If you want your weight loss to last, an important lesson is that the way you eat is just as important as what you eat. So here are some practical tips on changing old habits and eating more consciously from a place of balance and calm not that frenzied, “can’t-get-enough-of-this-stuff”, kind of way. As you practice these habits you will enjoy new ways of eating that will guide the course of your weight loss and serve you well for the rest of your life.
If stressful thoughts come up about any of these wise eating strategies, be sure to jot them down and ask yourself what might be behind them. Be open to whatever comes to you. As you do this, you are well on your way to becoming a Wise Eater for life. Good luck and have fun!
The Art of Eating
1. No Multi-Tasking
Do you remember the superwoman of the 90’s, like the 18-armed Indian goddess Kali, she would slash through her “To Do” list in a blaze of super-efficiency, simultaneously cooking dinner, over-seeing homework and finalizing a business report. Well, like the Hindu gods, she is a myth. Our human brains are not wired for multi-tasking; the fact is we operate much more efficiently when we focus on one activity at a time (1). So when you eat, you eat – that means no TV, no reading, no texting; it may take time to change your old habits but starting with small steps, you can be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you begin to enjoy your new appreciation for food and the art of eating and the weight loss just happens naturally.
I can still see them, a group of workmen in their overalls, sitting on the wisteria covered terrace of a restaurant in a tiny village in the south of France. It’s midday and in the time honoured French tradition, they’re having lunch, at a table, set with a white cloth, proper crockery and cutlery, table napkins, carafes of water and yes, there would have been a bottle of wine or two. But certainly not for these fellows the indignity of stuffing a sandwich in their mouths as they zig-zag through the street, mobile phone glued to the ear.
Okay, so wisteria covered terraces may be in short supply in your part of the world but you can enjoy your own eating rituals, starting today. For example, never eat out of cartons or packets, if you are going to snack on a biscuit or chocolate or potato chips, be honest about it, put them on a plate or in a bowl. Sit down and take notice of what you’re doing.
When you do this, you’re doing a number of important things:
Other eating rituals can include: setting the table, using place mats or a table cloth, maybe even flowers or candles (and why not?). Play some relaxing music – be creative, what are your new eating rituals going to be?
If too much of a good thing is your food bad habit, try this weight loss tip. Trick your brain by serving smaller portions on smaller plates and leaving some white space. Instead of loading up the plate with everything that you’re going to eat why not take a tip from the French and have several individual mini courses? For example you might serve the vegetables or salad as one course, then the main dish whether that be meat, fish or perhaps a pasta. You’re now eating smaller portions and taking more time to eat, enjoy and digest the food (3) and losing weight as you do so.
4.Breaking the Trance
Many of us go “zombie” when we’re eating and become completely unaware of how much we’re actually consuming. Without knowing it, we can end up shoveling in food like an energizer bunny in a carrot patch. Anything we can do to interrupt and bring awareness to this pattern is helpful.
5.Interrupt the Pattern
One strategy is to put down your fork or spoon between mouthfuls. When I go unconscious, I can get into a pattern of loading up my fork for the next bite while I’m still chewing the previous one, (have you noticed yourself doing this?). In other words, I’m on automatic, chain-eating without pausing. To counteract this, I literally stop, put down my fork, and take a few breaths before continuing with my meal.
This pause gives your senses time to appreciate the flavours, textures and aromas of the food you’re eating and it also allows your stomach and brain time to talk to each other; the stomach is sending those all important satiation signals to the brain, so that you know when you’ve had enough. You know it’s time to stop before you get to that bloated, “had too much”, feeling (2).
6.Slow it Down
Many of us have a habit of racing through meals. When you do this, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve consumed and to overeat. Make a conscious effort to eat in slow motion and take time to chew your food. When you’re very hungry it’s especially important to eat slowly in order to counter act the false logic that because hungry, it’s okay to eat a lot of food and to eat quickly. If you are very hungry, drink a glass of water before you start eating. This creates a sense of fullness making it that much easier to slow down the eating. You’d be surprised at how many calories you can consume when you’re eating too quickly. So slow down, savour, enjoy the tastes and textures, and enjoy eating your way to a new, slimmer you!
7.Your Stomach is Not a Garbage Bin.
When you feel you’ve had enough to eat and there is still food on your plate, you can leave it you know. If, like many of us, you were raised in the “you’re not leaving the table until your plate is clean,” school of eating, now is the time to break that pattern. And if you find yourself having an emotional response to this idea, take a moment to notice what you’re thinking and feeling and write it in your journal. Remember, one of the most important steps in changing habits is to notice what you’re doing.
You might like to take this a step further and practise leaving some food on your plate. It can be a small amount, I’m not advocating that you waste good food but it is important for you to know that you can stop eating when you’ve had enough, even if that means leaving something on your plate.
Checklist – these are the weight loss strategies you are now incorporating into everyday life
Now congratulate yourself for making these change! As you make relaxed mindful eating a new way of life weight loss is the natural outcome.
(3) Mireille Guiliano, French Women Don’t Get Fat, Chatto and Windus 2005