Eat Less and Reduce Stress at Meal Times

I often hear from – well, from just about everyone – that it’s difficult to stay slim as one gets older. That suddenly extra flesh appears on your body that was never there before. And you think, “well if I hit the gym a few extra times or get myself on a new eating regimen, all will be fine.” But more often than not, you cannot seem to lose the extra weight.

Let me present a few thoughts on alternative ways to eat less, which have the added benefit of reducing your stress level, calming you down, and allowing you to get more pleasure from your food.

We live in a world of illusion. Our eyes play tricks on us, and so do our stomachs. You’ve heard the expression ‘your eyes are bigger than your stomach.’ It’s really the neurons in your brain sending messages downward that you are still hungry….but are you?

Let’s begin with things other than food.

Let’s start with atmosphere. Suppose you turned off all electronic devices, including the telephone ringer, computer volume, and television set. You are effectively taking the conscious decision that you are going to eat now, that food and dining and fueling your body with healthy nourishment is worthy of peace and quiet and attention.

Next. Instead of using a 12″ round plate, you are switching to a 10″ or 8″ round plate. Why? Because unless you are adept at piling your food vertically without making a big mess, you will put less food on your plate.

Now to cutlery. Try using a smaller fork. (Don’t have any small forks? Invest in some. Your waistline will thank you.) You will put less food in your mouth with each bite, and you’re guaranteed to be more aware of what you are eating and how much.

Ditto with spoons. Whether it’s soup to start or berries to finish, it’s the same story. You will eat less. And if you are treating yourself to frozen yogurt or ice cream, use a small bowl, the smallest spoon you can find, and eat the delicious treat nice and slowly.

Next trick in your arsenal? Serving dishes. If they’re on the table chances are you will keep filling and refilling your (now smaller!) plate. The best solution is to serve yourself one healthy plate of food, and leave the serving dishes out of site. Plus, you now have leftovers!

Okay now it’s down to the food itself. Because you are eating in peace and quiet, without the noise and interruption which can so easily make you lose focus on what you’re doing and keep eating and eating, you can really enjoy your food. Think about its flavor, texture, aroma. Consider how good it tastes and how balanced it is by being a combination of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, perhaps a whole grain, and some heart-healthy fats. Be grateful for the moment, take a bite, and…..

Next tip in our portion control journey? Smaller bites. Allow me to interject a bit of scientific research. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that ‘the size of food we consume in each bite, and the length of time we chew can both have a profound influence on food intake’. Tests proved that small bites resulted in much less food intake than larger ones. And after you take the smaller bite….

Chew slowly. Test results showed that chewing slowly for 9 seconds resulted in much less food intake than chewing quickly for 3 seconds, suggesting that the act of chewing may send signals to the brain’s food intake center.

Isn’t it great? You have shattered the food illusion! By sitting down to eat with intention, and cleverly breaking your meal down into careful steps, you have created a sense of calm, enjoyed the food more, and eaten less.

And who knows. If you keep this up, you just might lose those few extra pounds.

See a related article on this issue at the New York Times:

Bio: Anne Etra is a freelance writer who can be reached at


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