HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Apologies for the radio silence over the past couple of months. Since my last post, I have completed my MSc and qualified as a Personal Trainer which has kept me quite busy. All of a sudden the New Year has arrived and 2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year. I am building Leah’s Raw Ingredients as a business offering personal training, nutritional health consulting and group exercise classes…get in touch if you are interested in knowing more.
I began writing this post a while ago but I’m glad I left it until now to finish because I think that January is the perfect time to start this discussion. I have definitely not been thinking about controlling my portion sizes this past fortnight. In fact, I’m pretty sure that every meal I’ve eaten since 23rd December contained enough calories to feed a small village.
Sadly, Christmas is over, the cold light of a New Year’s day is upon us and the time has come for me to face one of my major issues. My biggest downfall when it comes to monitoring my food intake has always been portion sizes. I eat well and I am conscious of the nutritional value of the foods that I cook and consume. However, I seem to have a bottomless pit for a stomach, so portion sizes tend to be something that I pay little attention to. This means that I always prepare far more food than I need to and then end up eating all of it. Quantity is just as important as quality when it comes to food intake and it is crucial in terms of weight loss (if that is something you are concerned about).
I have broken down 5 ways to prompt myself to eat better portion sizes. Hopefully they will work for you too…
- Prepare Less Food
I always cook more food than I need to and often have lots left over. Sometimes this is useful to save for an easy lunch the following day. Other times it means I eat double the portion I should because I am very very greedy and don’t know when to stop.
So, I am going to begin to weigh or measure out my ingredients much more precisely before cooking. You may already do this, if so, well done! Currently, I just do it all by eye and my eyes are greedy. So now I will use scales to weigh certain ingredients like rice, pasta, lentils etc. or use recommended guidelines to do it by eye (e.g. a portion of meat the size of your fist). This method should prevent food wastage as well as overeating. Your ingredients will start to go further and you will get more for your money. There are lots of recommended guidelines online. I have found the BUPA portion guidelines to be quite easy to follow.
- Serving Tactics
It may be difficult to measure things precisely if for example, you are regularly cooking for lots of people or because you don’t do the actual cooking yourself. If this is the case, focus on what goes on to your plate. There are studies showing that the size and colour of plate used can influence how much you eat. If you are eating off a white plate you may be more inclined to fill it with more food to cover up the white space. If you use a big plate, the more likely you are to serve yourself a larger portion.
…So, are we all meant to go out and buy tiny, colourful plates to trick ourselves in to smaller portions? That is an option, but it seems impractical. If you do have a special plate you can eat off then, by all means, give that a go. Or, you can do a little bit of research on recommended serving suggestions and consciously put that amount on your plate. If you can’t resist the urge to cover all the white space on your giant plate, then just fill it with vegetables. You can never have enough vegetables.
- Pause Before Seconds
I’m the first person to jump at the chance of a second serving. Whether I’ve made too much, or I’m sharing food with a group of friends, or there’s a pudding up for grabs, there’s often a situation where its easy to dive in for a second course. My plan to avoid regularly having seconds in 2018 is to be more aware of when I am full. More often than not, I’ll only want more food because it tastes good, even though I’ve already eaten plenty. So now I take a conscious pause to consider whether I am still actually hungry or if I’m just being greedy. I predict that 100% of the time I will definitely have had enough to eat the first time around. It helps to pause for 10-20 minutes after finishing a meal before jumping up for more and in that time your stomach will have registered that you are full and let your brain know.
My husband and I will always, every night without fail, eat our dinner on the sofa in front of the TV. Even now as I’m writing this, I am eating my breakfast while sitting in front of my laptop. Whether it’s a phone, tablet, book, TV or computer, so many of us are prone to distractions while eating our food. It’s quite sad because I put a lot of time, effort and love into my cooking, just to guzzle it down whilst binge-watching Suits (I know, I’m very behind on my Netflix shows).
Studies have shown that people tend to consume more when they eat their food in front of the TV. Other studies have shown that people eat less while wearing a blindfold as the lack of distractions makes them more aware of when they are full up. I’m not saying to remove distractions by blindfolding yourself at every meal or to ban all technology. However, it is clear that distractions during meals will encourage us to eat more without us realising it.
So, I am going to try and pay more attention to my food whilst I eat it. This may mean sitting at the table with no TV a few times a week and actually having a conversation with Andy…gah! But even if we don’t manage that, I am going to eat more slowly, chew more thoroughly (both of which are beneficial for digestion) and appreciate the taste, smells and textures of my food. By slowing down our eating and paying attention to our stomachs, we should be able to eat the right quantities for our bodies rather than accidentally stuffing ourselves to bursting because we failed to notice how full we are.
It is suggested that drinking a glass of water before a meal can help you to feel more full whilst eating. I’m not sure how practical this advice is as it isn’t exactly enjoyable to chug down a couple of glasses of water before each meal. Also, water goes through us fairly quickly so unless you really are getting it down you the moment before you eat, it may not do much for your hunger. However, we often confuse thirst for hunger so it is important to make sure you drink water regularly throughout the day. Otherwise, you may end up eating too much to abate what is actually dehydration rather than hunger.
Try the glass of water before each meal thing if you can, but better advice would be to follow steps 1-4 and always have a glass/bottle of water on the go throughout the day.
Let’s see how we get on. Some of my tips are more about invoking self-awareness rather than being practical methods, which is important. Making conscious decisions in regards to your food intake is the first step towards understanding and maintaining a healthier diet.
Comments are welcome – I’d love to hear what works for you.
Ciao for now