Ever heard the story about Amy who did the latest fad diet and lost a load of weight? Well, what no-one mentioned was that 12 months later she had put all of the weight back on and was well and truly ‘off the wagon’.
Why is this? Put simply, like so many other fad diets out there, Amy’s diet did not teach her how to be healthy, or follow a sustainable nutrition approach.
How about a better alternative…
Learning how to eat the right types of food and also eat in a way that is kind to your body and allows it to function optimally.
Think of it like a young boy playing rugby for the first time. His parents have bought him all the best gear. The boy runs out onto the field, grabs the ball and runs it over his own goal line and scores for the wrong team. Not exactly gone to plan, right?
Well, when it comes to healthy eating and changing our habits, it can often feel just like this.
We have a great menu planned with all the right amounts of fat, carbs and protein and then two days later we are stuffing our faces full of cake and biscuits. It’s not for lack of trying, it’s simply lack of having the right coaching and direction we need to be successful.
I want you to be successful in the long term with your health, which is why I am going to share with you two of the most effective healthy eating habits that will help you form a better relationship with food and achieve the health you deserve.
Success starts with a solid foundation, and that is exactly what these habits are, foundational. This is your launch pad!
Habit 1: Eat Slowly
Sounds almost too easy, right? Well here are a few key points about eating slowly:
• Eating slowly almost inevitably leads to eating less, feeling more in control of eating, as well as more mindful and aware.
• Eating slowly can be done anywhere, any time, with any food and in any situation.
This can even be done if you find yourself binge eating – by slowing down your eating, you can often re-gain your focus and get your eating back under control.
Your body’s satiety levels take about 20 minutes to kick in. What does this mean? Well if you stuff your face for 20 minutes your body won’t actually realise your stomach is full and the signal to stop eating won’t be sent to your brain until it is too late.
By slowing down and taking your time to eat you can achieve a few things….
Firstly, you allow your body time to recognise when you have had enough food before you have reached the stage of overeating. This will help you to eat the right amount for your daily needs without having to count calories.
Secondly, you get to taste and enjoy the food that you eat.
Thirdly, you will improve your digestion. If you eat quickly, you are less likely to chew your food properly, which will make it harder for your body to process your meal.
Here is a little challenge for you:
“Take a raisin. Just one. Put it in your mouth and just allow it to sit there. Notice the texture and flavour. Then chew it as many times as you can. What do you notice about the flavour of that raisin? Does it taste good or bad, better with time or worse?”
Just give it a go and see for yourself. What you will find is that the texture and flavour of whole foods tends to remain tasty and delicious for longer, if not getting tastier with each mouthful. On the other hand, if you try the same thing with a cheeseburger, for example, you will find that the processed food starts to resemble pulped paper after a few chews and loses its flavour and texture. When we slow down our eating, we get to enjoy the food more and really taste the wonderful flavours!
• Eat slowly. Just take your time and try to eat more slowly than you usually do.
• Pause between bites. Put your cutlery down. Breathe. Don’t worry about being perfect.
• Try timing yourself.
• Avoid using your phone or watch TV whilst eating. Try to focus on the present moment so that you can eat more mindfully.
• Sit down to eat. Your body does not digest food as well if you are standing /moving around.
• Allow yourself some time after your meal to stay seated and digest your food.
• Try to make mealtimes a social occasion. A conversation with friends, family or work colleagues can help you eat more slowly.
Habit 2: Eat until 80% full
If you want to lose body fat, then you need to eat less than you do now. This is the reason fad diets work in the short term – they force you to restrict your food intake. What they don’t do (and what I hope to do) is teach you to listen to your body’s cues and understand when you are full and when you are hungry.
The exact percentage of 80% is not as important as eating a little less than you normally would and listening to your body’s cues. Furthermore, this habit works hand in hand with eating slowly.
Master these two habits and you will have a solid foundation!
The key things you need to know about eating until you are 80% full are:
• How much to eat (the portions that work for you and your goals).
• How it feels to eat that much (when your body tells you that you are full and when you are hungry).
Actually implementing this habit can be quite challenging. I recommend that you experiment with these strategies a little. Take your time, reflect and think before you put that next mouthful of food in your mouth.
Some strategies to try:
• Start with what you’d normally eat and then just shrink that amount a little bit.
• Purposely leave some food on your plate.
• Use a smaller plate.
• If you are not sure if you’ve eaten the right amount, stop and wait 20 minutes then decide if you are still hungry or not.
• Choose healthy fibrous foods to aid satiety. See our handy guide on the next page.
Here are some healthy, high fibre foods:
Beans (black, pinto, lima)
Bulgur wheat / quinoa / amaranth
Baked potato / sweet potato (with skin)
Flaxseed, chia seed
Oats / oatbran
In most cultures we are encouraged to overeat or eat at a certain time. So you will have to use reminders and practice these two habits in order to master them.
Try putting notes on the fridge or somewhere in the kitchen that you can’t miss.
Find a way that works for you and practice, practice, practice.
Habits take time and effort to implement, but with patience and practice you will get there!