Wednesday, January 27, 2010

mind games

Katie's post about her oversized bowls and plates got me thinking. She mentioned that Bryan, in all of his not-concerned-about-weight manhood, likes to use small bowls because it makes him feel like he's eating more. Which made me realize that it's something that we all do, in our way.

When I was in high school, I would rush home after track practice, change my clothes, and be out the door and on the way to work in 1.5 minutes. I worked at a drive-in diner, and usually ate dinner there. I would buy the cheapest thing on the menu (a kid's burger), plus an extra hamburger patty. With my discount, it was $.60. I would load each side of the bun with ketchup and pickles, add a patty to each bun, then top with lots of lettuce and tomatoes. And in my mind I was eating two hamburgers. Whether I ended up starving at the end of my shift or not, I never felt like I needed to buy anything because I had had two burgers for dinner. I could wait until I got home, where I could eat something healthy (and free).

I guess my point is that we have all formed these ideas or been conditioned to think a certain way, and we should pay attention to the way we see things and use it to our advantage. While part of eating is simply about hunger, there are definitely other cues and beliefs that we try to satisfy. Sometimes, if we're not totally in tune with our body's hunger signals, we use other cues almost entirely to know when we "should" be done. See if you can figure out the way they work for you, and what you can do to change the way you respond to them. Here are a few to start with.

1. Use smaller plates and bowls. Also, use a tall, thin glass for drinks other than water. Even if it was proven in 2nd grade science that the short, wide one contains more (so we should be able to fill it halfway and know that it's the same amount), we still believe we're getting more in the tall one. It's full!

2. Make your meal look like a feast. Turn your sandwich into two open-faced sandwiches. Chop the chicken that tops your salad in smaller pieces. Smaller cheese shreds. Add a huge salad, fruit, and other low calorie foods to make your meals bigger (and healthier). Have you ever heard of the book Volumetrics? The idea is to exchange your teeny-tiny, calorie-dense foods for healthy foods that are less calorie dense but even more exciting. This book has some great ideas (and I see it at libraries a lot).

3. Check your environment. Music playing during meals? Fast music = eat faster, slow music = eat slower. Restaurants use this to their advantage, and you can use it to yours. Better yet, turn it off and devote all attention to the deliciousness of your food. Lighting affects the way you eat, too. People who are inhibited when eating around other people are shown to eat considerably larger amounts when the lights are dim. Even if you're not inhibited, it's easy to eat a whole box of candy and a bucket of popcorn at the movies when you're blissfully ignorant of how much you've eaten.

4. Make every meal a real meal. Understandably, sometimes we're hungry on the go. That's where small snacks come in. When eating a meal, though, let it live up to its name. Put all of your food on a plate, sit down at the table, say a blessing, and eat. Don't bring the casserole dish to the table--serve then put it away. When you're done, don't open all of the cupboards to see what else there is, grabbing two crackers here and a handful of nuts there (I might be the grazing queen of the world and very bad at this...).

5. If you're eating out of a box or bag, keep track of how much you're eating. This is good if you're keeping a food journal, and also good for knowing when to stop. I'd probably think "okay, that's good for now" after counting 20 almonds, while I might eat 50 if eating mindlessly. Also, don't let just one bite turn into i have no idea and really don't want to know how much i just ate. Dish up or measure out a portion. Even if it's just a bite of one.

6. Ask yourself, "Why do I want this food in my body?" and act accordingly. Hungry? Eat. Food looks good? Wait until you're hungry. Want a good taste in your mouth? Chew gum. Bored? Find something to do. And chew gum. Need a distraction from your emotions? Go for a walk, talk to somebody, read...but eating isn't the thing to do.

7. Let fullness register (those 20 minutes it takes to realize we're full). Eat slowly, chewing and chewing. When we do this, food tastes better and is more easily digested. And, there's much less of the it's over already? disappointment.

What do you think? Have you recognized any mind games that affect the way that you eat or think about food? While these seven ideas are all things that I've heard or read over and over, I still find myself conveniently forgetting, or falling back into the way I seem to be programmed.
And while part of me was thinking that it's sort of naughty to be tricking ourselves into eating less, I realized that it's really a matter of battling how we're already being tricked into eating more...


alee said...

