Did you know we make over 200 food related decisions a day? Many of them are automatic and we just do not realize how these decisions can affect our weight. However, adding one to two pounds of extra weight a year can eventually lead to issues we have to deal with. So, what food decisions do you make?
There was a study conducted of a demographically-matched student sample of 133 Parisians and 145 Chicagoans to determine what cues people used to stop eating. In this study, the research showed those in Paris had three main reasons they were finished with their meals: 1) they wanted to save room for dessert, 2) the food no longer tasted good, and 3) the consumer started feeling full. Now go back and read those three cues again. Aside from sounding strange in our culture (I mean really, does the last bite really not taste as good as the first or are my taste buds just “well developed”) each of these cues are internal. These French eaters are relying on themselves to determine when they are finished, and even the last one, “started feeling full” is not “so stuffed I cannot sit down.” It is merely being satisfied, which may be why these eaters tend to weigh less than we, as Americans, do.
The three main cues found during this study that determined when the American eaters were finished were: 1) their TV show was over, 2) they’ve eaten the amount most think is normal (the plate is empty), and 3) they’ve run out of their beverage. I’ve also heard of an additional study where the eater is done eating when the people around them are finished. Each of these cues are external: something outside of themselves telling them when they are finished eating. For us, eating is a means to an end and the short length of time spent eating a meal, especially alone, is an indicator of that. But we eat with our eyes first, meaning we decide exactly how much we are going to eat by how much we dish onto our plates or into our bowls and even if there are internal cues telling us we are satisfied, if we took it, we tend to eat it.
According to Dr. Brian Wansink, Food Psychologist, Researcher and Author of Mindless Eating and Slim by Design, in our culture our stomach has three settings: starving, could eat more, and stuffed. So, how do we overcome the fact that we just haven’t really paid attention to those internal cues the French seem to innately notice? Let’s just deal with the external cues and how we can make better decisions:
- Make Mealtimes Special: No TV while eating. Maybe play some relaxing music instead. Make your living spaces a “No Food Zone” and eat at the table. This can help you to eat less food because the focus will be on the food and the people with whom you are eating.
- The Plate: First eat on a plate no larger than 10″. For me, a food segregationist (no food touching), that can be quite a task, but you definitely take less food. Second, dish 80% less than you think you would eat. Studies show your body doesn’t recognize the caloric deficit and over the course of a year, you could potentially lose up to 10 pounds doing just that.
- People: If you eat with a slow eater, pace with that eater. The slower you eat, the faster your brain catches up with the signals your stomach is sending saying “I’m satisfied.” If you eat with a fast eater, count how many times you chew your food. Perhaps 20 times per bite can pace your eating. An important piece is to never serve the food from the table. The fast eater will take more food because everybody else is still eating. The slow eater may take more because they saw others take more and are now justified.
We may not be able to stop ourselves with internal cues like “the food no longer tastes good” but we can do something about the cues we do use and begin to pay attention to those feelings of satisfaction.
Eating is only part of the equation. It is also important to round it out and exercise is a key factor in doing so. If you would like help reaching your weight loss or fitness goals and want to see if one of our personal training programs is a good fit for you, please fill out the following form for a free fitness consultation.