One of the essential eating lessons we are taught as children is that we must never leave any food on our plates – that we must finish all our meal at all costs. Did your parents tell you this? In Germany, children were told that the people in Africa would starve because they didn’t eat everything that was on their plate. Unhealthy eating habits are the result.
The goal of that education is not wrong at all: children should learn to appreciate food and to honor it. As a child, I remember that I only got dessert when I had licked the plate clean. When we “ate up,” we were good children and pleased our parents. With those experiences of the past, a lot of mothers in Germany often eat what their children leave on their plates; they eat all the leftover food. But I know that is not only a problem of German mothers. The consequences of this behavior are apparent: it’s a very, very good way to gain weight and to get fat.
Why do we encourage our children to eat up?
To be a picky eater is not looked upon too kindly. By eating, we gratify the cook. And by accepting the gift (the meal), we often accept the person giving it. Think about it. How would you feel if someone told you that your kind of cooking was not tasty and thus half the meal was left behind on the plate?
Think about it. If you want to lose weight, it probably won’t happen if you eat to please other people. Think of different ways to show your gratitude. Some experts will tell you to throw all the leftover food away. I recommend freezing everything that is left over.
But whatever you do: don’t eat the leftovers from your children or the pan. Stop eating when you are not hungry anymore. Every time you eat, make sure to leave something behind on your plate (even if it is just a kernel of corn). That will help you learn that you – and not your habits – are in full control.
Another bad habit: Eating too fast
Another bad habit that contributes to weight gain is eating too fast. We seem to always be in a hurry, and instead of slowly enjoying our meals, we tend to shove them in as fast as possible to keep up with our busy schedules. Just notice how fast you eat.
When you see that you are a fast eater, you can develop new eating habits so that you can eat a little bit more slowly. For example, place your cutlery aside when you chew. That will help you concentrate on one bite of food at a time.
Another slow eating strategy is changing the hand you eat with. If you typically hold your fork in your left hand, try holding it in your right hand instead. Try this for a week. Think about it. How does it feel? Does it cause you to eat more slowly? It is very often the case that we eat with others: friends, family, and colleagues. That helps us to feel connected to others, and it improves our mood.
But we also eat alone: while reading, watching TV and even while driving. Are you someone who loves multitasking? A friend of mine watches TV, reads, and answers emails while eating. He has been gaining pound after pound, and he asks me, why? Do you know why? The answer is simple: if you are not aware that you are eating, you eat much and be tasteless. Scientist discovered that eating while distracted is a well-known cause of overindulgence.
A recent study in Psychological Science suggests that mentally taxing tasks dampen our perception of taste, causing us to eat more.
In all experiments, participants under a heavy cognitive load rated each type of taste as less intense, and they also ate more sweet and salty substances.
Other studies have found that merely paying mindful attention to one‘s food – entirely focusing on its taste, aroma, and texture, for example – leads to less intake. This study is a further reason not to multitask at mealtime: your food will taste better. see Scientific American Mind March/ April 2014