If I asked you to recall every meal that you’ve eaten in the past week and some of the amounts would you be able to do it accurately ?
Obviously without a scale or calorie tracker being able to tell how many calories, grams or a macronutrient breakdown would be pretty difficult.
Even beyond that most people would have a hard time recalling what their meals were from the different days.
The point is that people are rarely fully engaged with the food they are eating, how full they are or even how some foods make them feel.
If we aren’t consciously engaged in the process of eating, then the environment and our hardwired habits begin to shape our eating habits without us even knowing it.
Most of the time people don’t overeat because of physical hunger, but because of the environmental triggers and habits that lead to mindless eating.
Everyone has sat down before to watch a TV show with a newly opened bag of chips, and without even realizing it ate the whole bag.
Most people are completely unaware of the many influences around them that control how much they eat.
Things such as social gatherings, packages, plate sizes, prices, labels, colors lights, containers, container size and the visibility of a food all play a role in how much we eat on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.
Whether any of us want to admit it or not we are impacted by these factors, and have probably been influenced by them already today.
We make over 200 food related decisions each day ranging from eating or skipping a meal, what we should eat and where we should eat that food.
The funny aspect of these food decisions we make daily is we can’t explain our decisions, mostly because we aren’t aware that we are making them.
In this blog we are going to look at ways to help you understand why you eat the way you do, how to avoid the traps of eating too much and making healthier choices for better health, and some accidental fat loss.
Why Your Diet Isn’t Working
When a diet is based on restriction and you consciously deny yourself something the craving for that food is only going to increase.
When I tell you not to think of a purple elephant, what do you think of ? certainly not a purple elephant.
The same applies to the foods you restrict for long periods of time. The longer you avoid this forbidden fruit the greater that craving becomes.
This principle is especially heightened when combined with calorie restriction, because you are underfed, most likely over exercised and a little miserable so you turn to thoughts of food that have pleasurable associations.
What needs to be addressed is that too many people focus on what they shouldn’t have while adhering to specific diet.
No one likes to be told what to do, we are all rebels in our minds so when we are told to avoid a food our thoughts immediately go to that food. Purple elephant….
First and foremost decide why you really want to change, not a surface reason but deep down why achieving this will make you happier.
Never go on a diet that starves you or tells you to eat 1,200 calories is an acceptable amount to eat, that isn’t healthy for you mentally or physically and can damage your health.
Focus on the foods that you enjoy and get to eat, not those foods that you are avoiding. Use a nutrition framework that cycle nutrients and don’t overly restrict one macronutrient for too long.
Give the nutrition plan time to work, if you gained weight over a time span of years don’t expect to lose it all in one month, be patient and consistent.
Learn The Difference Between Full and No Longer Hungry
You will rarely hear anyone say that their are stuffed after a half a plate of food, it’s usually after someone has wiped their entire plate clean that they have to unbuckle their belt.
Many times people devour their entire plate of food before they give a second thought to the volume of food they have just consumed.
Our body doesn’t count calories, grams or macros but it is really great at knowing how much food is enough.
The gut communicates with the brain about the amount of food and nutrients we have, and triggers the brain to keep hunger turned on or turn it off.
This communication between the brain and gut takes 15-20 minutes, but people eat so quickly that they don’t give their body time to send that that signal leading to overeating.
Learn the gap between being full and no longer hungry, some people refer to this as eating until 80% full. About 80 % full is when people are no longer hungry, but if you don’t pay attention you will clean the plate, no matter the size of it.
A way to get better at this is to chew your food really well, roughly 30 times per bite or to put your fork down in between bites of food.
When the next bite of food is significantly less appealing than the previous one put the fork down and push the plate away.
People See Volume, Not Calories
When someone looks at a plate of food they see the shape and volume of the food, they don’t see the caloric content of everything, hopefully.
The same goes for the way people eat their food, they eat based on the volume of food they feel would be appropriate, not the number of calories.
This way of eating is instinctual, and allows us to regulate the amount of energy we should consume based on needs and hunger.
If you feel like you are eating a greater volume of foods, regardless of the calories in that meal you will feel just as satisfied.
If someone feels like they are eating enough food in terms of quantity and volume they are less likely to get second unless their stomach says so. The mind has a powerful influence on our perceived cravings and hunger.
Simple Is Better
When trying to lose fat, keeping the process simple and not making things to complicated is a key to success, making food choices is the exact same way.
The simpler you can keep your foods the less you are likely to overeat. Steak with asparagus and a sweet potato tastes great, has everything your body needs and extremely simple.
By simply making better food choices and keeping meals simpler you will get the same satisfaction from meals, but can easily create a calorie deficit for some added fat loss.
I love a gourmet meal as much as the next guy, but if you are trying to lose weight or stick to a nutrition plan keeping it simple is a great way to not overcomplicate things.
Put a source of protein on your plate the size of your palm, two closed fist portions of veggies, use three thumbs worth of oils or fats and then add one open cupped hand worth of a starch. If fat loss is your goal save the starch for the days you worked out.
Smaller Plates and Bowls
The size of a bowl or plate you eat off of can lead to inaccurate judgements about serving sizes you are about to eat or have eaten already.
The exact same portion of food served on different sized dinnerware such as a large plate and small plate changes the perception of how much food is being consumed.
By altering your environment in the form of dinnerware you change the perception of the amount of food you are consuming.
While changing the size of the plates and bowls someone eats off can make them overeat, it also has the capability to make people eat more of the right foods and less of the ones they should avoid.
Foods such as vegetables that are served on larger plates would encourage people to eat more of them because the food looks like a smaller serving on a larger plate.
On the opposite side serving sweets and desserts on smaller plate makes the portion look larger and more satisfying even with a smaller serving. Try this next time you have friend over for dinner and take notice of how the dinnerware impacts the amount of food people eat. Don’t be weird about it, just take a mental note.
Food shouldn’t be viewed as a reward or a punishment, you need to eat for the rest of your life so your relationship with food matters.
Very restrictive diets that lead people to eventually binge is not a roadmap to a healthy relationship with food, your body or mind.
Getting in touch with how your environment and perception of food shapes your consumption is a great place to start.
First and foremost chew your foods better and allow your body the time to tell you when it’s full so you are not overeating regularly.
Learn to tell the difference between being full and not hungry, I don’t want you to undereat just don’t stuff yourself every time you sit down to eat.
If you find the next bite is significantly less appealing than the last put your fork down, push the plate away and pack up the leftovers.
Fill your plate with nutrient dense foods that improve your health and taste good. Remember your brain sees the volume of food not necessarily the calories, so use vegetables, protein, healthy fats and starches to occupy your plate.
Keep meals simple, this allows you to enjoy your foods and really taste them, this also takes the stress out of cooking and removes the expectation that every meal needs to be a party in your mouth.
This isn’t to discourage you from kicking your heels up and having an elegant rich meal from time to time but keep most of your meals simple. Protein, fat, veggies and some starch if you would like.
Lastly serve healthier foods you want to consume more of on a larger plate to make the portion look smaller and encourage you to eat more of that food.
For the more indulgent foods serve them on a smaller plate so the serving looks larger and you feel satisfied with less.
If you have any questions you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, have a great weekend and stay tuned for a new blog next week.
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These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained, while keeping you accountable along the way.