By Dr. Jean Harvey, Ph.D., R.D., Joyce Hendley, M.S., EatingWell Editors, The EatingWell Diet (2007)
Your eating patterns—such as the timing between mouthfuls and the order in which you eat the food on your plate—can have a real impact on how many calories you consume in a day. Modifying these little details to work in your favor can be a help when you’re trying to lose weight. Here are some simple tactics that can help you cut calories without changing what you eat.
1. Designate one eating place. Restrict all your eating to one location, such as the kitchen or dining room table. It should be comfortable, but not filled with distractions like television, reading material or computer screens. By luring your focus away from your food, they can make you eat more. You may also start pairing or associating eating with an activity, like watching television. It’s bad enough that television commercials tempt us with high-calorie food advertisements, but if just turning the box on makes you start thinking “eat now,” it’s that much harder to stay on track.
2. Don’t come to the table ravenous. Your hunger could easily drive you to go overboard, and you’ll wolf down more food than you need before you know it. Try not to let more than five hours elapse between meals, and never skip a meal.
3. Eat only on plates and bowls. This helps reinforce that you’re eating a meal, and that it has a beginning and an end.
4. Don’t take serving bowls to the table. Keep the food on the kitchen counter and just carry your plate to the table. Leaving the serving bowls on the table makes it way too easy to take seconds.[pagebreak]
5. Fill up on fiber first. Loading up on high-fiber foods like vegetables helps you feel full and can prevent you from overdoing on higher-calorie fare later. Start the meal with salad, a broth-based vegetable soup, some fresh fruit or a vegetable side dish.
6. Slow down. It takes about 20 minutes for “I’m full” signals to reach your brain. If you’ve inhaled an entire meal in 13 minutes, those satiety messages haven’t had enough time to signal that you’ve eaten four portions. So put down the fork or spoon between each bite. (Some people find that eating with smaller utensils—like a teaspoon instead of a soup spoon, or chopsticks—helps them stay on a slower pace.) Chat with your dining companions—or if you’re alone, take some relaxing breaths.
7. Listen to your body. Think of your hunger on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “ravenous” and 5 being “stuffed.” Stop eating when you’ve reached about 3 or 4 on the scale—that point where you’re comfortably satisfied, but you could still eat a bit more.