It’s not just what you eat, it’s how you eat it.
I have spent many years assessing what I eat. As an overweight 20-year-old, I had to adjust my food intake for healthy options so I could trim down and look the way I want to.
I lost the weight and for more than a decade now, I have kept it off, and I love that I did it. I am so much happier with myself, knowing that the food I eat is refuelling my body and keeping me strong. It was a big change, and it took a long time, but it was worth it.
One thing that hasn’t changed for me though, is that I love to eat. I really do. I look forward to every meal and snack every day, whether they are gourmet delights or something I grabbed on the run. I enjoy them all.
Even though I eat super healthy, there is still one thing I struggle with… portion sizes. I love eating so much that I can easily overeat. I eat quickly and a lot and I often justify my portions (which are larger than my husband’s) with, it’s ok, it’s healthy.
While that may be true, another truth is that I usually end each meal feeling uncomfortable, because I’ve eaten too much. And while it is all healthy, I don’t need to be eating those quantities. I’m not an elite athlete in training, I’m not still growing, and I am not trying to bulk up. So, for me, there is such a thing as over-fuelling.
So how do I address this issue?
Interestingly, an Instagram account I follow called @koalalove gave me a few ideas on how I can start to change. Kate is a health, wellness and mindset coach in Newcastle, NSW, and in a recent post she discussed HOW we eat, and it really got me thinking.
I decided to put her tips into practice, and it has made such a difference. It’s no longer just enjoying the taste of food; it’s appreciating the meal. It means I now finish my normal portion feeling satisfied, and not scrambling for seconds, thirds (dare I say fourths?)
Here are Kate’s top three tips to impact your food intake:
1) The 20-minute meal
Use a stopwatch or your phone to time how long it takes you to eat a meal. Do this over two or three days. Then start to add five minutes to your meals until you reach 20 minutes per meal.
This is a great tip and worked for me in a couple of ways. The first is, I started to really appreciate the food I am eating.
The second is more scientific. Studies show it takes 20 – 30 minutes after your first mouthful for the brain and stomach to communicate and register a “full” feeling. By eliminating the speed eating, I started to acknowledge that full feeling long before I was overfull.
Finally, as a bonus, my mealtimes have become a proper break time in my day. Most of us think we “stop for lunch” but my habit was to eat as fast as possible and then get back to whatever. By the end of the day, I was burnt out. Now, I really am having break time, refuelling the body and the mind. Win win!
2) Cutlery down and breath x 3
At three points during your meal, put down your cutlery and take your hands away from the plate or table. Then take one big, conscious breath.
Just like tip one, this really helped me to slow down my meal, give me that break in my day, and make me acknowledge and register that I am eating.
I know what you’re thinking… how can I not know I’m eating? Easy.
So many of my snacks and meals were on the run, or combined with something else (working, watching TV, cooking something for the kids) so my brain didn’t really register food. It didn’t remember. So, what happened was I pretty much forget I had that meal or snack, and I’d treat myself to another one. Overeating yet again.
I’ve also used the “down time” to drink more water throughout my meal. This helps to slow down the eating, keep me hydrated and help me to feel full.
3) Don’t drink, chew
In the age of the Nutribullet and protein shakes, it seems faster and easier to drink your meal instead of chew. However, as Kate pointed out,
we are evolutionarily wired to recognise eating through the chewing action. Meal replacement shakes and smoothies bypass this critical brain pattern because there is no chewing action.
Chewing signals eating, which results in fulness signals to the brain.
Furthermore, chewing is the first stage of digestion. By doing more of the work with my teeth, my stomach can breakdown and digest food more efficiently. As part of my 20-minute meal, I am chewing my food for longer.
I still use protein shakes, but only when I absolutely must. That is, I am really hungry, and I am really, honestly pressed for time. I learned years ago, thanks to a few weeks with a Nutribullet, that drinking my meals gave me absolutely no joy. As someone who loves to eat, smoothie meals were never going to work for me.
Now I have more of an understanding of why meal replacements aren’t for me.
I have no doubt there is a lot more information out there on improvements to how we eat. For now, implementing these three easy steps has made a big difference. Mind you, at this early stage I still really must concentrate and constantly remind myself to slow down. After all, old habits are hard to shake, but I can see this being a really good long-term adjustment.
Give it a go – like me you may be pleasantly surprised.