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Get an Eating Style Makeover and Lose Weight For Good

On Monday, October 6, 2008 by Gay Riley, MS, RD, CCN

 

“Eating style” refers to our attitudes, emotions, environment, behaviors, and the influences associated with the foods we eat.  Adjusting our approach to eating is a sensible way to achieve long lasting weight loss within the comfort of our personal lifestyle. By learning what our eating style is we can plan for an eating style makeover. Popular weight loss diets usually have an “all or nothing” theme including processed, packaged foods, special food lists, and rules that lead to deprivation.  The dieter must focus on how to stay on the diet instead of learning about daily, real life food choices and habits that need to change once the diet is over.

Successful, permanent weight loss requires attention to food awareness and food behaviors rather than denial, avoidance and deprivation.  Most dieters find themselves in a vicious cycle of loss and frustrating regain; we call this the Deprivation Two-Step or the dieter’s dance.  Deprive for awhile, lose some weight then gain it back and more. First step, lose weight. Second step, gain it back. It is estimated that people make 200 food-related decisions a day and with deprivation diets it could be more. Deprivation diets are hardly ever permanent.  At best we can shed a few pounds for a special occasion only to find that those lost pounds will likely be regained..  Ninety-five percent of dieters gain back the lost pounds and more. ,   Deprivation of favorite foods often leads to obsession, desire, appetite, and cravings. Ttherefore, it makes perfect sense that once the diet ends or is abandoned we want to get back to our favorite foods.  Fantasies of “after the diet” feasting are common.

Getting out of the deprivation mindset requires us to be truthful to ourselves, to know ourselves and the reality of the relationship we have with food.  Think of it as taking a course on your food habits and studying the conditions that lead to becoming overweight.  The science of weight gain is to consume more food than the body burns, but there are circumstances that encourage overeating: learned food behaviors, environmental cues, emotional triggers, social situations, food choices, attitudes, and tastes which have been shaped throughout life.  These factors all formulate our “eating style”.  By knowing your eating style, you can avoid common high risk food situations and you can create a new way of eating to encourage long lasting weight loss. Face the truth about your relationship with food and you gain the knowledge for real change.


Know Your Eating Style

To review, eating style is the way in which we relate to food: what, how, when, where, why and with whom we eat.  What and how much are going to be the big factors for weight control, but you will be surprised to discover how much influence when, where, why, and who you eat with affects the type and amount of food you eat.  Ask yourself the following questions and you will begin to recognize your eating style.

WHAT

What foods do you typically eat?  What you eat affects your daily calorie balance. Remember – more calories than you burn leads to weight gain. Studies show there is a positive correlation for BMI (body mass index) and food choices.  Higher BMI’s are associated with meat, eggs, fat, and oil, whereas lower BMI’s are associated with foods such as vegetables, fruit, beans, and grains. ,
Most people regularly eat the same 10 foods, so identify what those foods are for you.  Look at the overall picture of what you eat or drink and write it down.  Packaged foods, convenience foods, fast foods, sweets, café foods, alcohol, juice drinks, soft drinks, snack foods, and high calorie processed food are the foods to focus on substituting.  Do you eat mayonnaise or mustard on your sandwich, butter on your movie popcorn, creamy or oil and vinegar dressing on your salad, sour cream and butter on your potato?  Do you always eat the chips and bread before the meal when dining out? Once you identify your trouble foods you can begin to make subtle substitutions.  If you eat a cheeseburger with mayo and fries at lunch, change to a 6 inch sub with vegetables and baked chips or a piece of fruit. If you do not eat green vegetables, try adding a salad at dinner with low cal dressing instead of a supersized baked potato.

HOW

How much food you eat is the key to calorie balance. You may eat healthy foods but if you eat more than you burn you need to adjust the portion sizet. Ask yourself questions regarding quantity or serving size. Do you go for jumbo portions or go back for seconds? Do you prepare extra food when you cook at home or choose restaurants that offer all you can eat buffets? Do you always clean your plate?  Do you prefer volume of food over quality?  What size do you buy at the movie theatre or coffee shop?  A 12 oz can of cola or a 20 oz bottle, medium popcorn or the bucket, the tall or vente coffee drinks?  In any of these situations you could make a big difference in your calorie consumption by choosing one size smaller, taking two fewer bites, or cutting your portion in half and packing it for later before you start eating.

How fast you finish a meal is also important.  Eating slowly allows the body to become satiated (feeling of fullness) before more food can be consumed.   Finishing a 1200 calorie meal in 10 minutes may promote a second trip to the buffet table.  Concentrate on adjusting your food portions and the time it takes to eat your food.  A great exercise to slow down eating is to eat half your meal first, then get up and walk for 2-3 minutes and return to your food.  The food has time to fall to the bottom of the stomach, signaling the brain that you are full.

