Designing mindful eating behaviour

So, I’m quite sure, that intuitive and mindful eating is the right thing for me and my health. But it’s so incredibly difficult to practice it! It’s almost impossible to remember to focus on listening to your body if all your other habits tell you not to!

I’m sure I’m not the only one that meets this challenge when starting to eat mindfully. That’s why I have decided to take a professional approach to this and use behavioural insights to become full-time mindful eater!

I want to nudge myself to mindful eating. I will try some tricks every day, and judge their effectiveness and usefulness. But first of all I will describe the way experts approach behavioural change.

When you want to change someone’s behaviour, you need to look at the following:

  1. Define the desired behaviour.
  2. Do a barrier analysis
  3. Design the solution
  4. Test the solution

To change the behaviour easily we need to go through these four steps.

In this post I’ll write about the first part of the work process.


Design vector created by alekksall –

Desired behaviour.

The behaviour has to be concrete and measurable and it must not be misunderstood. For example, in our case the behaviour is actually quite complex, because it consists of more than one action.

Mindful eating consists of several actions: a) assessing the hunger level – before, during and after eating; b) being attentive to the food while eating – smell, taste, texture; c) choosing the foods that match the current craving. So in our case we need to either try to do all these actions or take them one at a time.

How can we observe and measure these actions?

In behavioural design there’s something called “video test”. Can anyone outside yourself observe the behaviour? The big problem with mindful eating is that the actions taken are actually internal, and need to be taken out to be measured. One thing that comes into my mind right now is taking time for use of a check list, where the actions taken towards mindful eating are being noted and documented. The other thing is talking through it or writing through it. But any way there’s a need to follow a kind of a plan.

As they say it: Fail to plan – plan to fail 🙂





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Mindful eating

I have been experimenting with eating mindfully since I read Susan Albers’ book Eating Mindfully. This is a wonderful book that has lots of wisdom inside and can function as a reminder to eat in a conscious and mindful way.

I have been breaking some bad habits since I’ve started eating mindfully, and the first steps that I took was to…

  • eat without distractions. No phone, no TV, no music, no computer or iPad as well as no thinking about other stuff while eating.

Only me and the food. 

It is important to take attention to what we are eating because otherwise the brain doesn’t register how much we have eaten and we can appear to be hungry after we’d eaten a huge meal! This is the reason why people overeat in dark places, while driving or doing something else. Some research has shown that the foods don’t get properly digested and we don’t get the right amount of nourishment from the foods we eat if we don’t pay attention to the process of eating. This is important, so I have decided for a change!

Boy has it been difficult to break the bad habits! My personal story is like of many of us: growing up eating everything in front of the TV. My evening meals were eaten in the dark (!) in front of the TV, and it was just the norm in my family. To take the first steps and eat – even a small snack – without distractions has definitely NOT felt normal to me! I felt nervous and felt like running away from the experience. I felt like I would waste so much time if the only thing I had to do while eating was to eat. How scary is that!! :)))

So after “torturing” myself by eating without distractions I took the second step to…

  • notice the look, smell, taste and sound of the food. You may think it’s easy, but it requires attention and focus. It’s way too easy to start thinking about anything on earth but food while eating. Writing a mental to-do list, thinking about future events and problems.

The third step that I’ve taken to become a mindful eater was to…

  • look for the Last Bite Threshold. As described in The Intuitive Eating Workbook by Tribole & Resch: “It’s a point at which the body gives the cue that you are at a comfortable fullness level. At this point, you will find that satisfaction in what you are eating will begin to diminish”. So I have been looking for cues and the biggest one has been that the food wouldn’t smell that well anymore.

After taking these three steps I have surprised myself with this important insight!

I don’t want to eat food that I don’t like. This may sounds crazy to you: “Why would she even eat foods she doesn’t like?” But here is the explanation. Because I don’t want to waste my time I want to get “value for the time spent eating”, so I choose only the foods that I’m really attracted to. As a result, it has been easier to say “No” to the foods and snacks that I would previously eat just as a complement to other tasks that I was doing. 

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Time is money!

There’s good advice. There’s better advice. And there’s advice for money. Which would you like more?

Usually people answer that they want advice for free, because why would they choose the one they have to pay for if they can get the same with no cost. But there’s a rationale behind getting advice for money: this advice is more likely to help you. When we pay for something, we want something in return, and if we pay for getting advice we actually follow this advice much more often then the free advice.

But why??? It’s the same piece of information that you get. Why would it make a difference which way you get to this information?

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How can nudging help with alcohol consumption?

There’s a big problem with alcohol consumption in Denmark. The country is the proud European leader in the amount of alcohol drunk by the young generation. 

The problem is partly influenced by the low price of beer and wine. The other and the most important reason for the enormously big consumption is the accept of alcohol as a “door opener” in social situations. The young and the insecure use alcohol as a common ground for establishing new relations.

All the studies at the university start with a “rustur”, when the students get to know each other while drinking 5 days in a row. Much, much alcohol, resulting in bad decisions and a lot of vomiting. 

So now that we know about the social role of drinking how can we nudge the young to drink less? 

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The concept of pleasure

I recently came across a TED talk about pleasure. In this talk a woman described her battle with herself trying to achieve the perfect weight. She restricted her calorie intake, she wore herself out during long painful workouts and she hated herself.

She was fighting in a war against her own body. She hated the process of achieving her goal, and when she finally got to her perfect weight, she didn’t feel happy at all.

What was wrong?

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Sugar over behavior!

As a professional in areas of behavior and psychology, I have a natural inclination to explain people’s decisions based on their beliefs, personal history and their social situation. But there are cases where I just believe most in the physical part of it than the psychological.

One of these cases is sugar addiction.

Sugar is bad for you. Really bad. There’s not much disagreement on sugar’s dangers and its influence on a human body. Refined sugar acts as if it was cocaine on your body, and not just making you terribly addicted to it, but also making you sick. Here is what Harvard professor says about sugar:

The effects of added sugar intake — higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease — are all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke,” says Dr. Hu, professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.


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Relativitet i praksis

Jeg bestilte et nyt køleskab i går.

Jeg købte selvfølgelig det køleskab, som fik vurderingen “Bedst i test” og i mellem prisklasse. Det skulle bare være en Siemens. Da jeg var i gang med at lede efter det perfekte køleskab, gik jeg både efter A+++ miljømarkeringen, men også lydsignalen ved åben dør og stilfuldt udseende udenpå.

Disse funktioner var afgørende for mig, og mine valg kan forklares med adfærdsøkonomi.

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Nye veje til den naturlige sult

Er du en af dem, der ønsker at finde din egen sult at kende, men har problemer med at mærke dig selv og din mave, kan du gå en anden vej end den, som jeg foreslog i mit indlæg Lær din sult at kende.

Den vej kalder man en rehabilitering, hvor i stedet for at gå hele vejen og bruge alle kræfter på at lytte til dig selv og dine reaktioner, laver du en plan for din spisning.

Der er nogle regler, som er nemme at følge, men som vil give dig en mulighed for at føle sult og mæthed bedre end nogensinde.

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Lær din sult at kende

En af grundstenene i intuitiv spisning er at kunne mærke og respektere ens sult. Den naturlige sult signalerer, at mavesækken er tom og blodsukkeret er lavt, og at der kunne være dejligt at få spist noget.

Selvom vi ved det, er der mange af os, der enten spiser, når sulten er for lille eller trækker tiden for langt, så sulten bliver for stor. Ved at ignorere det risikerer vi, at vi bliver for tykke eller for tynde og mister forbindelsen til vores krop.

Hvad ødelægger vores forhold til den naturlige sult?

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