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Healthy Living

Portion Control

Eating Styles

Your eating style is a manner of expression that has taken years to cultivate. Take a moment to think about what your eating style says about you. Consider your attitude towards food, what food represents to you, the speed you eat, and how much you eat in a single serving.

People with weight problems frequently have elements of style in common that lead to excess weight. For example, do you gulp down your food in a hurry or eat on-the-run? Do you heap mounds of food on your plate? Do you put another bite into your mouth before finishing the last one? These eating styles lead to two common problems that cause weight gain; eating too much, too fast.

When food is eaten too fast, your brain doesnít have enough time to sense that your body has been fed and turn off the hunger signals. Physiologically, it takes about 20 minutes before your brain receives the "full" signal from your stomach and intestines. Consequently, if you quickly eat alot of food, by the time this signal reaches your brain, youíre overstuffed and uncomfortable.

There are a number of techniques that will increase the amount of time you spend eating, decrease the amount of food you eat, and teach you to enjoy your food more. These strategies are deceptively simple but they take time and effort to master. Donít try to take them on all at once, it will prevent you from thoroughly practicing each technique. Start with one and as it becomes habit move to the next:

  • Put your utensil down between each bite. This is a very important technique and I recommend you practice this one first because it will significantly increase the amount of time you spend eating. Put your utensil down after putting the food into your mouth and donít pick it up, or put another bite on it, until youíve swallowed the previous bite. It takes a surprising amount of conscious effort to continually practice this strategy. You may want to include your family in this practice so you can remind one another during meals.

  • Pause at some point during the meal for at least 3 minutes and donít eat at all. During the pause, take 5 deep breaths and let your body relax. Tune into how youíre feeling at this point during the meal. How does the meal taste? Are you beginning to feel full? How does the food feel in your body? Donít worry if you can only pause for 1 minute at first. Keep working your way up to three minutes or more.

  • Serve two courses. Start your meal with a healthy vegetable soup or low-fat salad. When finished with the first course, clear the table of the soup bowls or salad plates and wait 3-5 minutes before serving the second course. Spend this time taking deep breaths, tuning into how youíre feeling and engaging in conversation, if youíre eating with someone else.

  • Use as many senses as you can to enjoy your food. Itís not uncommon for people to rely primarily on the sense of taste to get satisfaction from a meal. With some conscious effort, you can learn to round out the enjoyment of your meal using other senses as well.

  • Start with the visual appeal of the food. Notice the colors of the various foods and the variety of textures and shapes each food contributes to the meal. Next, take a deep breath and smell the food. Take a moment to savor the smell of individual bites. By using your sense of smell, you may be fooling the brain into thinking youíve eaten more than you actually have. While chewing each bite, feel the food in your mouth and on your tongue. Chewing thoroughly will release all the flavors in the food so you can fully experience the taste while allowing you time to enjoy the feeling of the foodís texture.

  • Set a limit. Prior to your meal, set a limit to the amount of food you will eat. Portion control is a major factor in weight management. The amount of food you should eat depends on your specific energy needs. If there are high fat items in the meal, treat them as a condiment and allow yourself a small amount. Then eat the lowfat, more healthful items as the bulk of your meal.

  • Cook only enough to eat for each meal. Another common problem that contributes to eating too much is the amount of food prepared for the meal. Learn to gauge the actual amount of food that will be eaten and cook accordingly This reduces leftovers and the temptation to go back for second or third helpings.

  • Pay attention to your appetite. Gain an awareness of your appetite throughout the meal. Itís common to begin a meal eating fairly rapid when youíre physically hungry but shortly into the meal your pace should slow down. As you progress through your meal, notice that as you become less hungry, the food doesnít taste as good as it did when you started. When you no longer feel hungry and you arenít savoring the meal-- stop eating.

  • Donít be afraid to leave food on your plate. As children, most of us were continually reminded to clean our plates up for some ridiculous reason or another. If you're a member of the Clean Plate Club, it's time to break free! Itís okay to leave food on your plate if your hunger is satisfied.

  • To keep food waste to a minimum, learn to gauge your hunger. Take small portions that youíll likely be able to finish. If youíre still hungry go back for seconds and take a smaller portion. This way youíre not throwing a plate full of food into the garbage, only a few morsels at the most.

  • Use a small plate. Eating off of a small plate has a couple of benefits, it will help you gain some control over your portion sizes and it may trick your mind into thinking youíve fed your body more than you actually have. This strategy will not be effective if you allow yourself third and fourth helpings because it's a small plate. Treat your plate as though it's full size when it comes to portion control.

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