Eat Smaller Portions and Enjoy Each Bite.
Americans have lost sight of what a portion should be. In the 1950’s our dinner plate size was 9” and now it's a staggering 12”. Our norms of what we should eat have gotten bigger, and so have our waistlines. Choosing smaller plates and bowls, allow us to naturally eat less. Also, if we slow down our eating, our stomachs have enough time to communicate to our brains that we are satisfied. There are also theories that we need to notice the smell and taste of our food to feel satisfied. Eating more slowly and mindfully allow us to be satisfied with smaller meals. This is Shift #6 in The 15 Shifts to Becoming a Real Loser Series.
Shift # 6 Eat Smaller Portions and Enjoy Each Bite
After helping hundreds of people lose weight as a health coach, I started to wonder what things my successful weight loss clients had in common. I noticed that there were 15 shifts they made in their thinking and behavior that allowed them to lose weight and keep it off without dieting. I wrote The 15 Shifts to Becoming a Real Loser series to create a road map for my readers and weight loss clients. I have been explaining each shift, so you too can incorporate them into your life and lose weight without dieting.
Shift #6 Eat Smaller Portions and Enjoy Each Bite is broken down into two different posts. In part 1, I talked about why downsizing your plate is the first change I recommend for weight loss. Now on to the second part of Shift #6 Enjoy Each Bite.
Your Parent's Advice
In shift #3, we talked about paying attention to your body.
Now I want you to pay attention to your meal and eat slowly to lose more weight.
Turns out that your parents’ advice to stop watching TV while eating, take smaller bites, and chew your food, were not only good manners, they're essential to eating less and losing weight.
I promise that "Eating Slowly" is a superpower shift. Taking your time to eat and paying attention to your meal will help you to naturally eat less, BUT (here’s the coolest part) you will be so satisfied with your meal that you will think that you ate way more than you actually did.
Here's how this advice works to help you lose weight, but feel amazingly full...
Pay Attention or Your Brain Thinks It's Still Hungry
Did you know that the digestion of your meal is kickstarted even before you take the first bite? Don't believe me. Think about sucking on a lemon wedge.
Drooling yet? Yep, your brain told your salivary glands that a lemon was coming, and your mouth got all wateryThis is part of what is called the Cephalic Phase Digestive Response (CPDR). Cephalic basically means head. Yep, that's where digestion starts--in your head.
Seeing, smelling, or thinking about food (like lemons;-) stimulates the brain to get the digestive processes going. The Cephalic Phase Digestive Response encompasses saliva secretion and releasing digestive enzymes in the stomach to prepare for incoming food.
Marc David in his book The Slow Down Diet explains that 30-40% of our digestion is because of the Cephalic Phase Digestive Response (CPDR).
Now here’s the really important part. If you’re distracted and don't pay attention, you’ll miss out on that digestive response. You need to pay attention to your meal by eating slowly, smelling the food, and noticing, savoring, and even enjoying the food to take advantage of the CPDR.
Marc David says,”The Cephalic Phase Digestive Response is not only a response, it’s a full-blown nutritional requirement. The brain must experience taste, pleasure, aroma, and satisfaction so it can accurately assess a meal and catalyze our most efficient digestive force. When we eat too fast or fail to notice our food, the brain seems to interpret this missed experience as hunger. It’s not clever enough to say to us 'Hey, you inhaled your breakfast, ate like a maniac during lunch, and snacked like a hungry beast.' The brain simply says 'I don’t remember eating anything. I didn’t get any satisfaction. Nothing happened. Hungry.' And so we reach for more food.”
The Phantom Eater
I am embarrassed to admit that on more than one occasion I’ve looked at my phone while eating, got up to do something, and then accused my kids of eating the rest of my meal. After interviewing everybody in the vicinity, I realized that I had finished it myself!
I call this The Phantom Eater. The Phantom Eater is the guy who swoops down and eats our food when we aren’t paying attention.
We’ve got to stop letting the “Phantom Eater” inhale our meals if we want to lose weight without dieting and keep it off. It’s time for us to pay attention. Remind yourself that if you love food, you owe it to yourself to pay attention and savor each and every one of those scrumptious bites.
So how do we pay attention? We only eat while eating, take smaller bites, and chew our food longer.