How often you consume a particular or favorite food or beverage is very helpful to know. Habitual consumption of a particular food or drink may make a huge difference in daily calorie balance.  Cut out one regular or large sweetened soft drink and you save 150-300 calories!

WHEN

When or what time you eat can affect food intake both physically and mentally. If food is not consumed often enough to prevent hunger then there is a risk of overeating. For example, skipping breakfast or lunch often leads to overeating in the evening.  When can also be a learned habit from childhood, or influenced by job, family, or other schedules. The day of the week can be a trigger to overeat, so think about whether you eat differently on Monday versus Friday or the weekend. Ask yourself if you eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, skip meals, eat at night, get up from sleep and eat, eat more on weekends or on weekdays, during work or after work, etc. Eating regular meals throughout the day (every three to four hours) can prevent hunger, poor food choices, overeating and you’ll probably have the energy to burn more calories throughout the day.

WHERE

Where you eat can trigger specific food choices and encourage overeating.  Where you eat can also determine the eating activity.   Identify the places you eat and drink most often - in the car, at the desk or computer, in bed, standing at the counter, standing at the kitchen counter, in restaurants, hotels, airports, etc.  If you have a habit of eating and watching TV, then try to start using lower calorie foods to munch on or even better learn to watch TV without food.  Television viewing can also influence food choice.   Studies have concluded that people who watch more television eat more calories and more fast food. ,

WHY

Why you eat can dramatically contribute to overeating.  The reasons why we eat are endless…Why could be an activity such as food preparation and putting leftovers away, emotional triggers such as stress, anger, or loneliness, physical reasons like lack of sleep or depression or thirst, environmental cues  like food aroma, social events or situations that promote or require food and drink, or side effects from medicine.   This is sometimes the hardest eating habit to understand because the hunger cue is inter-related to the stimulus.  Sometimes thirst can be confused with hunger. It may take some investigation to figure out the reasons why you eat when you are not really hungry. Keeping a food log and writing down what you eat, how you feel and why you’re eating will help identify the reasons you eat.

WHO

Who we share our meals with or who influences the food we choose to eat plays a major role in food intake. Some of us eat more when we are alone, but many of us overeat when we are around family, friends or groups of people.6,7  So much of our activity and socialization involves food and drink.  Study who motivates you to eat healthy foods and do healthy activities, and who encourages you to overindulge. Increase your awareness of how others have an impact on your food choices and habits.


Eating Style Makeover

Once you have identified your eating style you can start to make changes by having a plan.  List the detrimental habits and list an alternate plan. Learning your personal eating style is a simple exercise that allows you to identify specific habits to change to achieve and maintain weight loss forever.  Maybe an eating style makeover is just what you need to stop the “deprivation two-step”.



References

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  2.   Wadden TA, Phelan S. Behavioral assessment of the obese patient. In: Wadden TA, Stunkard AJ, eds. Handbook of obesity treatment. New York: Guilford Press, 2002:186-226.
  3.   Gaesser GA. Carbohydrate quantity and quality in relation to body mass index. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Oct;107(10):1768-80. Review.
  4.   Monsivais P, Drewnowski A. The rising cost of low-energy-density foods. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Dec;107(12):2071-6.
  5.   Andrade AM, Greene GW, Melanson KJ. Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Jul;108(7):1186-91.
  6.   Wansink B, Payne CR, North J. Fine as North Dakota wine: sensory expectations and the intake of companion foods. Physiol Behav. 2007 Apr 23;90(5):712-6. Epub 2007 Jan 3.
  7.   Wansink B, Payne CR. Counting bones: environmental cues that decrease food intake. Percept Mot Skills. 2007 Feb;104(1):273-6.
  8.   Fitzpatrick E, Edmunds LS, Dennison BA. Positive effects of family dinner are undone by television viewing. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Apr;107(4):666-71.
  9.   Jeffery RW, French SA. Epidemic obesity in the United States: are fast foods and television viewing contributing? Am J Public Health. 1998 Feb;88(2):277-80.
  10.   Taveras EM, Sandora TJ, Shih MC, Ross-Degnan D, Goldmann DA, Gillman MW. The association of television and video viewing with fast food intake by preschool-age children. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2006                  Nov;14(11):2034-41.
  11.   Wansink B, Payne CR, Chandon P. Internal and external cues of meal cessation: the French paradox redux? Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 Dec;15(12):2920-4.
  12.  Henderson DC. Weight gain with atypical antipsychotics: evidence and insights. J Clin Psychiatry. 2007;68 Suppl 12:18-26. Review.

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