Very good points Marae- I often wonder if I am really eating to live or if I am living to eat...sometimes it feels that way!

I was planning to make my post this week similar to your #4, so perfect timing! :)

Katie said...

Marae- This is a really great post I think. As I read each one I realized that a lot of my success so far has been due to these very things. For instance, I always have a big salad with lunch (and I always finish it before I start on my sandwich). Also, when someone offers me "just a bite of something" I really only have one bite. After all, any more than that and I'd feel guilty about not recording it in my food journal. Also, I totally agree with Alex about living to eat. I used to eat ALL DAY LONG and obviously it was causing problems. I really did go through the day thinking about what I was going to eat next. (It all tastes so good!) But now that I only eat for meals and snacks WHEN I FEEL HUNGRY and I'm not thinking about it, I often look at the clock and realize that it's 2:30 or 3:00pm before I eat lunch. I was just busy doing other things! So, this is the longest comment ever, but I just wanted to say that these things are really important to watch out for and use to our advantage.

Kathy Haynie said...

Thanks for the great reminders, Marae! Somewhere I've read that chewing sugarless gum actually helps keep teeth cleaner AND burn calories (a very few...). Anybody know more about this?

I have to be careful that I don't eat because I'm thirsty. I do that a lot. If I have a glass of water and I still feel hungry, then I'm probably hungry.

And yes, the big business IS out to "trick" us into eating more. We so easily become super-sized ourselves!

Sarah said...

So another idea that I read while reading a parenting article about getting your kids to eat veggies... if you put 3 beans on their plate to "try" they might only have 1 but if you put a full serving then they'll probably eat more of them, even if they don't finish them all.
This idea can be used to help yourself fill up more on the less calorie dense things - just by putting more of it on your plate you're more likely to pick at it and eat more even if you don't finish it. Similarly, I've found that I'd rather give myself smaller portions of dense things and go back for seconds - this gives me a chance to wait and gauge if I really need more and makes sure I'm not just eating to finish my plate.

Kathy Haynie said...

Good ideas Sarah - but I have to admit that they made me chuckle...only because I remember how your mom used to get green beans down you kids when you were little. I know she did this with Sam - did she do it with you, too? She used to put a WHOLE CAN of green beans into a chocolate milkshake for you...but you kids never knew! She told me once that Sam told her a milkshake from somewhere else tasted "funny."

Ha ha!!

Ok, I'm sure I have some of the details of this story wrong...Dorothy or Sarah, care to straighten me out?

Sarah said...

Haha, I think you've got the wrong Sarah, Kathy, because I didn't leave that earlier comment. :)

But yes, every Sunday we would come home and while we changed out of our church clothes Mom and Dad would make chocolate milkshakes. It wasn't until years later that we learned they had been sneaking diced carrots and peas into them.

It wasn't just when we were kids, either. I have a few fuzzy memories of coming home from getting my wisdom teeth out, and while still really out of it from the drugs, my mom got me to drink a few of her chocolate vegetable milkshakes. How sneaky mothers can be... :)

Dorothy said...

As sneaky as they need to be!

I'll post my "recipe" tomorrow! :)

Kathy Haynie said...

Oh, my bad! My apologies to both Sarahs - but it's still a funny story, and it will be fun to see what Dorothy has to say about all this tomorrow. To the first Sarah - sorry, I don't have any idea what your mother fed you!

Lisa Lou said...

Oh man! I can't believe that about the "special shakes" - so great.
Also, I find that if I eat a big breakfast (which is easy for me since I just work part time and can make time in the mornings to make oatmeal or eggs and toast) I eat lunch later and don't need to eat as much and then I can eat a light dinner. Also, drinking a big glass of water before I eat any meal helps me (sometimes...) not eat too much before I realize that I'm full.

Sarah said...

About that...

It's true, I am a different Sarah =)
I'm Sarah Shore, Katie's old love-square buddy that is now married to Spencer (the one who calls you Aunt Kathy when they tried to convince everyone they were cousins). It's all good!

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