I’m a dog lover and I’ve learned a lot about eating from observing my dogs. Bella, a 10-year old shepherd-collie mix, eats like an intuitive eater, not like a dog. Her good eating habits include:
Chewing every bite before swallowing
Eating to hunger and leaving food in her bowl when full
Drinking plenty of water
Samson, a 2-year old German shepherd (pictured here asleep with his head still inside the food bowl) has also taught me some lessons about how not to eat. His bad eating habits include:
Gulping down his food
Seemingly swallowing food whole without chewing (I know this because sometimes he has to stop eating and clear the food that gets stuck in his huge jaws.)
Licking the bowl clean (he even picks up his bowl and drops it at my feet when he is finished eating as if saying, “more, please.”)
And, sneaking over to Bella’s food bowl to finish off her food
So, try to model Bella’s food habits even though many of us eat like Samson!
On a recent trip to Ireland I was browsing in a gift shop when my friend and fellow dietitian said, “check out the diet book section.” Sure enough, just like in the U.S., diet books are big sellers. A quote attributed to Andy Ronney is one of my favorites, “The biggest seller is cookbooks and the second is diet books–how not to eat what you’ve just learned to cook.”
All diet books are basically the same–low calorie meals, encouragement to be physically active, and some secret gimmick that all authors throw in to make you think that their diet is superior to all of the others.
Losing weight isn’t that hard–it is the keeping it off that is the real challenge. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating says we make about 250 food decisions a day. Most of those decisions have little to do with hunger. We eat because we are with others who are eating, we eat for recreation, we eat because we smell freshly baked cookies in the mall, and we eat because it tastes good. By trying to cue into why we eat and pay more attention to hunger and portion control we may have a fighting chance against weight gain, or as I like to call it, weight creep. Face it, no one gains 20 pounds overnight but we do gain a few pounds a year as we age and that can end up as an extra 20 pounds over the years.
Evelyn Tribole, author of Intuitive Eating suggests we make peace with food and honor health. Don’t label foods as good or bad, think about food in terms of health and nourishment. A handful of almonds and a orange for an afternoon snack provides more nourishment than vending machine candy bar–and the almonds and orange taste pretty good, too.
Another strategy is to stop multitasking when eating–don’t text and drive? Well, don’t eat and drive. Distracted dining is a sure fire way to increase calories without enjoying food.
Lastly, we all know weekends are “special.” Dawn Jackson Blatner, Chicago-based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association told me about a 2003 Obesity Research study that showed that we eat 115 more calories each day Friday through Sunday…that is an extra 350 calories each weekend that can result in a 5 pound weight gain a year. So, watch those weekends and don’t go on the Monday diet….that is, don’t eat whatever is in sight all week and they say, “I’ll start my diet on Monday.” Brian Wansink says the “best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.” Couldn’t agree more!