Small food changes that help you slim down

Small food changes that help you slim down

Eating is such a basic and pleasurable part of our lives that we often do it mindlessly.

Pay a little more attention and you might find you’re much more in control of how much you consume than you think. You’ll also discover how much things around you — like plate size — can influence your food decisions.

Little changes can mean a big difference for your waist line — something that fascinates researchers at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. They released a host of findings as part of “The Behavioral Science of Eating” in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research. Here are 10 insights that could change your eating habits:

1. Skip a meal if you’re not particularly hungry.

Are you heading for the fridge because your stomach is growling or just because you’re bored? Try to listen to your body. Eating when you’re not hungry causes your blood sugar to spike, which is not healthy.

2. Be careful around “healthy” food labels.

People tend to overeat food described as “healthy” because they think it’s less filling than “unhealthy” choices. Knowing this, pay attention to the recommended serving size and don’t overload your plate.

3. Install mirrors where you eat.

It turns out watching yourself devour chocolate cake makes the treat less tasty compared to eating it in a room where you can’t see your reflection. Mirrors in the kitchen and dining room add a bit of discomfort if you’re overindulging, but don’t change the taste of healthy food, researchers found.

Small food changes that help you slim down

4. Healthy meals can take a cue from “Happy Meals”.

In experiments, adults and children would rather eat a smaller portion of food paired with a toy or gift card than opt for a larger meal without a prize. Brain scans showed they responded to the prize in the same way they reacted to additional food.

5. Take a hint from Disney’s influence on diners.

When fruits and vegetables became default side dishes for kids’ meals at Walt Disney World restaurants, diners ate at least 11 percent more of them. Make healthy side dishes a default in your own kitchen.

6. Read nutrition labels carefully.

Don’t be seduced by a tasty treat that hides its true calorie count in a very small recommended serving size. Once you start, will you really stop yourself at two pieces or one thin slice? “Smaller recommended serving sizes will let all nutrition values on the label appear smaller too,” says lead author Dr. Ossama Elshiewy from the University of Goettingen. That can lead to overeating.

7. Use smaller plates.

RELATED: Master your munching: Simple ways to eat less every day

8. You’ll eat less from a less fancy plate.

We tend to throw away more food when we eat from paper plates than when we use ceramic dishware. Researchers think this is because we tend to associate food on disposable plates as more disposable, too. No one wants to waste food, but this research shows plate material plays a role in our consumption habits.

9. Choose a fork over a spoon.

This simple change can make a difference in how much you eat. People perceive a food as lower in calories and they want more of it when they eat it with a spoon than a fork. When it doubt, go for the fork!

10. Avoid negative messages.

Dieters who watched a “food police”-style video that bluntly told them “All sugary snacks are bad” ate 39 percent more cookies than those who saw a more positive clip. A gentler combination of negative and positive messages about food has a better effect, researchers say.

Time to change our relationships with food

Time to change our relationships with food

Eating disorder is a serious problem. So what about to examine our eating habits.

Part of the journey to recovery from an eating disorder involves healing the relationship with food. Let’s talk about how every one of us has a relationship to food and what a healthy relationship might look like.

Everybody eats. The way we eat is shaped by many things. When I asked people to reflect on all the things that influence how we eat and what we eat, some common themes emerge:

culture, traditions, religious beliefs
celebrations, birthdays, parties, etc.
emotions, happy and sad
habit or what we are used to
raised to eat a certain way
animal welfare
because we are hungry!

It’s interesting that most times nutrition and health come up last or not at all! When we hear about food in the media, often we only hear about health and nutrition. That’s one reason why food and eating can be a challenge for many – when we only focus on nutrition and health, we leave out so many other reasons why food is important in our lives. It might help to talk about food by talking about the relationships we each have with food and with our bodies. Our relationships to food and eating involve so much more than just nutrients, vitamins and minerals!

When we think about being in a relationship with another person, what are some things that would be part of a healthy relationship?

Things that come to mind may be:

caring for, being there for another

Let’s return to thinking about relationship with food and our bodies. Our bodies want us to communicate and listen. When we’re hungry, our body wants to be fed. Our body wants to trust that we’ll nourish it regularly with food in order to care for it. At other times, we may not feel hungry and our bodies want to enjoy food just for fun or just for comfort. Paying attention to our body’s cues for food is part of having that healthy relationship.

Many people think that dieting is part of being healthy or having a healthy relationship with food. That’s the opposite of the truth. Weight loss dieting can actually interfere with having a healthy relationship to food, both physically and mentally (click here to see our blog post on this topic). Not everyone who diets develops an eating disorder, but nearly all of those with an eating disorder have dieted. Weight loss dieting is rigid and doesn’t allow flexibility with eating.

Just monitoring calories or nutrients doesn’t honour all the other reasons we need to eat. It’s common for people who diet to consider foods as either being in “good” or “bad” categories. This is called the diet mentality and it hurts us more than it helps us. When we connect our feelings and self-esteem to our food choices, we might feel good about ourselves when we eat the food we put in the “good” category and feel bad about ourselves – like we’ve failed or lack will power – when we eat food we think of as “bad”.

This can lead to cycling on and off diets. It can also take away the fun and joy of eating. Our bodies have an innate ability to know how much to eat. When we eat fairly regular meals and snacks, we can use our own internal cues for hunger and fullness to guide us to eat the amount of food that is right for us. This is called intuitive eating.

So what does a healthy relationship to food look like?

It is important to understand that we cannot know someone’s relationship to food or if they have an eating disorder by just looking at them, their body type, or their food choices. For each of us, our healthy relationship with food will look different from day to day. In general, a healthy relationship with food is one that is flexible with some regular structure, includes a variety of foods, is nourishing rather than punishing, and something to be enjoyed and not dreaded. A healthy relationship with food is possible for everyone!