Quite often, people call who inquire about my weight loss programs insisting that they eat healthy and just can’t figure out why they can’t lose weight. Much of the time, people who eat “healthy” don’t really know what healthy eating entails, and we have to make corrections in their overall diet. Other times, they are truly eating healthy — a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, only using whole grains, and no highly processed foods. These people usually have a problem with portion distortion. They are just eating too much. But the one way we overcome all of these problems is by learning how to eat. How we eat includes the concepts of mindful eating and several “do’s and don’ts” while eating.
Eat less and more slowly for better digestion
- When you are eating, be seated. When you are walking around grabbing food, you will eat more; far more calories than you imagine. This includes tasting food as you prepare meals, eating food out of packages or containers (the spoon in the ice cream container), sneaking bits of food from someone else’s plate as you clear the table, or nibbling on food when you open the refrigerator or food pantry.
- Eat with others whenever possible. Eating with other people has numerous social and emotional benefits—particularly for children—and allows you to model healthy eating habits. Eating with the radio on, reading the newspaper or in front of the computer often leads to mindless overeating.
- Take time to chew your food and enjoy mealtimes. Chew your food slowly, savoring every bite. We tend to rush through our meals, forgetting to actually taste the flavors and feel the textures of our food. Reconnect with the joy of eating.
- Listen to your body. Ask yourself if you are really hungry. (Have a glass of water to see if you are just thirsty.) During a meal, stop eating before you feel full. It takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly.
- Eat breakfast, and eat smaller meals throughout the day. A healthy breakfast can jump-start your metabolism, and eating small, healthy meals throughout the day (rather than the standard three large meals) keeps your energy up and your metabolism going.
- Avoid eating at night. Try to eat dinner earlier in the day and then fast for 14-16 hours until breakfast the next morning. Early studies suggest that this simple dietary adjustment—eating only when you’re most active and giving your digestive system a long break each day—may help to regulate weight. After-dinner snacks tend to be high in fat and calories so are best avoided, anyway.
Cognitive psychologist Dr. Judith Beck explains that most food you eat on your feet is not food that you planned on eating. When we sit down at the table, we eat calories we planned to eat and they are counted in our daily caloric intake. Eating while standing up is a form of impulsive eating. Every bite of food that you take has calories and they all add up.
Besides eating while sitting, as we mentioned before, having the radio on, sitting in front of the computer or TV, or reading the newspaper can trigger emotions which will in turn trigger fast eating more food than what you might have eaten otherwise. Make your mealtime a break from the news, the phone (turn it off for 30 minutes, the world will NOT come to an end), and concentrate on your food. This way, you will always end up eating less. Research has shown that people get a certain degree of satisfaction when chewing and swallowing food. This is not the case when you eat standing up and in a hurry. Dr. Beck states that many of her patients have found that eating only when seated was the key to their successful weight loss.
A Few More Tips
There are a few other small rules to implement that will help you eat well and lose weight. First, stay hydrated. Start your day with 2 glasses of water and drink a glass or two before each meal and snack. You should accumulate at least 10 cups of water throughout the day and if you are exercising, you will need more. Also, in the summer months, it is always a good idea to have more. Remember that water is the best choice, but herbal teas and seltzer water is also good. Juices are generally high in calories.
Implement the 9 rule. Make sure to have at least 6 servings of vegetables (variety is important) and 3 servings of fruits. These are part of the staples of disease prevention and no matter what type of dietary plan you are on, this should be a staple.
Put your food on your plate. Never eat food straight out of package or container. If one opens a large package of food and starts eating , he can easily consume twice as many calories. If one repeats this behavior several times a day, weight gain will be inevitable.
One of the things I tell my overweight clients who are trying to lose weight is that with a good nutritious food plan and mindful eating they will learn to enjoy food more—not less! You will also find out that food, in its natural form, actually has a wonderful taste.
Learning how to eat mindfully and implementing the do’s and don’ts of eating is another way to “add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.”