you already know your body.  You’ve been living in it for years now.  The difficult part is actually listening to it.

Once your mind-body connection is established and quite strong, you will be able to listen to what your body is saying.

You will also be able to tell a difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger.

Listen for Physical Hunger

When you’re physically hungry, you feel a sensation – a very quiet, whispering growl deep inside your stomach or back.

These sensations are cues from your body saying it’s running out of fuel and your body needs nourishment.

It’s best to eat within 1 hour of feeling this sensation.

Listen for Emotional Hunger

People often confuse physical hunger with emotional hunger, which is more of a feeling in the chest or heart.

These feeling are usually linked to stresses in your life – stress over health, money, relationships,  or careers.

When you feel emotional hunger, you are in need of self-love.

Food will never satisfy emotional hunger.

Identifying the form of self-love that satisfies your emotional hunger involves a deeper discussion for another time.

Simply understanding when you’re physically hungry versus emotionally hungry is a big step towards improving how you eat.

Eat Until You’re 75% Full

This side of the equation takes practice…and sometimes trial and error.  

Unfortunately, you don’t know if you ate too much until…you ate too much.

Something that works well for me is that I serve myself smaller portions by using smaller plates.  I use all the previous tips for enjoying my one plate of food and involving my brain into the meal as much as I can.  Once I’ve finished my plate, I assess if I’m physically hungry or emotionally hungry.  

(Usually, I’m only emotionally hungry…)

If you get physically hungry within three-hours of your last meal, then you may not have eaten enough.  

Portion sizes have a different effect on your body too – for example, a salad may not fill you up as much as a Magic Plate Meal.

The Magic Plate

Sum It Up

By drinking water, eating slow, putting your fork down, breathing, focusing on your food, and being in a calm, relaxed state, a powerful connection forms between your mind and your body.

Your body will extract all the nutrients from the food you eat and provide optimum nourishment to the cells of your body.  Your brain will receive messages of a pleasurable meal and feel completely satisfied after eating much less food.

All these benefits by simply changing how you eat.

What tip are you most excited to try?

Which one of these tips are you going to try out this week?

Have you already tried some of these tips?

Do you have any more tips I didn’t mention here?

Comment below and join the conversation.

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