Nutritional and dietary challenges are usually all about what you can’t eat. But what if you could see huge results from a self-experiment that doesn’t make any foods off-limits? Instead of focusing on what you eat, this 31-day eating challenge emphasizes how you eat. The results could be transformational for your body — and mind.
“YOU WANT THE NEXT LEVEL STUFF?” I ASKED.
“Do this first, and let’s see if you can handle it.”
The nutrition advice I’d just given wasn’t what they expected, so I made it a challenge.
He thought he’d tried it all before.
But my advice was so, well, basic. Wasn’t he far beyond that?
Actually, no. Because what was told to him can help almost anyone, from the most advanced dieters to those who’ve struggled with healthy eating for a lifetime.
“EAT SLOWLY AND MINDFULLY.”
It sounds too ridiculously simple to work but it was exactly what he needed. In two months, his body fat dropped from 13.9 percent to 9.5 percent, the lowest level he’s ever achieved. This was without weighing and measuring food or following a restrictive meal plan.
Soon after he started, he sent this text:
“I can’t believe it. I’m losing fat and destroying my workouts. I’m sleeping better. I feel awesome.”
He was surprised by the results he got from such a simple process.
But I wasn’t.
Eating slowly is one of the core practices of healthy eating habits.
Because it flat-out works.
So why not try the slow-eating challenge yourself?
Practice it for just 31 days, and you may be shocked at what you achieve—even if you don’t change anything else.
5 WAYS THIS 31-DAY EATING CHALLENGE WILL CHANGE YOUR BODY AND MIND.
When it comes to eating better, most folks worry about the little details:
- “Are white potatoes more fattening than sweet potatoes?”
- “If I don’t drink a protein shake after my workout, is my workout wasted?”
- “My friend said keto is really the best way to lose weight, but what about Paleo? Or the alkaline diet?!”
We’ve been taught to think about what we eat, not how we eat. So people continue to eat over the kitchen sink, in their car, and mindlessly while watching Netflix.
That’s too bad since…
Eating slowly and mindfully is more important than:
- what you eat
- when you eat
- getting anything else “perfect”
Now, this may seem a bit controversial. If you only eat cookies the speed you that you’re eating isn’t your biggest problem.
By setting aside the extremes and testing it out yourself you’ll clearly understand how slow eating may be the single most powerful habit for driving major transformation.
Instead of having to figure out which foods to eat, in what frequency, and in what portions—all important factors, of course—eating slowly is the simplest way anyone can start losing weight and feeling better, immediately. That fuels confidence and motivation, and from there, you can always tighten up the details.
Why go to the complicated stuff right away when you can get incredible results without it?
Slow eating isn’t just for nutrition newbies. Nutrition nerds can also see big benefits. It could be the key to unlocking never-before-seen progress.
Slow eating is like the secret weight loss weapon everyone has access to, but nobody knows about.
That’s because it can help you…
1. Eat less without feeling deprived.
Sure, many popular diets claim this as a benefit. But with slow eating, this phenomenon can occur even if you don’t change what you’re eating.
For example, in one study, University of Rhode Island researchers served the same pasta lunch to 30 normal-weight women on two different days. At both meals, participants were told to eat until comfortably full.
But they were also told:
- Lunch 1: Eat this meal as fast as you can.
- Lunch 2: Eat slowly and put your utensils down between every bite.
- When eating quickly, the women consumed 646 Calories in 9 minutes.
- When eating slowly, they consumed 579 Calories in 29 minutes.
So in 20 more minutes, the slow-eaters ate 67 fewer Calories. What’s more, it also took them longer to feel hungry afterward compared to when they were speeding through their lunch.
These effects spread across every meal and snack add up to hundreds of Calories saved over the course of a day. This one example extrapolated over the course of a week adds up to over 1,400 Calories!
Granted, this is just a single study, but it demonstrates what I’ve seen with my clients over and over.
Why does this happen?
Reason 1: Physiology. It takes about 20 minutes for your body’s satiety signals to kick in. Slow eating gives the system time to work, allowing you to better sense when you’ve had enough.
Reason 2: Psychology. When you slow down and really try to savor your meal, you tend to feel satisfied with less, and feel less “deprived.”
Client spotlight: one client’s initial reaction to this challenge: “I can’t possibly eat slowly. I will die!”
But she persevered and stuck with it for some great results.
“I decided to just try. Just put one foot in front of the other, and only do what was being asked of me—eat just a little bit slower.
“I faced the fear of doing something different.”
During her first two weeks of eating slowly, she had one of those “aha moments.”
“I suddenly realized that the reason I ate quickly was actually a feedback loop: I ate quickly to calm my anxiety, but eating quickly was making me anxious.”
The upshot: Discovering this connection immediately made it easy for her to eat slowly.
2. Look and feel better.
Do you have regular bloating, cramping, or stomach pains? Many of my clients say slow eating helped solve their digestive issues.
Why does speed matter?
Because when you wolf down your food, you take larger bites and chew less.
