Snacking is the downfall of many dieters, but meal time is no less dangerous. Not just the type of food, but even how we plate our food and eat it can make or break a diet plan.
To lose weight in a controlled manner, you need to maintain a caloric deficit over a period of weeks or months. Each day you must eat and drink fewer calories than your body burns.
Any mistep, and you can easily flip from burning more than you consumed that day to a calorie surplus. Those extra calories will be turned into even more fat by the body.
You may not realize it, but it's possible to gain weight while eating only healthy foods. Remember, it's not only about the fat and sugar you consume. It's about the calories.
So controlling your food serving sizes (portions) at meal times is critical. Don't randomly heap the food on your plate, even if it is healthy food. You're guaranteed to consume too many calories that way.
A neat trick for keeping portion sizes small is portion plates. In other words, get rid of your big plates and use smaller ones!
I leave my big dinner plates in the cabinet. I eat from my medium and small size dishes instead. Simple, effective.
The people of Okinawa, Japan have a wonderful habit of intentionally leaving part of their meal on the plate. Unlike Westerners who feel they need to "clean" their plate, Okinawans almost never eat it all. It's a meal-time tradition they call hara hachi bu.
So you're eating smaller portions, on smaller plates, and then you leave part of the meal there. (You can throw out the rest or save it in a tupperware.) How could you not consume fewer calories and lose weight?
Adopt meal-time tricks like these gradually. Overeating can be psychological. You don't want to suddenly change all your meal-time habits and end up feeling deprived.
Start small. Today, start following the portion size rules of thumb when you cook. Work on that for a couple of weeks.
In a few weeks, pack away all your large dinner plates. Slowly get comforatable eating from your smaller dishes.
A few weeks later, start hara hachi bu. Make an effort to eat slower, stop when you feel 80% full, and throw out the rest.
By the way, eating more slowly is one of the best ways to eat less at meal time. It takes the brain about 20 minutes to register the contents of the stomach. If you gobble down your meal, it's easy to demolish an entire plateful of food before your brain can even begin to tell you to stop!
Gradual change is the name of the game. Let's beat the diet roller coaster by stretching it out flat. Get your weight-loss on a gradual downhill slope, not a series of traumatic ups and downs.
There are lots of other little weight-loss tricks you can employ at meal times and even when snacking.
For example, to avoid overeating on snack foods, make sure to always plate your food. Don't eat pretzels, chips, or popcorn directly from the bag! (You shouldn't eat much of these foods anyway.)
Putting the food on a plate imposes a visible limit on how much you consume. Eating from a bag is like having a bottomless pit of calories in front of your face.
And make sure you always eat at a table, too. No snacking in the car!
How about when your going out to a party, barbecue, or other event where there will be copious amounts of food? Stamp down your hunger by having a healthy snack at home before you go.
When you eat before you meet, there's less chance you'll pig out when away from home.
It's the little things you do that add up to big benefits. Form a set of habits at meal times that encourages weight loss. The pounds will start dropping off before you know it.
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