Let's face it. Weight loss is difficult. Many of our patients want instant success and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but diet change, body positivity, and a good relationship with food just doesn't happen overnight (although I wish it did!). It's a slow and steady process if done correctly. You want weight loss to be different than the rest of the fad diet attempts. Why? Because adherence is the greatest predictor of weight loss success. A sustainable weight loss journey, meaning something you can stick to, should be the LAST weight loss attempt because hopefully, with the right tools from your Registered Dietitian Nutritionist you can make changes that are realistic and last you a lifetime.
Nine out of ten times I get patients in my office and the first thing we start working on is a concept called Mindful Eating. It may, or may not be something you've heard of before. Basically, part this concept focuses on really tuning in and listening to your body before, during, and after a meal. There are other concepts within mindful eating that are wonderful as well, but I'm just going to focus on this part of it for this article.
Did you grow up with the saying "Finish what's on your plate, there are starving children out there!" or "If you finish this THEN you get to have dessert." Many of us did. The problem with this is that many of us have spent our whole lives ignoring our hunger and satiety cues. It starts as early as when we're newborns/toddlers when parents continue to force milk and/or food when the baby is turning away... think about it. Fascinating! Furthermore, it's almost a praised concept in our culture if you eat your entire plate of food. Ever hear at a restaurant, "Wow, you cleaned the plate that's awesome!" ......Sigh. Positive reinforcement for feeling like a stuffed turkey on thanksgiving. That makes NO sense when you start to think about it!
Now... I want you think back. Have you ever eaten a meal and not even 2 minutes later it's gone? If you are sitting there nodding and smiling you are certainly not alone. If we eat fast, we then typically get up and go for seconds.... OK sometimes thirds (no judgement). It's not until 30 minutes pass by and we feel like we need to be rolled out of the room. Sound familiar? I'm guilty as well! There's actually a couple reasons as to why we do this and no it isn't your lack of willpower. It actually means your body is working correctly. Imagine that.
Let's break down the science behind this concept. Meal times should last us (when possible) 20-30 minutes. This is actually scientifically backed. We didn't come up with this number as a cruel torture mechanism I promise. Stretch receptors becomes activated with food or fluids (a concept called gastric stretch), which then help signal to the brain through the vagus nerve. Along with stretch receptors, our satiety (fullness) hormone leptin, does not communicate to the brain about fullness capacity until this 20-30 minute timeframe. So, if we are finishing our meal in 5 minutes it's no wonder why we still feel the need to eat more.
Although, it takes a while to break habits, one simple goal you can start incorporating into your meal times is this concept of mindful eating. It takes practice, but it is well worth it to hep with overall portion control without the help of measuring cups and scales. Let's start listening to our internal mechanism that we were born with. By using it we won't have to start counting calories, weighing our food, measuring, and all of that lovely stuff people hate to do. Instead, I challenge you to really start listening to your body, because we often ignore it especially if we have a tasty food in front of us!
Remember, meal times should really last around 20-30 minutes. I want you to time yourself the next time you eat dinner and see if you even come close to that. Most of us don't. We usually scarf down our meal in 5 minutes.
So Jackie how will this help with weight loss?
Well, by practicing this concept you're allowing your brain and stomach to connect and really cueing into the feelings of being hungry and satisfied (NOT full or stuffed). By slowing down your meal time, and really listening to your body, naturally we tend to eat less. We lessen the chances of us shoving down excess food that we normally wouldn't if we gave our body the time it needs to feel satisfied. In short, longer meal times = less consumed = weight loss.
This is a small change that anyone can start implementing today!
Until Next Time,