Your stomach has a harder time mashing those big chunks of food into chyme—the sludgy mix of partially digested food, hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes, and water that passes from your stomach into your small intestine.
When food isn’t properly broken down into chyme, it can cause indigestion and other GI problems. We may absorb fewer nutrients, missing out on valuable vitamins and minerals.
Besides making you uncomfortable, poor and incomplete digestion can also affect your mindset.
For instance, if your meal leaves you bloated, burpy, and sluggish, you may interpret this as “feeling out of shape,” and become discouraged about your efforts. On the other hand, slowing down and digesting your food properly may help you “feel leaner.”
3. Learn what “hungry” and “full” feel like.
Ever have a meal because it’s a certain time of day, even if you’re not particularly hungry?
Or clean your plate, though you’re pretty sure you’ll regret it?
These are just a couple of ways people tune out their internal hunger and satiety cues. There are plenty more, but the point is:
Many of us eat when we’re not hungry, and keep eating when we’re full.
Slow eating can help get you right again. With regular practice, it improves your appetite awareness. You learn to recognize —and more importantly, trust—your body’s own internal signals.
Over time, this retrains you to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Not because some rigid meal plan demands it, but because your body (a.k.a. your new best friend) tells you so.
This is the difference between being “on a diet” and learning how to “listen to your body”… a valuable skill that allows you to make healthier choices for the rest of your life, creating a lasting body transformation in a way that doesn’t suck or make you feel deprived or like you’re “dieting”.
Client spotlight: Tackling food addiction.
One client was already “healthy” when she started coaching. She went to the gym three to five times a week, ate mostly whole, unprocessed foods, and wasn’t really looking to lose weight.
There was just one problem: She struggled with food addiction. “I needed to face the reason I was eating a pound of carrots in one sitting,” she says.
When first introduced to the habit of eating slowly, she was so worried she couldn’t do it, she considered leaving the program. But instead, she accepted the challenge. And although there were setbacks—like the day she ate seven cupcakes—little by little, it started to get easier.
Now, it’s revolutionized her relationship with food. On a recent backpacking trip, her friend brought some Fritos along. At the end of their 13-mile day, she started craving her friend’s chips.
“Before, I would have pounded them down. But this time, I put one in my mouth and savored it.” She still ate the chips—slowly—but instead of feeling ashamed and overstuffed, she felt nourished and satisfied.
The big lesson for this client:
“I’ve learned that when I listen to my body, it tells me everything I need to be successful.”
4. Disrupt patterns that derail your progress.
If you struggle with binge eating, learning to go slow can help.
That might sound odd, since a binge is driven by an overwhelming urge to consume as much food as possible, as fast as possible. The skills you develop from slow eating can help you mitigate the damage and build resilience over time.
Here’s how: when you’re in the middle of a binge, slow down as soon as you realize what’s happening.
Pause. Breathe. The food will wait for you. Even just one breath between bites will help.
You might not be able to stop eating right away, and that’s okay. How much you eat isn’t as important as getting back into a more thoughtful state of mind.
With this “binge slowly” technique, most people can regain a sense of control. With more practice, the more effective it will be.
If you keep slowing down, even during your most difficult moments:
- You’ll become more aware of why, where, and how you’re binging (so it won’t seem random, and eventually you can break the chain).
- You’ll likely eat less and stop sooner.
- You’ll feel less panicked and powerless.
- You’ll be able to soothe yourself more effectively and get back into “wise mind” faster.
In time, that’ll help normalize your eating habits consistency, boost your physical and psychological health, and improve body composition.
5. Gain a tool you can use anytime, anywhere.
You don’t always have control over what foods are available to us. But you always have control over how quickly you chew and swallow.
Think of slow eating as the low-hanging fruit of nutrition: super accessible in any situation.
It doesn’t require specialized meal plans or a food scale. No matter what’s going on in your life, or what’s on your plate, you can practice eating slowly.
Client spotlight: finding a better way.
When this coaching client started the program, she already knew a lot about nutrition from years of working with coaches and researching on her own.
“I knew the ‘whats’ of eating well, but really benefited from the ‘hows’ that were taught to me,” she says.
“It’s incredible to see how your relationship with food changes when you bring attention and awareness to the process of eating.”
Thanks to her new, more mindful relationship with food, she began to get the results she’d been after all those years. And after seeing how effective it was for her, her husband even started eating slowly. Now they practice the habit together.
The best part? She knows she has this tool at her disposal, no matter where she is or what she’s doing.
“Even if all else fails with my diet, I can always choose to eat slowly.”
HOW TO EAT SLOWLY.
Eating slowly and mindfully is simple and effective—but not necessarily easy.
Most people have to work at it.
Thankfully, you don’t have to get it “perfect.” Shoot for “a little bit better” instead. You might be surprised at how effective this can be.
Try one of these tips. You can experiment with them for just one meal, or take on a full 31-day slow-eating challenge if you feel up to it.
Take just one breath.
Before you eat, pause. Take one breath.
Take one bite. Then take another breath.
