Know When to 'No'
Keeping your weight in check may be as simple as knowing when
to say "when." The good news? Your body knows when you've had
For many people, the weight-gain culprit isn't necessarily
eating the wrong things, it's eating the wrong amounts of the
wrong-and the right-things. How portion-conscious are you? Take our
bite-size Portion Distortion Pop Quiz. There's only one question.
Here it is:
One serving of protein, such as fish or chicken breast, should
A. 6 ounces before it's cooked.
B. the size of a playing card.
C. one-fourth the size of the plate you're eating from.
D. The size of your hand, fingers included.
The answer is, of course, "none of the above." The trick is,
there's a way to control portion size without having to know any of
the answers, and without having to tote a deck of cards to the
restaurant with you.
Back to Basics
According to Melinda Johnson, R.D., a national spokeswoman for
the American Dietetic Association, we are all born knowing exactly
how to manage our portion sizes. Our bodies tell us when it's time
to eat by sending hunger signals, and they tell us when to stop by
broadcasting a "neutral" sensation of fullness.
But as we grow up, things start to interfere with how-and why-we
eat. We have busy, adult lives, and we eat in the car or at work or
while reading. We develop complex emotions, and we eat to soothe
ourselves, reward ourselves, to calm frustration or assuage
boredom. Before we know it, we're standing at the freezer eating
ice cream out of the container or putting away slices of pizza till
our bellies hurt and we need to change into sweatpants.
According to Johnson, our collective obsession with dieting
plays a part, too. "The more we diet, the less likely we are to be
in tune with our own bodies. Diets force us to ignore our own cues.
When we go on a diet, we go on an external set of cues and learn to
ignore our own cravings." So a diet might have us stop eating
before we're comfortably full. If a diet leaves someone unsatisfied
and feeling deprived, he or she might respond by "living in a
constant state of fullness by grazing all day," Johnson says.
That Full, Familiar Feeling
"You know those people who seem to eat whatever they want and
stay lean?" Johnson asks. "More than likely, they're the people who
are in tune with their internal hunger cues. They're eating when
they feel hungry-and they're stopping when they feel full. [Full]
feels different for everyone," she says. But, she says, there are
some signs. When you've hit that "neutral" full state:
>>You should have no "hunger signals" in your belly-no
rumbling, gnawing or pangs.
>> You shouldn't feel bloated, distended or
>> Food tastes less pleasurable than it did when your meal
The best way to recalibrate your belly-brain communication path
is to keep a food journal, Johnson says. "Write down what you eat
and how you feel before and after you eat it." You can also try
using a numerical hunger scale (see "Rate Your Rumblings").
Wherever You Are, Be There
You might be worried that if you give your body permission to
tell you when and what to eat, you'll eat nothing but brownies. Not
likely, says Johnson. "If you're being honest about what you're
craving, you're satisfied with much less of the food. Once you're
doing that, you can allow yourself to sit down and have a lovely
bowl of ice cream." And the sitting down to enjoy it is another
important element: "Eat at the table, sit down and enjoy what
Eat slowly. Bring your attention to the task at hand," Johnson
says. "If it doesn't deserve your attention, you probably shouldn't
be eating it." -By Andrea Decker