Monday, November 3, 2008

Habit-A-Week Challenge, Week 5: Slow Down!

It's week 5 of the Healthy Habit-A-Week Challenge, and if you've been following along, you have already been working on four great habits over the last month:

1. Drink enough water (and green tea!)
2. Move!
3. Eat more veggies
4. Increase your fiber

If you can hold onto even SOME of the good habits you made, you are making progress! You can always go back and work on them again later, or start right now with today's habit, which is: Slow down your eating!

Have you ever sat down to a meal that took you hours to prepare, and within 10 minutes it was gone? Have you snarfed down fast food in your car on the way to work, or inhaled your breakfast as you raced out the door? Sometimes, when we get into a feeding frenzy, we can end up eating a whole bag of chips or box of cookies in just minutes. We eat so fast that our brains do not register that we are full until our stomachs are completely overloaded. Slowing down your eating can help with this.

This is part of mindful eating. It is about stopping what you are doing, sitting down, and paying attention to your food. Do you taste each bite? I read a few articles that said that most people only really taste the first 3 bites and the last 3 bites of any given food. Think about it. How many times have you sat down with a huge bowl of ice cream and suddenly you look down, and it's gone? Or you sit with a bag of chips, watching TV, and suddenly you reach in and the bag is empty! You didn't even get to enjoy all those calories. It's a waste.

So instead of being distracted, running around focusing on a million things while you try to eat, or standing in the kitchen snarfing food from the cabinets, sit down. Look at the food. Take a minute before you start wolfing it down. It can be a moment of thankfulness, or appreciation that you HAVE that food. Then engage your senses a bit. Really LOOK at the food: the colors, textures, shapes. Smell it... enjoy the scents, try and figure out what spices or ingredients you are smelling. Even taking a minute or two to do this every time you eat will make a difference. And chances are, once you sit with that bag of chips and think about them, look at them and smell them, you might even have a moment of clarity where you pour yourself a small BOWL of chips instead of trying to eat from the bag. You might recognize that what you are looking at is not really what you want to eat.

When you do take a bite, really enjoy it. Put your fork or spoon down between bites to slow your rate of eating. Pay attention to how hungry or full you are, and how you feel about eating. If you have a finger food like a sandwich, put it down between bites. If you're eating chips, chew each one before picking up another; no more cramming chip after chip in your mouth like you've been starving for weeks. If you just do this, it will help you in so many ways.

Another way to slow your rate of eating is to take a short break mid-meal (or mid-snack). About the time you are halfway through with your food, stop. Wait for one minute before starting to eat again. You can just sit there and think, or you can talk to your eating companions, or you can get up and go to the bathroom or walk outside and take a breath. After a minute or two you can start eating again. There was a study done that showed that animals who were interrupted with a short break in their meals this way consumed less calories overall than those without a pause in the meal. It gives your stomach a chance to assess its fullness and send a signal to your brain to stop eating.

By slowing your eating rate, you accomplish several things. You increase awareness of exactly what is going into your body. You increase the pleasure you get from EACH bite, not just the first and last few bites. And you will likely get fuller sooner and eat fewer calories than if you ate quickly.

So give this a try. If it's hard to remember, try a sticky note where you eat that says "Slow Down." Wear a yellow bracelet or ring to remind you (yellow light, slow down!) Or just put a note on your fridge.

I'd love to hear how the healthy habits are helping you. What has been most successful for you? Which habit has been difficult to master? How have these challenges helped in your weight loss or fitness journey?

Keep at it, and you will reach your goals!


~TMcGee~ said...

I am so guilty of mindless eating! I think my biggest problem (which I am really tackling this week) is mindless evening snacking. Most of it is done in front of the T.V. after the kids are in bed. I really like the yellow bracelet idea. lol I know it would catch my attention since I never wear bracelets or watches.

petunia said...

Hi Lyn -- Great post.
This is the one I think I might have the hardest with.

1. I'm now drinking a cup of green tea in the AM, 2 20oz waters in the morning, 2x20oz waters in the afternoon (like you I try to stop before bedtime)
2. I rejoined Ballys near work and I have been going for a quick workout (only 25 mintues) at lunchtime
3. Been adding veggies to soups and meals -- as long as I'm hungry and not eating junk -- veggies taste great to me. Broccoli, green squash, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes,
4. I've added oatmeal with unprocessed bran to my breakfast, always eat apples for dessert, and have been incorporating a lot of high fiber veggies.

This one is hard -- I always wolf down my food! I'll see how it goes!


Dinah Soar said...

I've been moving more and drinking more water...still need to work on the daily fruit/veg quota...always seem to fall short there...which of course makes it harder to reach the fiber goals. Just having the challenge before me gives me a mini-goal that I can reach and feel successful. And success seems to beget success. I'm going to try today's challenge tonight by stopping mid-eating and timing one minute on the clock and then proceeding to finish. That is so doable, there's no point in not giving it a go. I know from experience getting a phone call in the middle of the meal and ceasing to eat while I talk leaves me much less hungry than prior to the phone call.

bbubblyb said...

I totally love your habits of the week. I have whole heartedly taken them on one by one. The only one that hasn't seemed to stick is the veggies, I'm still trying though. I think the one that has helped me the most is the water one. I have kidney issues and I'm suppose to try to drink 3 liters a day. I was only averaging about 2. You mentioned green tea which I've never liked but I found peach mango green tea crystal light and I'm hooked. I dilute it by half and it gives the water just the right amount of flavor that I'm drinking down a gallon most days. I so appreciate you being here to help all of us, thank you Lyn.

MizFit said...

it's the eating and, at times, LIFE where I need the SLOW THE HECK DOWN reminder...
driving, candy, hanging with my toddler ALL OF IT.


Vickie said...

I have a friend that swears by the three bite thing. She eats three bits of something high cal and that is it (this is not a food addict personality, so those 3 bites do not set off her WANTS, like they might someone else).

My 14 year old daughter is now in the habit of splitting things. REALLY good brownie at our hair stylist's - split it 3 ways. Carmel apple - split it 2 ways. Ice cream sandwich at school on a Friday - 2 ways. I think 1/2 is a good way of thinking about it.

new*me said...

this is a good one ;) I read a while back that it takes 20 min for your brain to get the message that you have eaten! I have been having a small handful of nuts 20 min before dinner (the meal I tend to overeat) and that helps a lot because by the time I sit down, I feel in control.

Stephanie said...

Slowing down - such a good one for me! I find myself eating my food in a rush, usually because I've got something to do or just because I'm not paying attention but man - I mean, I am barely chewing food sometimes. I recently tried to make myself more aware of that and slow down to actually enjoy what it is that I am eating. Thanks for the reminder. And thanks for coming by my blog, too!

Ceres said...

Thanks for the new challenge, I am anticipating that I'll have trouble with it, I am such a fast eater sometimes! I did ok with last week's challenge. For me, getting enough water and veggies seem to be the hardest so far.

LAUREN said...

Over the past year I have been able to change many of my bad habits and now eat much healthier , drink tons of water and exercise daily . I just can't seem to make any headway with slowing down my eating...I just inhaled my handful of almonds before I sat down at the computer and didn't even taste them. It's funny that I am reading this now , after just telling my husband that he is permitted to nag me about this (and only this ) when we are eating together . I do wait 30 minutes before taking another helping , however my meal is done in 5 min flat .