The Belch Diet: Eating the Perfect Amount at Every Meal

belch diet

Let me clarify right away that this “belch diet” will not get you banished from any dinner table. It is not an invitation to make loud burps or other bodily obscenities during a meal. It’s simply a practice of paying attention to the subtle cues your body offers while you are eating.

What is the origin of this quirky idea?

Ayurveda of course! For most of my life, I ended meals at the point of discomfort. When one of my Ayurveda teachers invited me to use the first belch instead, I welcomed the change. Intrigued by this obscure Ayurvedic practice, I ended up conducting a research study, and writing a thesis about it in graduate school. Years after the study, I still have participants thanking me for sharing this strange, yet valuable tool, saying that they may not abide by their belch with every meal, but when they do, they have better digestion, easily maintain their natural weight, and feel more connected to themselves.

Here’s how it works.

While eating, tune in to your body. At some point, you will notice a slight bubble of air rising in your chest, throat, or maybe into your mouth. This air bubble is the signal that your body has had enough food, and that it is time to stop eating. Even though it is referred to as a belch, it is not necessarily a substantial burp or even an audible sound. It is SUBTLE, so you have to really pay attention or you won’t even know it happened.

Because this approach requires such awareness, it is recommended that you sit down, focus on chewing your food, and refrain from multitasking (reading, interacting with a screen, making a to-do list, or driving) during your meal.

A few other guidelines can also really help you master this technique.

If you talk a lot or get up and down often while eating, your belch (air bubble) will likely come sooner than it otherwise would. For women, especially moms, this presents a challenge as we are often serving others’ needs in between our own hurried bites of food. Do your best to stay as relaxed and seated as possible throughout your meal.

Eating too often will also throw off this cue, so it’s recommended to prioritize eating meals and not grazing with this approach. Meals are recommended so that the food from previous eating episodes has time to be well digested before more food is added to the digestive fire. If you need to eat more than three meals a day, just space them out so that at least 2.5 hours have passed between them, and be sure that you are only eating when you are actually hungry, rather than because you are bored, curious, or emotional.

What I love most about using the belch is that unlike other guidelines to regulate portion size and curb overeating, this is a completely internal signal, decided by the wisdom of our unique bodies. The other bonus is that it requires us to eat with conscious awareness, making meals much more fulfilling.

Interviewing many people about their experiences with the belch led me to realize that some common challenges often arise.

The first thing most people say is “I don’t belch.” Even those who made that claim found, after some time of self-study, that they too had an air bubble surface during or after their meals. So if you don’t think you belch, keep listening, you’ll find it.

Others complained that the belch came too soon, leaving them hungry and disappointed that they couldn’t eat more at that sitting. I too was affected by this experience, and admit that at first, I inhaled food…packing in as much as possible before the belch came. I’m happy to share that I no longer do that for two reasons:

One, I realized that the quantity I wanted to eat and what my body actually needed were not the same, and that overeating even the healthiest foods contributes to weight gain and digestive disturbances.

And two, as my digestion got healthier, the length of time before the belch came magically expanded. This welcome change is explained by the fact that when there are digestive challenges, the body prioritizes clearing the blockages and repairing the damage rather than taking in additional nutrients.

Once everything is digesting well, the system is happy to receive more nutrients and therefore accommodates more food. If you try it, and the belch comes so soon you think you’ll starve, don’t worry, within a short time, most of us will be able to eat more normally again. Of course, if you have a serious condition, your situation may be different, so stick to your health practitioner’s advice. If you mention the belch diet to your practitioner, be prepared to get some strange looks as few people have ever heard of it.

I joyfully discovered that more than one belch arises during our meals.

The traditional recommendation is to stop at the first belch, yet I’ve found that utilizing the second one is far better than ignoring this bodily wisdom all together. To reduce the element of surprise, I sometimes choose to acknowledge the first one as a warning signal, a yellow light cautioning me that the red stoplight is coming soon, while I enjoy a few more bites of food. Then, at the second belch, I am more prepared to put down my fork happily satisfied with my body’s request to end the meal.

Try it, see what works best for you, and let me know how it goes.

Published on Everyday Ayurveda July 6, 2014