Eat When You Eat. That's It.
Your focus on your food and your memory of your last meal contributes to the regulation of how much food you eat. In fact, people who suffer brain injuries that affect the short term memory areas of their brain will forget that they ate, and just like a Hobbit, will want second breakfast.
Researchers have looked at watching TV, playing computer games, listening to the radio, or even eating with other people as causing people to lose track of how much they ate and eating more than they would have otherwise.
People will estimate that they ate less when they don’t pay attention, they won’t digest their food as well, they will not be as full, and here’s the kicker, they will eat more at their next meal also.
Marc David puts it like this,”This raises some interesting questions, such as what happens when we eat and watch TV, or eat while driving, or eat while working at the desk? Metabolizing a meal is like absorbing a conversation. If we were talking with a friend who wasn’t really paying attention, we’d walk away feeling incomplete and wishing for more.”
He goes on to sum it up, “That’s why in my unofficial estimation, about nine out of ten people I speak to who say they have an overeating problem, don’t. Their problem is that they fail to eat when they eat. It’s a clinical deficiency in Vitamin A—awareness. They aren’t present with their meals …which results in a continued longing for food. What’s ironic is that those who fall into this category think they have a willpower problem, but they don’t…Yes, we have a problem with what we eat, but perhaps our bigger concern should be how we live.”
Drop the mic, let’s all go home. Beautifully put. No I was just kidding, don’t go.
It makes no sense to try and willpower yourself to eat less if you could just naturally eat less by paying attention to your meals and not get distracted by the screens in your life.
Take Smaller Bites and Chew Longer
Now that you’ve turned off your phone and are staring at the food on your small plate, how can you be more satisfied with less food?
Remember what your parents told you to do when you were a teenager--take smaller bites and chew your food well (And while you're at it, clean your room too! Just Kidding).
The satisfaction we feel for food depends on the amount of time we chew it or how long it is in our mouth which is called “oral sensory stimulation.” More chewing means more mouth time, so smaller bites with more chewing leads to more oral sensory stimulation, more satisfaction, more fullness/ satiety, and less food eaten.
Researchers have found that people who eat bigger portions, don’t take more bites, they just take bigger bites.
By taking smaller bites and chewing for longer, we help our brains notice that we are eating. By savoring the experience of food in your mouth, you end up more satisfied with less food. In other words the longer you keep food in your mouth, the better the sensory experience, and the less food you will eat.
So how can you take advantage of Shift #6 Use a Smaller Plate and Enjoy each Bite? Check out my upcoming Toolbelt Tuesday Challenge to get practice with this Shift.
Double Your Satisfaction Mantra
But for now, I want you to think back thirty years ago to the cheesy Doublemint gum commercials. If you're too young for that, you can check one out here. They had twins doing things like walking at the zoo or sun tanning while chewing gum. The slogan was something like Double your Pleasure, Double your Fun, Doublemint Gum.
I want you to think this mantra next time you eat. Double your Bites, Double your Chews, Double your Satisfaction to Lose. (My daughter said it had to rhyme:-).
Double your Bites (take smaller bites so you take twice as many bites), Double your Chews (chew your food for twice as long), and Double your (Meal Time) Satisfaction to Lose (you'll feel more satisfied and eat less at the same time).
Sounds easy? It's simple, but it does take some retraining of your meal time habits. But, so worth it!!!! It's key to losing weight and keeping it off without dieting. Just keep saying the mantra over and over again while you're eating.
If you want more step-by-step practice, check out my new Toolbelt Tuesday Challenge for more.
Until next time,
Get the Guide to Losing Weight without Dieting!
What are the secrets of the most successful losers? After coaching hundreds of people, I found these 15 habits and mind shifts in my clients who lose weight and keep it off. Now I'm sharing the guide to losing weight without dieting with you. Get the guide here...
I'm a dietitian, personal trainer, and health coach who started asking all the tough health and weight loss questions-- like how do we get more willpower, why can’t we stay motivated, and why is getting healthy and losing weight so tough?
I discovered that the answer to all these questions is simply--Your Brain.
I help you stop the health and weight loss struggles by understanding your brain and then working with it—instead of against it. Then, I teach you how to put your personalized healthy habits on autopilot for results that last.
I believe that you deserve the health and energy to live your best life.