Thursday, September 20, 2012

Food Rules: Put A Fork In Me, I'm Done!

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We've all been there. I'm talking about the point of no return - the moment at dinner when you find yourself slipping your hand underneath the table to release the top button of your pants. Phew. Much better. It happens to the best of us. Sometimes the food's just so good (and/or so expensive) that you find yourself in a competition with yourself to wipe that plate clean. Culinary domination complete!

The good news? The food was fantastic and you conquered it... all.
The bad news? You're uncomfortable and beelining for the nearest mattress store with your pants around your ankles.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. I think it's time for some good old fashioned waistline therapy. Let's dive into the next guideline from Michael Pollan's book Food Rules...


It's not our fault that we don't innately know this. We grew up being told, 'clean your plate' or 'eat all your vegetables'. Our mothers and fathers meant well. They wanted us to get our fair share of nutrients AND they believed in the concept of avoiding waste. There are starving children in Africa, Lauren... finish your peas!

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The only problem with this child-rearing technique is that it sets the tone for how we relate to food as adults. Unfortunately, as the portion sizes in restaurants grow larger by the day, so do our waistlines AND our stomachs. Overeating can stretch your stomach up to 20%, and it doesn't just snap right back to business as usual. The next time you sit down to eat, it will take more food to feel full. You can see how this pattern could easily get out of hand.

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The purpose of food is to provide your body with energy. When you overeat, you feel the opposite of energized - you feel lethargic. You crave a nice long nap. Your brain feels fuzzy. It becomes hard to concentrate. You might even feel discomfort or pain. None of these things are natural or good.

The Japanese have a saying - hara hachi bu - which advises people to stop eating when they are 80% full. In India, there's a common belief that you should stop eating when you are 75% full. In China, they say 70%. Moral of the story? No matter what the percentage, you should be so aware of your body that you stop eating when you no longer feel the physical pangs of hunger. You'll know you've reached this point because you'll start to feel content, your food may start to taste less interesting than it did on the first few bites and you might even become distracted, thinking about the next thing on your to-do list. Some people even let out a 'sigh' of satisfaction when they've reached that 80% mark.

Here are a few tips to help you implement this concept...

1) Eat slower - Give your stomach the time it needs to send the message to your brain that you're satisfied. If you scarf down your food, then you will stretch your stomach long before you ever get the message.

2) Concentrate - Turn the TV off and put the computer away. When you take the time to fully focus on your meal, you will be able to savor every bite. When you're distracted by an outside stimulus, you forget to enjoy each bite, and you may end up going back for seconds just to get that feeling of satisfaction.

3) Drink water before a meal - Your mind often mistakes thirst for hunger. Before a meal, drink 1 glass of water to hydrate, then you'll be able to accurately identify when you've reached that 80% mark.

If you can follow these 3 simple steps, you just might be able to wear your skinny pants to dinner without despair, rid your closet of all the muumuu-style dresses and say goodbye to those awful stretchy waistbands!

Now wouldn't that feel therapeutic?

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