The quality of the food and drink you put in your body is the most important decision you make on a daily basis, but you can see the number on the scale start to climb and your energy dwindle if you eat too much of it.
Calorie counting is one way to manage these issues, but who really has the time to pull out their calorie calculator or weigh their food every day? Besides, most people are horrible at accurately counting their calories.
What if I told you that there are tricks that you can play on your brain to eat less, but feel great? In his book, Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink explains to us that we should try to hit the “mindless margin”; 100–200 calories cut from our original meals that our brains don’t notice.
If you find yourself mindlessly eating an entire tub of ice cream, drinking all the wine, or eating the whole cut of steak; some of these tactics might work for you.
Use Smaller Plates
Remember, when you were little and your parents made you clean your plate? It’s much easier when it’s a smaller plate. Our brain sees a full plate and sees it as a complete meal. I wish I knew that growing up.
Cut Your Regular Serving By 20%
The mindless margin is about 20% of every meal, so if you serve yourself 20% less, your brain shouldn’t recognize that change. If you are using smaller plates, this should be much easier.
Use Taller Glasses
Just like using a smaller plate makes your meal look bigger, using a taller glass makes your drink look larger. Our mind places a higher value on taller, leaner glasses than those that are shorter and wider.
Eat Protein/Fat for Breakfast
Traditional breakfast foods are filled with sugar and cheap refined carbohydrates. It is only when you incorporate protein and fat in your first meal, will you feel satiated and full for hours to come.
Keep Snacks Out of Sight
“Out of sight, out of mind”. People eat a lot more food when it’s visible, compared to when it’s hidden, even when they know it’s there. Research has shown that even adding a couple hurdles to get to those snacks, like a lid or a difficult position in your office, helps keep you from wanting to dig in. Adding that little extra effort allows your brain to question the value of your decision, and hopefully make a better one.
Even better than adding a hurdle? Get it out! Toss the junk that doesn’t serve you or your health. “Out of the house, out of mind”, I like the sound of that.
Americans love doing things fast! Efficiency, speed, go! Doing this while we eat only makes us want to eat more. Our brain needs time to catch up to our satiety signals and this can be done by actually chewing our food properly. Aim for a full meal to be 20 minutes from first fork full to last. Count your chews and try to increase the number each time you sit down.
Don’t Eat From the Package
I don’t think I’m the only one out there that’s eaten an entire bag of chips in one sitting. Our stomachs can’t count, it’s only when we see food with our eyes that we can get a gauge on how much we are eating. Take the food out of the package, place it in a bowl or on a plate, so you may accurately see your serving size.
Don’t Eat in Front of the TV
Combine eating from the package and eating in front of the TV and you have a regular Saturday watching football in the fall for most people. When we are distracted, we tend to overeat. When House of Cards is calling, it’s so tempting to grab your meal and dig right into both. Give yourself 20 minutes to eat mindfully, then let Frank take it away.
Don’t Pay Attention to Health Claims
Big Food marketers are some of the most persuasive storytellers out there. They could make a fried marshmallow seem like it should be a daily vitamin. Claims like “natural”, “low fat”, and “gluten free” make foods in packages sound healthy. The truth is, almost anything in a package or with a health claim attached to it, isn’t great for you. When is the last time you saw broccoli with the label ALL NATURAL?
A few extras:
Eat the right foods, then eat them when your body tells you to
When you walk into a grocery store, the right foods are on the edges. If you only walk the perimeter of any store, you’re more than likely to choose the right foods. Think of it: you walk in and there is the produce, then the meats, the dairy and eggs, you may even walk your way into some wine. Stay on the edges, and eat these good foods when your body tells you to.
People who consume 6 meals a day to “rev their metabolism” are making life harder for themselves, unless they are competitive bodybuilders or going to the crossfit games. Eat when your body tells you to eat; if you aren’t hungry, don’t force it.
Identify your avalanche foods, keep them at a distance
We all have these foods. Many of them are processed and made to be addictive. “Once you pop, the fun don’t stop” is starting to ring in my ears. Avalanche foods are foods that you recognize you can’t stop eating until it’s gone. Chips, candy, cookies, etc. Keep these foods out of the house and only eat them when in a controlled environment, such as a treat dinner at your favorite restaurant.
Experiment with TRF or intermittent fasting
Time Restricted Feeding or intermittent fasting have been key protocols that have led me to eating less and thriving. Eating within a certain time window gives you a hard rule and takes decisions away from you. You won’t graze throughout the day and make wiser choices when you have a limited window.
Cook once, eat twice
It can be hard to prepare a decent sized meal when you bring home certain items. A full head of cauliflower is way more than you can undertake in a single sitting, along with other parts of the meal. That’s when you call on the leftover technique. Just save what you can’t eat, and eat it for lunch the next day. It’s a serving saver and a time saver. Two for the price of one!
Increase your water intake
Most people don’t drink enough water. At times, when you feel hungry, if you just drink some water that feeling will go away. If you want to mix things up, add some lemon to your water or see if you like sparkling mineral water.
Eat healthy amounts of healthy fats
For the longest time, consuming dietary fat was on the same level as smoking. We are beginning to see the light, that consuming dietary fat isn’t just acceptable, it’s actually great for you. Consuming high quality fat through sources such as grass fed butter, coconut or mct oil, nut butters, or avocados can lead to your brain feeling fuller longer. Combine these with protein and you won’t feel like snacking or grazing and have the energy to attack the day.
What are some other ways that you mindfully eat?
CALL TO ACTION
For more sustainable health and weight loss tactics, helpful mental models, and ways to increase your energy join Project Avocado here.