Habitual Eating - Breaking the Cycle

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There are four detrimental eating behaviours (or habits) that cause weight gain in many people: * Eating too quickly * Inappropriate portioning of meals * Emotional eating * Eating unplanned meals on the run.
Here we show you how to outsmart these eating behaviours and take control of your weight: Eat Slowly People who eat quickly are twice as likely to be overweight than those who eat more sensibly.
And people who eat quickly and eat too much are three times as likely to be overweight than those who eat more sensibly (1).
Here are some tips to help you eat in a more controlled manner: * Allocate 20 minutes for main meals and 10 minutes for snacks * Put a jug of water on the table and sip the water throughout your meal * Put your cutlery down between mouthfuls and increase the number of times you chew each mouthful * Cut your food into small bite sized pieces and only eat one piece at a time * Increase the number of times you chew your food before swallowing * Pause in the middle of meals or between courses * Talk during mealtimes - people who do so are often still eating after their companions have finished.
By eating slowly you give your taste buds time to register the flavours in your food, you have more time to decide how much food you will eat and you experience a greater sense of control.
Portion Your Food Most people use visual cues to tell them when to stop eating, so when a big portion is placed in front of them they eat the whole lot (2).
Some tips for limiting your portion sizes are: * Serve yourself in medium sized portions from the stove (if your serve sizes are too small you will feel hungry and return for second helpings).
Avoid placing dishes on the table as they encourage second helpings * Eat your food from a plate to increase your awareness of how much you are eating.
Avoid eating out of bags and containers - it is impossible to judge how much you have eaten * Remove any leftovers as soon as possible after eating.
Put them in the fridge for the next day or if you are entertaining, give them to guests to take home.
If you think that you will be tempted to eat the leftovers, throw them away.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you are wasting food by throwing it away: excess food in your stomach wasted too - in fact excess food in your stomach is even more wasted than it is in the bin because in your stomach it can lead to weight gain and poor health! * If your plates are large, do not feel the need to fill them with food * Leave a small portion of food on your plate at the end of every meal.
Do not feel the need to 'clean your plate': many people are conditioned to do this from an early age but it is not a healthy habit * If you are eating out, do not feel that you need to eat the entire dish.
If there is too much food, ask to take the remaining portion home with you for another day.
Take Control of Emotional Eating Emotions can become powerful cues to eat inappropriately.
For example, people use food to reduce frustration, control boredom on depression or to comfort themselves when they are feeling lonely, anxious or angry.
If you eat as a means of coping with emotions you need to find alternate, non-food related ways to deal with your emotions.
Examples include going for a walk, taking a bath or calling a friend.
It is also useful to attune to your body's signals to distinguish between physical hunger (where your stomach is rumbling and you physically need to eat) and psychological hunger (where cues such as emotions, settings, social occasions and sights and smells of food encourage you to eat).
Physical hunger is a useful and appropriate cue to eat - psychological hunger is not.
Practice Mindful Eating Practice the art of 'mindful eating', or taking the time to sit down and savour the flavours of your food, rather than eating on the run: * Limit your eating to a specific room such as the dining room or kitchen.
Eating in other rooms such as the bedroom or living room can trigger a desire to eat even when you are not hungry * Break the link between eating and activities such as talking on the phone, driving, shopping or watching a movie - if you eat while you are distracted you will not register the enjoyment your food, meaning that you are less likely to acknowledge the calories * Sit down and enjoy your meal so your brain has time to register that your stomach is full.
References 1.
Maruyama K, et al.
2008, 'The joint impact of self reported behaviours of eating quickly and eating until full on overweight: cross sectional survey' British Medical Journal 337:a2002.
2.
Dr Elizabeth Denney-Wilson, Research Fellow at the University of NSW quoted by ABC News in Science
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