Quite often, people call who inquire about my weight loss programs who insist that they eat healthy and they just can’t figure out why they can’t lose weight. Now 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. They have a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, they use only whole grains, and they stay for away from junk and highly processed foods. Those people usually have a problem with portion distortion; meaning they are just eating too much, even though it is healthful food. 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 but there are definite do’s and don’ts while we are eating. This will automatically help you eat less and eat more slowly for better digestion.
- When you are eating, be seated. When you are walking around grabbing food, you will eat more; sometimes far more calories than you can 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 though our meals, forgetting to actually taste the flavors and feel the textures of our food. Reconnect with the joy of eating. Simply stopping to make a bracha slowly on your food will help you with this too.
- Listen to your body and ask yourself if you are really hungry, or have a glass of water to see if you are thirsty instead of hungry. During a meal, stop eating before you feel full. It actually 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, these are calories that we planned to eat and they are counted in our daily caloric intake. Eating while standing up is a form of impulsive eating and should be avoided. Every bite of food that you take has calories, and they all add up. You might say that I only eat carrot or pepper sticks when I stand up, but that will likely turn into eating chocolate and cookies as time goes on.
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 and consuming more food than what you might have eaten otherwise. Make your mealtime a break from the news, from 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 also shown that people get a certain degree of satisfaction when chewing and swallowing food that you don’t get when you eat standing up and in a hurry. Dr. Beck states that many of her patients that she has counseled for weight loss found that eating only when seated was the key to their success.
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. That rule is that every day; 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. For example, you might be on the go and buy a bag of nuts. If I take out the 14 or 15 nuts I would normally eat and then close the bag and eat them, I have eaten my allotted portion. If I just open the bag and start eating them one by one, I can easily consume twice as many or even more. If I am repeating this behavior several times a day, I will end up eating far more calories than I should and 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! Hashem gave us a variety of colors and tastes in our food to enjoy them. 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.”