Monster muffins, mega cookies, gargantuan meal platters—such are the choices that await you 24/7 everywhere, from bookstores to gas stations. No wonder we’re consuming 200 to 500 calories more per day today than we did twenty years ago. You see, science shows that when you are given a portion of food—whether it’s a sandwich and fries or a package of snack chips, you tend to eat that portion, no matter its size. Since it takes a while for your brain to get the cues that you’re full, you keep eating until the food is gone. And research also shows that you eat more when food is out in the open, such as when you have a bowl of candy on your desk. You also eat more when food is served on bigger plates or even when larger serving spoons are used. And when you eat food in front of the TV or computer, you also can lose track of how much you’re eating. What does all of this mean? It means that you should eat more mindfully. Become aware of your eating environment and the eating triggers that can derail you, and learn to enjoy the experience of eating healthfully.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started eating mindfully. First of all, get in touch with your portion sizes. Try to serve up a true portion size for foods, such as one-half cup of hot cereal or cooked pasta, potatoes, or rice; 1 cup of breakfast cereal flakes; 1 ounce of nuts or seeds; or 1⁄2 cup fruit. Now, let your mind fully absorb what that portion size really means and looks like, so that it will be your new normal (this may take eating it several times to sink in). And when you’re faced with a multi-serving package of prepared food, such as crackers or trail mix, portion it into single servings rather than polishing off the bag in one sitting.
Second, when you eat, really enjoy it. Whenever possible, don’t eat your meals while sitting at the computer, watching television, or commuting to the office. Relish the flavors, textures, and bounty of food on your plate, and be satisfied with it. You don’t have to eat until you feel stuffed to the brim. Consider the Japanese custom called hara hachi bu, which means eating until you feel 80 percent full which helps Japanese people have much lower rates of obesity than those in many other countries. Mindful eating is essential for finding balance with your weight and health. And be attuned to other signals from your body, too. If, after eating a normal portion of food, you often feel digestive distress, you may be sensitive to one or another ingredients in the meal. Visit a doctor or dietitian to investigate this possibility before removing any foods from your diet.
Excerpt from Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps and 125 Delicious Recipes, © Sharon Palmer, on sale July 8. Reprinted with permission from the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.