How often do you say “I’ll grab something on the run”, “I had to smash down some food before I started” or “I’ll just eat at my desk”?
We are all multi tasking so much that we have lost the value of sitting down and enjoying a meal. We are so rushed that we rarely consciously embrace the type of food being consumed, the environment we are in and the people we are lucky enough to share the meal with.
As someone who is only home for family dinner once during the week and hardly at all for breakfast at a regular hour, I know how frustrating the advice of family mealtimes can be. I definitely find myself slipping into the pattern of meals on the run and rushing down my food.
The problem with this is twofold. Firstly, getting together as a family at mealtime is an important time to connect with each other and reinforce healthy eating habits for your kids. Now that my kids are old enough to sit down at the table and chat, I really value that time we spend together and the ritual of sitting down and talking about our days.
When it comes to managing your weight, eating on the run can cause real problems. Have you ever stuffed in food in the car, or at your desk, and reached the end of the meal with barely any memory of eating? This kind of mindless eating does not give our brains the chance to acknowledge that we have in fact had a satisfying meal.
Rushing through a meal without properly turning your attention to the food and savouring it may do the job of physically filling you up, but it will leave you far from satisfied.
If weight loss was just about calories in versus calories out, as many of my contemporaries argue to my frustration, just shoveling the food in at certain times of day would be fine. However, as anyone who has eaten when they are not hungry, or kept eating past fullness (aka EVERYONE) can attest, this is just not the case.
The secret to lasting weight loss is simple but incredibly difficult at the same time: we just have to tune into our bodies to identify true hunger, consciously ENJOY what we are eating, learn to recognise the early signs of satiation, and notice the way we feel after eating certain foods.
If we don’t pay attention when we are eating and allow ourselves to be present rather than staring at a screen, we are robbing ourselves of the chance to tune into our bodies and really take pleasure in our food.
It is proven that we consume more calories if we eat in front of the television, when we eat with a group of friends and if there is food left out after cooking.
So, if you are like me, and your schedule dictates that sitting down at the family table for most meals is just impossible, you have to get innovative when it comes to elevating the importance of meal time. Here are some tips to ensure you consume an appropriate quantity of food and you enjoy the meal.
1. Set a meal time and stick to it. Make it a ritual to have your three main meals at roughly the same time each day.
2. Block out most distractions including TV, work, mobile phones and computers.
3. Set the table, pull out your silverware and put your food on a plate. Even at work, avoid eating out of plastic containers. Seeing your food on the plate will give you a feeling of abundance and remind you that this is, in fact, an eating occasion.
4. Slooooow down, even timing yourself if you have to. Challenge yourself to eat at a slower pace. You may have a drink in between mouthfuls of food or place your knife and fork down. Have a conversation! Anything that breaks that non-stop cycle of shoveling will give you a chance to notice your food.
5. Following cooking, serve the portions and store the remainder of the food away. Serve yourself a decent, realistic portion and when it’s done, it’s done. When you get really good at tuning into your body, you will probably even get full before you have finished the food and leave some on your plate. Notice how “naturally skinny” people eat. They rarely clean their plates, because they don’t rely on whether or not there is any food left to tell them they’re full, they listen to their bodies.
6. Change your post dinner habit. In the past, you may have stayed in the kitchen or family room and consumed more food. Go for a shower and brush your teeth, or get outside for a quick post-dinner walk. You will be amazed at the fresh feeling you develop and are hesitant to lose that feeling, and you will have sent yourself a message that dinnertime is over.
7. Eat to 80% full. As I’ve written about before, the Japanese practise “hara hachi bu”, which allows them to control their portion size by noticing when they are close to being full, giving their bodies a chance to register this fullness before they overeat.