Do you succumb to the chips, cookies and late-night binges?
Do you make excuses every time you do it?
Combine science and behavior change to set you up for success for eating healthy.
I’m Marcey Rader and I am a reformed sugar addict. I’m also a reformed processed-carb user and reformed artificial sweetener abuser (How? That stuff is gross!)
After weaning myself way from multiple-times daily sweets, I’ve had a strategy the last several years that works very well for me.
I choose to eat sweets only on the weekends or real holidays.
I don’t eat sweets during the week.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, although not every day and not all the time, I have sweets if I want to, generally not alone. Do you see how I worded that?
I didn’t say I can’t. By changing that mindset and reframing, I am in control of my choice. I own the decision not to have sweets during the week. Because that rule is black or white for me, it takes away the exhausting thought process of ‘Do I eat it or not?’ during the week. I help myself succeed by owning the choice and removing the decision Monday through Thursday.
Did you know that people who keep fruit on the counter weigh 7-29 pounds less on average than individuals who leave soft drinks and cereal in sight?
Keeping healthy foods in view, rather than tucked away in a cupboard or in an opaque crisper drawer, tricks you into choosing those healthier foods more often and going for the sugary snacks less. Even putting a lid on a container has been shown to reduce intake, even if that container is transparent. I grew up in a kitchen where loaves of bread and bags of chips were always in sight. What do you think I snacked on? If you don’t want to snack on a particular type of food, put it away where you can't see it.
Hide your food from yourself. Want to have treats around, but don’t want to be tempted all the time? Put them in the back of your cupboard or pantry or even place them inside another container. I keep my sweet treats frozen because it takes me so long to eat them. I put them inside boxes of Dr. Praeger’s kale burgers (#addicted) and my bag of frozen salmon. I know they are there, but I’m not tempted by seeing them.
Serving meals family-style with the dishes on the table results in 19% more food eaten. Instead, put only the vegetables or salad on the table. Serve the salad, soup or crudités first, as a course, rather than alongside your main meal. It will extend your meal time, causing you to eat slower. It may also encourage you to put more salad, soup or veggies on your plate rather than the main course since you aren’t trying to make room on the same plate.
Speaking of plates, eat off small plates and out of small bowls. When I tried to find standard size plates, rather than the platters that most department stores offer, it was difficult. Growing up, I used to eat my ice cream out of a cereal bowl. Now, I eat out of a ramekin or bowl that holds about .75 cup at the most. This ends up being a perfect size and fills up my bowl, tricking my eyes. If you want more, you can always go back and fill up again, but will you?
Did you know that people sitting within two tables of the bar drank an average of three more beers or mixed drinks per table of four than sitting just one table farther away? Or that the closer a table was to a TV screen, the more fried food a person ordered? Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, Brian Wansink, Ph.D.
A sports bar is never my choice to go for a meal, solely because of the TVs. I don’t often watch TV while I’m eating at home and if I’m at a restaurant and with someone the focus should be on the people that are sitting at my table, not on a screen. It’s impossible not to look at it. I’ve yet to find an Indian restaurant in my city that isn’t playing Bollywood or an Indian soap opera. I’ve nothing against either, but I can’t enjoy my meal and it makes me choose a different restaurant.
Scope out buffets first, before you get in line, so you know what to get and you don’t load up your plate with foods that are ‘meh’. One study showed that obese people tend to get in line immediately, whereas people of a healthy weight took a look at was offered first.
When I travel abroad, I feel much more comfortable with the sizes. One of the biggest differences I see is in coffee. Here, we have 16 and 20oz as a regular purchase. Did you know that Starbucks actually sells something called a short that is 8 ounces? I’ve never seen it on a menu except in a different country. When doing an intensive in Mexico in February, I had a cappuccino every day and I think because it was in a real glass and smaller, I treasured it more than in my giant Contigo Autoseal Mug (of which I love and will not get rid of). I feel like my 16oz travel mug is utilitarian, but when I’m drinking out of a little fancy cup, I’m special.
Designate 10-60 minutes 1-2 times per week to wash and chop your fruits and veggies so you don’t have an excuse. A little bit of the nutrition may get lost, but eating it rather than letting it go bad will still be better in the long run. One of the best purchases I’ve made in the last year was a Wolfgang Puck 3-Tier Steamer. I steam several days worth of veggies all at once and it doesn’t take more than 5-12 minutes. It was my #1 gift received at Christmas by a long shot.
Even our alcohol glasses can make a difference. Bartenders, who we would think would be experts at eyeballing how much to pour, serve 30% more on average into short, wide tumblers than tall, skinny glasses.
No one is immune to temptations, not even me. By reframing the type of person I am as someone who chooses not to eat sweets during the week, and by hiding my sweets, keeping the foods I want to eat more of visible and eating off of small plates, I can trick myself into eating for energy and not out of temptation.
Do you have any good tricks to share?