We all want to feel and look the very best we can! Proper nutrition + a healthy relationship with food is an important part of that journey, and the two go hand in hand. Over the next several weeks, I will be discussing five nutrition habits. I will refer to these as the “5 Habits”.
When followed, these habits naturally lead to an improvement in calorie control, nutrient timing, and food selection. And the best part? They don’t require calculations. They don’t require intense planning or adherence to a strict set of rules. These habits can become exactly what they are called–habits. Google defines a habit as follows:
“a settled or regular tendency or practice,
especially one that is hard to give up”
How cool is that!? We are going to discuss five principles that soon can become a regular practice that is hard to give up! So without further delay, let’s get started on Habit #1.
What is it?
Habit #1 is to eat slowly and stop at 80% full. This habit is all about the how of eating. We live in a very fast-paced world. Life is busy, time is money, we want things now, and we don’t have time to wait. We often skip meals entirely because there’s “no time” or we just “forget”, or we eat too quickly and to a point of extreme fullness. Neither leads to optimal health and performance. The goal with this habit is to slow down, and it may be the most important habit of them all.
Why is it important?
When you eat, your stomach sends a message to your brain about what and how much you’re eating, and your brain sends a message back to your stomach when it’s had enough. This communication line takes about 20 minutes to kick in. That means when we eat three huge servings in 10 minutes, our body hasn’t even had a chance to give a say on how it’s feeling and we may end up overly full, sick, or sluggish. Even if we aren’t gorging ourselves, by the time our brain sends the message “I’m good, you can stop eating now,” we may have eaten more than our body needed.
When we slow down our eating, we eat an appropriate amount of food at each meal and we become more turned in to our body’s appetite signals.Stopping at 80% fullness ensures by the time your stomach and brain finish communicating, you haven’t overeaten. Other benefits of this habit include:
- Improved digestion
- Better exercise performance
- Time to enjoy the food we eat!
- Better sleep, especially if you are eating close to bedtime
- Improved appetite cues for future meals
How do I get started?
The end goal is for each meal to last about 15-20 minutes (at a minimum). I recognize this may seem like a lot at first, and I am all about baby steps. Here are a few of the baby steps I find most helpful. Try them out in any order you would like.
- Sit down while you eat
- Turn off the TV
- Put away the computer, phone, tablet, etc.
- Eliminate other distractions – work projects, homework, to-do lists, etc.
Once you’ve mastered these steps, try the following:
- Take smaller bites
- Chew the food completely before swallowing
- Actually taste your food!
- Put the fork down in between bites
- Converse with those you may be eating with – after you’ve swallowed your food, of course!
The idea is to learn to enjoy the eating experience. Our friends over in Europe really have the right idea with their leisurely mealtimes!
Eating slowly is a great start in being able to gauge how full you are. Once taking your time at a meal becomes natural, the next step is to stop at 80% fullness.
What if I mess up?
Then great, we are in the same boat! Even I am still not perfect at this skill, and I have been practicing it for years. If you mess up, commit to keep trying and move on. And again, I cannot put enough emphasis on the importance of baby steps. If you currently spend about 2-3 minutes at each meal, even spending 5-6 minutes and eliminating one distraction can make a big difference!
If you’ve got questions about this habit, or want someone to help you stay accountable, you can ask me here. In the meantime, happy eating and I can’t wait to hear about your progress!