Take another bite. Then take another breath.
Go one bite, and one breath at a time.
Add just one minute.
At first, most people panic at the idea of “wasting time” on eating or having to be alone with their thoughts and the sounds of crunching for too long. Plus, life is busy and rushed. Having long leisurely meals may feel impossible.
So, start small. Add just one minute per meal. Or two, or three, if you’re feeling sassy about it.
When you start your meal, start the clock (or use an app like 20 Minute Eating to time yourself).
The game: Stretch out that meal as long as you can. Then try to make your next meal last one minute longer.
Over time, you can gradually build up how long you spend at meals.
Don’t be hard on yourself: If you forget to slow down during one meal, no biggie. Just slow down next time, and notice what happens.
And remember, even one minute better—or one breath-between-bites better—can help.
Put down the remote.
For the next level of challenge, don’t eat while you drive, watch Netflix/Hulu, or play with your phone. Sit at a table, not on your living room couch, and don’t eat standing over the sink. Try to relax and experience your meal.
The whole point is to pay attention to your food and body. So, over the next 31 days, do your best to eat in a calm environment with minimal distractions.
Eat foods that need to really be chewed.
Try this experiment: Eat a whole food, like an apple slice, and count how many chews it takes to swallow a mouthful. Then grab a highly processed snack, like a cracker or cookie, and count your chews.
What differences do you notice?
Which food do you think will be easier to eat slowly?
Now act accordingly.
Minimally processed lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes require more effort—and time—to eat.
The more you have to chew, the longer it’ll take you to eat, giving your fullness signals a chance to catch up.
Do something between bites.
Pacing yourself is easier when you have a specific action in mind to break up mouthfuls of food.
Between bites, try:
- setting down your utensils
- taking a breath (or three)
- taking a sip of water
- asking someone at the table a question
Savor your food.
When you eat… eat. Enjoy it. Really taste it.
Is it salty? Sweet? Does it coat the roof of your mouth? What’s the texture like?
Notice these little details with each bite.
To really tap into this experience, try “wine tasting” your food. Practice chewing slowly, sniffing, and savoring your food, as if it were a fine wine.
Notice what affects your eating speed.
As you experiment, try to identify what affects your eating speed or focus.
Consider factors such as:
- who you eat with
- when you eat
- what you eat
- where you eat
Once you’ve made some observations, ask yourself:
- What could you do to improve on what is already working well?
- What could you change, given what isn’t working well?
Refine your practice.
Pay attention to the eating speed of those around you. Observe the slowest-eating person in the group and match their speed.
If you find yourself rushing, that’s okay. Put your utensils down and take a minute to re-focus. If slow eating isn’t habitual for you, this will take some time to master.
Embrace an experimental mindset and notice what you learn.
Remember: every meal is a chance to practice.
Client spotlight: getting leaner and learning to be present.
Like many others, he was skeptical about eating slowly.
“I never expected it to work. It sounded too easy,” he says.
Eating slowly was more challenging than he expected, but with practice, things started to click, and the results have been major.
“The simple act of making time to eat slowly has gotten me closer to my goals than anything I’ve ever tried.”
And the results aren’t just physical: Slowing down his eating helped him set a more comfortable pace in other areas of his life, too.
“Not only am I leaner, but life doesn’t just pass me by anymore. I’m more aware of the moments that are right in front of me.”
TRACKING PROGRESS IS KEY
Making lifestyle changes — no matter how simple — takes practice, effort, engagement, and accountability. That’s why I recommend clients track their progress using a habit tracker or journal.
While I may be an online coach, I do prefer to organize my thoughts, write training programs, and set goals on paper. For me, it feels “more real” when I put my pen to paper.
Clients who track their progress tend to:
- get better results
- do a better job of holding themselves accountable
- learn more about themselves through the coaching process
- work through problems and come up with solutions more quickly
That’s why I’m giving away the Clear Habit Journal to the first five people who sign up for the 31-day Eating Challenge.
The Clear Habit Journal is a combination daily journal, dot grid notebook, and habit tracker. Features twelve habit trackers, perforations that can easily be torn out and hung on the fridge, placed on your desk, or displayed anywhere you choose. Includes an easy index and a quick journal to help you easily build a daily journaling habit. It’s my favorite journal and I think you’re going to love it.
I ATE SLOWLY, NOW WHAT?
At the end of your 31-day slow-eating challenge, tune into what’s different.
You’re probably going to observe some changes in your body—such as how your stomach feels after a meal or how your pants fit. You may also notice mental changes, like what you think about while you’re eating, or how you react to feeling hungry or full.
Look at how much has changed in just 31 days, and imagine:
What would happen if you continued working on this habit… forever?
There’s a good reason to do just that: No matter what other habits you adopt or “next level stuff” you try, eating slowly will always enhance your efforts. And how often can you say that about anything?
But don’t just keep it to yourself: You can share the 31-day slow-eating challenge with your friends, family, and co-workers. It could be exactly what they need, but never even knew to try.