I don’t know where to start!
Most people who come to see Jess and myself for nutrition/fitness/change support through our online coaching programmes, don’t know where to begin with turning their health around. It can feel somewhat overwhelming and confusing, so we both like to strip things right back to basics – these basics are powerful when done consistently. We’ve found they can often be overlooked and overshadowed by the more glittery and ‘fun’ areas of health such as pre/post workout fueling, carb cycling or elimination diets.
The steps below are some of the foundation habits which I believe really set people up for success – master these and then you can incorporate other food / exercise / lifestyle routines into your life.
1). CHEW MORE
The simple act of chewing is one of the first steps to a healthy digestive system; that and eating in a more relaxed environment which I’ll come onto next. The chewing motion (also known as ‘mastication’) releases digestive enzymes into our saliva which go on to work on our food at a chemical level, breaking it down into smaller molecules which then travel on to the stomach for further break down. If you’re currently a ‘food inhaler’, and tend to swallow your feed without chewing, this can stress the stomach; you might experience this stress in the form of indigestion, bloating or a general feeling of digestive discomfort.
At your next meal, count how many times you currently chew before you swallow your mouthful of food. Once you have that number, I want you to double it, so for example, if you chew five times, increase this to 10. If you chew 10 times, then increase this number to 20. Once you have set the new habit of chewing double for a week, double it again up to a total of 30 chews. The target is to build up to 30 chews before swallowing. Some people will say different numbers when it comes to the amount of times, but 30 is a good rule of thumb and if you now chew 2 to 5 times, then you can see the benefits of increasing this to 30 already.
Notice what a difference this makes to the time you take to enjoy your food, how full you feel, whether you finish everything on your plate or feel sufficiently full with less, and report back to me.
2). SLOW IT DOWN
If you have taken the previous steps onboard and are chewing more then this will naturally slow down the speed at which you eat your meals. Generally speaking, most people in the Western world eat far too quickly. Slowing down the eating of your food will allow for a more efficient and timely communication between the stomach and brain, which in turn, creates better digestion and reduces the chance of over-eating.
In an ideal world you would eat until you are about 80 percent full. Here in the UK and Western world, people eat to 120 percent of what they ‘should’, so this important strategy would go far!
Get into the habit of putting the knife and fork down between bites and make sure you are chewing enough as mentioned before. This simple ‘cutlery putting down trick’ again, is a simple one but trust me, it works. Add in two deep breaths before picking the knife and fork back up and you’ll really be on a pathway to success.
My second tip to ensure you slow down your eating, is to consciously time how long it takes you to eat using a timer on your phone / clock – that is step one. The goal eating time should be around 15-20 minutes, but this could be a big leap if your current eating time is 3 minutes or less, so my advice would be to increase your eating time in 30 second increments, until you get to at least 15 minutes.
This ’timing tip’ is one Jess and I practice at home when we feel our eating speed has increased.
3). TABLE TIME
Meals are sociable occasions; they’re not designed to be times to catch up on social media and what’s happening in the world via the news.
If you can eat at the table rather than in front of the TV, this naturally encourages a more positive seated position rather than being hunched over; already you are going to digest your meals more efficiently since your digestive system is in an upright position.
If your phone is to hand, then more likely than not you’ll pick it up, so intentionally put your phone in another room (preferably upstairs or downstairs if you have that option) for 20 minutes whilst you enjoy your meal. This will encourage you to be extra mindful of the task at hand – eating. What you do (rather than what you say) sets the example for your children if you have them, so it’s extra important to lead by example.
4). DOWNSIZE YOUR PLATES
An old and obvious way of tricking the brain into thinking it is eating a full plate (which it actually is) – but it works.
Purchase plates that are about one third smaller than your current ones. I know the ones we used to use at home growing up with my parents were huge!
I was raised to eat everything on my plate, especially when my granny was involved with meal times, so if it’s a big plate then naturally there will be a lot more food. You can use step five below to help with this if you only have access to big plates.
5). WE EAT VOLUME NOT CALORIES
This follows on from the previous step. Our eyes see volume, the amount on the plate rather than what that meal consists of.
Subconsciously we will eat whatever there is, as long as we find it pleasing. If the plate is full of lots of starchy carbs (potatoes, pasta, rice, and so on) and fatty foods, chances are we’ll eat them.
By adding salad and green veggies, you trick the mind into eating less BUT still the same volume.
Make sure you have a good source of protein with every meal and then pack on the salad and vegetables – these two elements of your meals shouldn’t be downsized. If you have starchy carbs then just have much less, depending on your exercise levels.
Combine this step with chewing more, eating slower, having table time and getting those smaller plates and you’re creating a great set of simple to follow habits that will allow you to enjoy your food more, as well as feeling good for having it.
Pick one of the five steps and look to apply it for the next two weeks.
Then pick the next step and apply that for the following two weeks.
When creating new habits, it’s good to start small. If you try and apply all five steps straight away then the chances are, like new years resolutions, you’ll be back to square one within no time at all 😉
When creating new habits the tortoise will always beat the hare.
That’s all from me today.