ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Eat Less by Changing Your Eating Behavior

Updated on October 13, 2009

Eating is part of survival and, as such, our body naturally lets us know when it requires nourishment; in turn, it responds when we have had sufficient to eat. However, more and more, external factors are also playing a part in when we start and stop eating. Eating has moved beyond a survival mechanism and entered the realm of habit. We have become detached from the communications from our body and respond out of habit when it comes to eating. Unfortunately, these eating habits tend to be unhealthy and, more often than not, they lead to overeating. The good thing though is that habits can be changed.

Habits are patterns that have been reinforced over time. The starting point for changing all habits and behaviors is awareness.

In this case, you develop your awareness by maintaining a food diary. Make a note of everything that you eat throughout the day. Also note the time, how much you ate, where you were, what you were doing and why you ate. You may have been hungry or you may have felt upset or bored or some other emotion. This will bring your attention to your eating, help you with changing and monitoring your diet and enable you to identify bad eating habits.

Changing your eating habits and eating behavior will help you to eat less
Changing your eating habits and eating behavior will help you to eat less

Find Your Eating Cues

Firstly you need to find what makes you eat unnecessarily; what are these external factors that are overriding your natural physical signals. This you will pick up from your food diary. Perhaps it is whenever you eat out at a restaurant; perhaps it is the biscuits in the kitchen at work. Then you need to implement behavior that will change these habits. For example, meet friends for coffee rather than a meal or don’t order starters at restaurants. Leave the kitchen at work as soon as you have poured your coffee and don’t be tempted to eat the biscuits.

Find your eating cues and change your behavior in order counteract them and work towards eating less.

Eat Mindfully

The most important thing is to be aware of the eating process. When you are not in tune with your body and when external factors are influencing your eating habits, you are usually not really aware that you are eating and it is when it is easy to overeat. The way to increase your awareness is to focus on your meal and the experience. Eat slowly and really taste each mouthful. Know what you are putting into your body. Think about the aroma and the texture; think about what type of nourishment it provides. Your body is important and you need to honor this importance by providing it with good nutrients. Maintain awareness around eating.

Bring Your Attention to Your Breath

Breathe deliberately between mouthfuls. This has the effect of slowing down the speed at which you eat and making you more aware of the eating process. It also enables you to feel how full you are as the breathing action causes your diaphragm to push down on your lower organs. Furthermore, by being aware of your breath you become more aware of your body and in tune to its requirements. You are getting back in touch with your physical signals.

Eat Slowly

Eating slowly is not only about mindfulness, it is also about becoming more aware of your body’s needs and messages. Your brain will only receive messages that you have eaten enough after about 15 to 20 minutes. Only then will you feel full. If you wolf down your meals in 10 minutes you can easily eat much more than you need. Ensure that you take more than 20 minutes to eat your food so that you can be alerted naturally as to when you are full and stop eating excessively.

Many people are raised with the rule that they must finish everything on their plate. This then gets established as a habit. Realize this and accept having food left on the plate. With time you will learn the portion sizes you require and you will be back to finishing your plate of food – or nearly finishing it.

Chew Food Thoroughly

This helps with staying mindful and eating more slowly. It also aids digestion as food that is properly chewed requires less processing further down the digestive tract. This in turn frees up energy which you can expend elsewhere – for example, in exercising.

Smaller Plate, Smaller Portions

Use a smaller plate. Psychologically if you see a full plate of food you may feel there is enough to fill you up. If your plate of food is a bit smaller than usual, you can still fill it, but your portions will be smaller. It’s easier to eat less and stop your mind wondering whether it was enough.

Eat When Hungry

Eating when bored or upset is also merely habit. Before eating anything, note if you are truly hungry. Signs of hunger include a rumbling stomach, fatigue, decreased concentration, irritability and a slight headache. Again this is getting in touch with your body and its requirements. This also applies when you are eating a meal; stop when you are no longer hungry.

Start using a qualitative scale to rate your hunger levels. The book “Why Weight? A Guide to Ending Compulsive Eating” (author: G. Roth, New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1989) provides the following scale called “The Hunger-Satiety Rating Scale”:

10 = Stuffed to the point of feeling sick (Satiety)

9 = Very uncomfortably full, need to loosen your belt

8 = Uncomfortably full, feel stuffed

7 = Very full, feel as if you have overeaten

6 = Comfortably full, satisfied

5 = Comfortable, neither hungry nor full (Neutral)

4 = Beginning signals of hunger

3 = Hungry, ready to eat

2 = Very hungry, unable to concentrate

1 = Starving, dizzy, irritable (Hungry)

If you wait to until you are “starving”, you are likely to overeat. Aim to start eating when you have early signs of hunger (level 4) and to stop eating when you are comfortably satisfied (level 6).

Sit Down to Eat

Always eat when sitting down at a dining table. This increases your awareness of the fact that you are eating. Try this when eating snacks as well; you can even make a “rule” to use a knife, spoon or fork which then encourages healthier types of snacks.

Only Eat

Don’t do anything else whilst eating such as watching television or working. It distracts you from your eating and you will ignore any feelings of satiation.

Weight loss will usually involve change of diet and increased exercise; however, there are other factors that you need to consider which could make the process easier and more effective. These are your eating habits or your eating behavior. These can be changed into more healthy patterns by developing awareness and reconnecting with your physical signals of hunger and satiety. You can control your food intake and your weight. 

Image credit: BinaryApe


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • JulietduPreez profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Sure. Eating mindfully or consciously makes a huge difference.


    • sheryld30 profile image


      9 years ago from California

      Sounds cool to me. Thanks for sharing! :)


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)