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Awareness in the New Year
By Tara Gidus Collingwood, MS, RDN, CSSD, ACSM-CPT
PHYSICAL HEALTH FOR WIDOWS
Each New Year, we may take some time to reflect back but also look forward. For me, it’s a time for renewed awareness of where I am currently, and where I want to be in the future, in many aspects of my life. I identify areas of my life that have a gap and set intentions to reduce that gap.
For many clients I work with, health, wellness, and weight management are top of mind, especially at the beginning of a new year. I often get asked, “If I could make one change that would be the most impactful, what would it be?”
Believe it or not, I think the most impactful change most people can make is not in the “what” they are eating but rather in the “how much.” Of course we can all (myself included!) probably make better choices in the types of foods we choose to consume on a regular basis, but I truly believe that all foods can fit into our diet as long as we watch two things: portion and frequency. If you love French fries, pizza, or ice cream, it’s definitely possible to include all of these foods in your diet — but maybe not every day, and definitely not in super-sized quantities.
“I didn’t realize how much I was eating!” I’ve heard it over and over from people having successes in working toward their healthy weight. It’s easy to be unaware of the amount of food we pile on — especially if we tend to eat what’s in front of us without paying attention to how much is there or how big the plate is.
We are creatures of habit, which can backfire on us if we aren’t paying attention. We may simply eat everything on our plate because it’s there, or we were taught from an early age to clean our plate.
Our body has different energy demands each day. Some days we need to eat more, while other times our bodies require less. With a little more awareness about portion sizes we can form new and improved habits for health.
Leave it! Go with the “Leave a Few Bites Behind on Your Plate” club instead of the “Clean Your Plate” club. Ask yourself if you really need everything there. Would you rather it go around your waist or in the waste basket? Throw it away or wrap it up for leftovers.
Find smaller plates, bowls, and glasses. When we eat from a bigger plate we are tempted to fill it up. Instead, choose smaller sizes to keep portion sizes in check. Plates, bowls, and even forks and spoons have gotten bigger throughout the years. Eat from a salad-sized plate instead of a dinner plate.
Use visual cues. Did you know you carry around a measuring cup with you everywhere you go? Your hands are perfect for sizing up your servings! Chomp on veggies, fruits, and grains that are about the size of your fist. The palm (and thickness) of your hand is about the size of a serving of protein. And the tip of your thumb measures a serving of mayo, dressing, or oil.
Rearrange your plate. At most meals, go for half a plate of produce (or two fists full), a fist of grains, and a palm of protein. This meal mix allows for satisfaction and a greater variety of good-for-you nutrients.
Eat regular meals and snacks. Large meals will lose their popularity when we realize that we can feed ourselves whenever we become hungry. No starvation in the name of weight loss. I hate being hungry and I’m sure you do too! Eat smaller meals and enjoy snacks in between.
Keep the serving dishes off the table (aka bread basket). We tend to unconsciously eat more food when it is right in front of us. To avoid the temptation of extra portions, serve food from the kitchen and then take your plate to the table to enjoy it.
Slow down. Did you know that there is a delay of about 15-20 minutes between the time the food hits your stomach to the time it sends a signal to your brain that you are feeling satisfied/full? If you eat quickly, you will already be full or overfull by the time your brain gets the signal to stop. One way to address this is to consciously put your fork down between bites, drink plenty of water, have conversations with fellow diners, and just simply be more mindful around the pace of your intake.
Eat what you need, not what you want. I know this doesn’t sound fun, but hear me out. Ask yourself, “How little do I need to get through the next 3 hours?” You don’t need to fuel yourself for days. Break up the day in 3-4 hour increments. Eat only what you need to get through the next 3 hours. If it’s not time for the next meal, have a snack. It’s that question of whether you should have another slice of pizza. I know you want it, but you don’t need it.
Becoming aware of how much we are eating is a step in the right direction for forming healthier habits.
Tara Gidus Collingwood, MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Personal Trainer, and fellow Wister. You can find her at dietdiva.net.