This is a combined post for week 12 and 13 given the holiday. We are down to 3 more weeks! Time to really buckle down. If the scale hasn’t been encouraging to you these last few weeks, remember the scale doesn’t show everything. I will be taking measurements again in 3 weeks and even if you don’t lose weight on the scale, it often shows in the measurements! If you have fallen off the bandwagon, you can always get back on…. A lot of positive change can happen in 3 weeks! Just start anew and pick any past challenge you particularly enjoyed (preferably one you did really well on) and go from there! Remember your goals to be healthier and it’s not all about the money =). I’m proud of everyone for sticking through this far!
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU TASTED YOUR FOOD? I mean REALLY tasted your food. How many times have you looked down at an empty plate and wondered where all the food had gone? How often do you eat for reasons other than physical hunger? Because you are sad or anxious, happy or bored? How many times do you eat while watching TV, driving, or studying, or at your desk?
The average person makes 200 decisions about food each and every day. What to eat, how much to eat? Should I eat a second cookie? You get the picture. And we know now that willpower is an exhaustible resource (remember the willpower gap I talked about in week 4). This means that the more decisions you make, the lower your willpower is to make good decisions.
Decision fatigue = low willpower
How many of these decisions do you actually remember? Most likely not all 200 of them. When I gave a talk on this topic a while back, I strategically placed colored M&Ms in front of each person and I asked them: Who could tell me exactly how many pieces of candy they ate? I also asked if the variety or different colors make them eat more or the fact that it was right in front of them?
Science shows that it does.
What if I told you that your plate has more control over your food than you do? Many studies by Dr. Wansink from Cornell University have shown that people are relying on environmental cues to signal fullness instead of listening to their bodies. For instance, many people use visual cues from an empty plate to signify satiety. If given a larger plate, most people subconsciously put about 30% more on their plate. Depending on the food, this can be a 150 calories difference per serving! Over the course of the year, 150 calories more per day is a 15-pound weight gain (all else being equal). And this is just one meal a day using a larger plate.
However, the biggest culprit causing mindless eating is not the plate, but rather the TV. On average, Americans view over 151 hours of TV per month, or about 5 hours every day. In other words, the typical American spends more than one full day each week, or 1/7th of his life in front of the television and this isn’t counting other screen time!
In an experiment in 1969, Herbert Krugman found that in less than one minute of television viewing, the person's brainwaves switched from Beta waves– brainwaves associated with active, logical thought– to primarily Alpha waves –brainwave associated with a hypnotic state of deep relaxation and meditation.
When viewing TV, there is a continual release of natural, relaxing opiates called endorphins. These feel-good brain chemicals flow during almost any addictive, habit-forming behavior. Endorphins trigger a state of relaxation. Heart rate and breathing becomes calm, and, as time passes, neurological activity shifts lower and lower into what scientists sometimes call the “reptilian brain.” Basically, when you watch TV, you’re in a purely reactive state. You’re brain isn’t really analyzing or picking apart the data it’s receiving. It’s just absorbing. The television is just washing over you and your brain is marinating in the changes of sensory stimuli. Research indicates that most parts of the brain, including parts responsible for logical thought, tune out during television viewing.
Advertisers have known about this for a long time and they know how to take advantage of this passive, suggestible, brain state of the TV viewer. There is no need for an advertiser to use subliminal messages. The brain is already in a receptive state, ready to absorb suggestions, within just a few seconds of the television being turned on. All advertisers have to do is flash a brand across the screen, and then attempt to make the viewer associate the product with something positive.
Therefore, this TV viewing has two effects on your eating habits: (1) you crave food and (2) you’re brain does not fully register what you are eating. The result?
You end up eating far more calories than you need without fully enjoying your food. A study by Robinson found eating while distracted increased calorie consumption as much as 25% throughout the day! This is a classic form of mindless eating.
The solution to this problem is to practice mindfulness while eating. Mindfulness, or awareness of food, is the foundation that many people have been missing for overcoming food cravings, addictive eating, binge eating, emotional eating, and stress eating. During the past 20 years, studies have found that mindful eating can help you to 1) distinguish between physical and emotional hunger 2) reduce overeating and binge eating 3) lose weight and reduce your body mass index (BMI) 4) cope with chronic eating problems such as anorexia and bulimia by reduce anxious thoughts about food and your Body and 5) improve the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes.
For many people, eating fast means eating more. Mindful eating is meant to nudge us beyond what we’re craving so that we wake up to why we’re craving it and what factors might be stoking the habit of belly-stuffing.
Mindfulness is simply the moment-by-moment awareness of life. But it’s not always so simple. We so easily get caught up in our own thoughts and self-talk that we are scarcely aware of life as it passes us by. When we pay attention to our food -- really pay attention -- we begin to notice all sorts of wonderful aspects of food, and we become aware of how much we’re putting into our bodies. My challenge to you this week is to be more mindful!
My favorite rule for mindfulness is the Table-Plate-Chair rule.
Research has found you’ll naturally eat less AND you enjoy your food more with this strategy: Eat from a plate while seated at a table. Here’s what that looks like…
Yes! Let’s eat:
– Table + Plate + Chair
Nope! Not time to eat:
– lounging on the couch
– standing in the fridge
– clearing plates from the table
– working at the computer
– hovering in the breakroom
– passing by a candy or nut dish at a party or office
– driving in a car
Only eating meals & snacks with a table-plate-chair is powerful. Give it a try.
Other Ways to be Mindful with Food
· Turn off all electronics (TV, cell phones, iPads, smartphone, computers)
· Make meal last 30 minutes
· Use smaller utensils (baby forks/spoons)
· Use smaller plates (change from 10-12 inch to 8 inch plates)
· Use smaller bowls and glasses
· Eat with less dominant hand
· Eat with chopsticks
· Take 3 deep breaths prior to eating (eyes closed or open), improves digestion by 30%
· Take smaller bites (should be the size of the tip of pinkie finger or a dime)
· Chew your food, each bite 10-15 times
· Pay attention to hunger/fullness (use Hunger Scale)
· Keep a food log of your food choices
Homework: Choose 3 ways you will eat mindfully this week.