Women are driven. We like to get the job done. So when we come up against an overflowing bowl of French fries or a full dinner plate, we don’t like to be defeated—it will be taken down.
While this ambition makes us successful CEOs and budding entrepreneurs, sometimes, it does more harm than good. Case in point: going to bed with a stomach full of ice cream, cramps and guilt.
If you’ve ever been there, chances are you’d wished your hand had listened to your head when it told you to “Put. The. Fork. Down”. But when confronted by a delicious meal—and the prospect of food wastage—it can be easier said than done. So, to help us out, we turned to the experts to teach us, well, a little self-discipline.
#1 Trick … I encourage my clients to stop halfway through their meal for a few minutes and assess how much and IF they really need to continue eating. The pause supports messaging and recognition of satiety between our brain and gut.
Other handy tips … Put your fork down between each mouthful. This works wonders in a few ways:
the physical act of placing the fork back on your plate forces you to slow down, instead of keeping it in hand, which hastens the process of eating
it allows you time (and is a gentle reminder) to chew your food well. Too many of us bite and chew a few times before swallowing. Nutritionally, we recommend 15-20 chews before swallowing a mouthful.
it encourages people to engage with their food. Seeing the fork on the plate, looking at their food and what they’re doing with it before picking the fork up again. What happens? We acknowledge what is there. Eating, nourishing and absorbing the nutrients in our food doesn’t just come from chewing and swallowing, it’s also facilitated by smell, touch and visually engaging with our food too.
#1 Trick …The trick is to eat mindfully to begin with. That means being present with each meal, removing all distractions around you (phones, tv, any screen!) and sitting with your meal, enjoying each mouthful. I love to advise my clients to take 3 deep breaths before eating to centre themselves and eat mindfully. You’ll find that when you eat more mindfully, you’re much better at determining when you are full.
Other handy tips …
Make sure each meal has the right macronutrients to keep you full (e.g. a good-quality protein, a healthy fat, a low GI source of carbohydrates like quinoa, brown rice or sweet potato). I include a full 8-week meal plan in my new program, which can help you ensure you’re eating a complete meal each time, therefore keeping your appetite in check.
I also feel a lot of people rush the process of eating. It’s something that should be enjoyed. Why rush such a pleasurable experience? If you take more time to eat you may be more in tune with when you actually feel full and it can really help avoid overeating.
#1 Trick … The hypothalamus is the main area in the brain responsible for regulating appetite. As soon as the fullness signal kicks in, pack away any leftover food, knowing that in 20-30 minutes, if hunger returns, there is food available. A lot of people are concerned by food waste and feel the need to eat all of the food served to them. Using food as leftovers is a way to cut down on any guilt. Other handy tips …
It takes time and practise to start eating in tune with your natural hunger cues. Accept that it is a work in progress.
If you are used to eating large portions, use a smaller plate at meals and start gradually reducing the size of what you are serving.
Avoid eating in a stressed and/or emotional state as food can be used to ‘numb’ emotions and this can lead to overeating.
Balance your meals correctly so you do not arrive at a mealtime starving, which will result in overeating. Specifically, make sure you are including a source of lean protein at each meal including chicken, fish, lean red meat, eggs, legumes, tofu, dairy or nuts/seeds.
#1 Trick … The key is to first eat mindfully, chewing each mouthful at least 20 times and place your cutlery down between bites. From there, once you have finished, get up from the table and put the rest of your dinner away in a container for leftovers tomorrow. To stop you going back for seconds, apply ‘the 20-minute rule’, where you have to wait 20 minutes before eating any more food. More often than not your body has had time to catch up and realise that one portion was more than enough. Other handy tips … Hydration is key. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger and it is very easy to overeat when you are thirsty.
#1 Trick … Practice mindful eating. Really concentrate on the food that you are eating rather than mindlessly continuing to eat. Eating in silence, savouring every mouthful and listening to your body. Eating slowly helps to avoid overeating and following recommended portion amounts (see my fact sheets). It can take 20 minutes after eating for the body to recognise that it is full so wait for a good 20 minutes before eating more food after dinner. Other handy tips … Portion control is imperative. Portion up your food rather than helping yourself at the dinner table.