Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Health & Fitness: Lesson 7 - How to eat less

In my mind, learning to eat less involves cultivating the right mindset, some knowledge and self-control. I'll cover how to get all three in today's post.

Cultivating the right mindset 
It seems to me that it is after you get the mindset right that the actions follow with ease. Certainly some ways of thinking about food are more helpful than others. Here, I present you with three of the shifts that have helped me eat in moderation. 

The first concerns the question of purpose.  If I may ask you a question, why do you eat? 

Bring awareness to why you're eating

Sometimes I eat to satisfy hunger. Other times I eat for pleasure. Sometimes I even eat to numb pain. Recently, I've found myself using food as a form of exploration - Will I enjoy prunes? What about dried apples? What is my point? My point is that you need to bring awareness  and mindfulness to your eating. For example, when I'm able to identify that I am eating to numb pain, then I am able to turn my attention to what is actually bothering me and focus on solutions for pain which don't involve eating like prayer. You need to be able to notice when you are over-eating, see that it is not normal, pause and ask yourself why, then deal with the real issue. 

Choose foods that are good for you
In addition to being mindful in the moment about why you  are eating, one of the more helpful tips I've recently encountered was through my Bible Study Fellowship.  And this shift concerned how to choose. The BSF notes from the sixth lesson of the Kingdom Divided Study brought to my attention that sometimes the things we enjoy aren't good for us. That gave me cause for pause and reflection. And I found it directly applicable to healthy eating. Once you grasp that what you don't enjoy might be better for you, it can change your relationship with the foods you don't enjoy. You may opt to have an apple because it is good for you, not because it tastes good. You'll eat the apple and find that it wasn't so bad. Then you'll eat another the next day. These small choices will start to reflect on your waist circumference. And that's when you'll slowly start choosing more consistently foods that are good for you. 

Eat to satisfy hunger
The third mind-shift concerned when to stop. I used to eat to feel full. That was not helpful to me because sometimes I would eat and eat, and eat some more and I wouldn't feel full. You can imagine that if you need to feel full then you will constantly be eating. Then I learnt in the book "Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life" that unlike me, the long-living people in places like Okinawa do not eat to feel full. Instead they eat to not be hungry. That was a paradigm shift for me. 

Could I really survive by eating not to be hungry? When I asked myself that question, my answer was yes. As a student at Wesley Girls High School, breakfast had consisted of two ladles of tom brown porridge. Lunch and dinner were no heftier, yet not only did I survive, as an athlete, I was able to run long-distance (3000 m) races on that diet and win! Wow! This story is relevant because I'm not the only one who has had this experience. Most people who have graduated from an African high school have survived on little food. If you did it then, you can do it again. 

I started to eat the recommended portion sizes for my body-weight and here I am, having lived to tell the tale. 

How do we translate this mindset to your plate? Here is where you need knowledge. 

You need to know how much food your body needs as well as how to give it that food. 

Know how much food your body needs 

First, determine how much food (calories) someone with your weight needs. To know this, be willing to spend money on a visit to the dietitian or fitness coach for advise on how much to eat.  Then use an app like MyFitnessPal to track and adjust how much food you're eating. I also recommend you buy a weighing scale to help you accurately calculate the grams and ounces of foods you eat. This is tedious and time consuming. But it is not forever. After several months, you'll get an idea of how many calories the regular foods you eat contain. You can then stop using both the scale and the app if you wish. 

At that time, you can switch you the simpler method of plating described next. 

Know how to serve yourself a healthy plate

When you are putting food on your plate, half the plate should be vegetables, and the other half of the plate should be divided equally into protein and carb as shown in this image from Institut de Cardiologie de Montreal.

There are few details to note when practicing this method

1. Use a small plate 
2. Do not go above the recommended portion sizes for your weight 
3. Eat slowly. 

A note on eating slowly
This is one of the most underrated advice you'll find. I find that having reduced the quantity of food I eat, I have become more interested in the quality. I want to eat food that is fresh, nourishing, and delicious. I'm cooking less in terms of volume but better. I'm now more interested in finding ways to improve the consistency of the taste. 

Eating slowly and mindfully enables you to taste the food more, and cultivates your taste for food that is better for you.

The final benefit is that when you've developed the self-control to eat less, you also develop the self-control to eat less of everything. If my kids are eating fries and I want a taste, I eat 1, 2, 3 pieces of it and then stop. I got this tip from an article that I read a while ago. Unfortunately, I didn't note which site. But this advice has been so helpful to me. I can have three or four pieces of nuts or a tiny piece of cake to have a taste and then stop there. I don't feel deprived because I have had it, but I also don't derail my health goals because I didn't have enough of it to set me back. 

In addition to mindset shifts, and knowledge, you also need self-control.

You need self-control
Choosing to stop eating even though you are not full requires self-control. Self-control is a fruit of the spirit. The only way I know to get it is from God. I prayed for it, and over time, I see that my prayers are being answered. If you find some other method to develop it, please share with us in the comments. 

All the very best in eating less. Any questions about today's post or anything else,  pop them in the comments and I'll respond individually or through a post.

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