You may be able to dodge some of your triggers by planning around them. If you can identify situations or times of day that are risky for you, try to address them by planning to be busy at that time, or by making it easier to make a healthy food choice. If the break room at work is always laden with snacks you might like to avoid, try going for a walk instead.
Using a grocery list when shopping can help, as can planning meals and snacks at the beginning of the week. Balogh suggested organizing your refrigerator and your shelves so that healthy options are close at hand and easy to grab (ready-to-eat washed fruit and trimmed veggies, low-fat yogurt), and treats are out of sight and harder to reach.
When a craving does strike, try putting it on hold for a moment. Tell yourself it’s OK to eat that food, but that you are going to wait one minute first. When the minute is up, you can choose to go ahead and eat the food, reminding yourself that you controlled your craving for one minute, or you can decide to wait another minute.
By putting cravings on hold, you can increase your sense of control over your eating habits, avoid feeling either deprived or guilty, and find out how long it takes for a craving to pass.
Are you full?
Remember that once your stomach is full, it takes about 20 minutes for that information to reach your brain. Balogh suggested using pre-set portions and a timer to remind yourself how long it takes your brain to understand that your stomach is full. Serve yourself a meal or snack with appropriate portion sizes, and set a timer for 20 minutes. If you want more food, tell yourself to wait until the 20 minutes are up before deciding to have more.
Make your own goals a priority, and try to identify situations in which being more assertive might help you have a better sense of control over your eating habits. Examples include saying no to office treats, or to sharing a bag of buttery popcorn at the movies, or to adding a side of fries to your restaurant meal.
Managing stress and controlling negative thoughts can also help promote mindful eating. Bradshaw recommended relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, tai chi, exercise and yoga. She also discussed the ‘cover letter’ approach to positive thinking. This technique includes consciously listing positive things about yourself, such as things you are good at and things you are proud of. When negative thinking strikes, take out the list for a positive reality check.
Finally, it’s important to remember that mindful eating isn’t about banishing treats. All-or-nothing thinking about food, such as adopting an austere diet, sets people up for failure. A good way to find a balance between nutrition and treats is to follow the 80/20 rule: make healthy food choices 80 per cent of the time, and choose treats 20 per cent of the time. For example, if there are 21 meals in one week, choose healthy options 16 times and enjoy less-healthy options five times.