Tips to Change How You Eat and Lose Weight

When it comes to ways to lose weight, most of us tend to think in terms of "what" not "how," meaning we frame weight loss in terms of what we should eat and shouldn't eat instead of how we eat. While what we eat is extremely important to our general health and maintenance of a healthy weight, how we eat can be an incredibly influential factor in building healthy eating habits.

By making simple changes in the way you eat, you can avoid hundreds of mindless calories a day. These ten tips may feel a bit strange at first, but keep doing them until they become a habit and you may start to see the benefits.


Slow Down

Serving food
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It is very typical in our culture of fast food and hurried weekday lunches to eat too fast. Though it may be a time saver, it won't help you build mindful eating habits. It takes up to 20 minutes before the stomach can tell the brain that it is full, yet the average meal lasts only about 10 minutes. The unfortunate result is that we may be eating far more than we need, which may put us at risk of unintentionally gaining weight. If slowing down can save 100 calories a day, that could add up to a pound of weight loss a month.


Small Plates

Mini tacos on plate
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A scoop of mashed potatoes looks small on our over-sized dinner plates. Put your food on small, 9-inch plates and your serving sizes will be more accurate. This easy swap may help you consume portions that are more appropriate for your needs by simply changing the way the meal looks on a smaller plate.


Sit at the Table

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We can consume hundreds of calories of cookies and chips while browsing in the pantry or grabbing a quick snack. These calories add up. Instead, try to eat while sitting at the table to support slowing down and truly enjoying your food versus mindlessly eating. The extra effort will allow you to truly assess how hungry you feel.


Only Eat From a Plate

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Whenever possible, try to eat from a plate. Eating from bags, shared dishes (like chip or popcorn bowls), or straight from the container hides how much we are really eating. Take the time to place all the food you eat on a plate to help regulate portion sizes.


Move the Serving Dishes

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Do not put serving dishes on the table. Doing so makes it far too easy to have a second or third scoop before you let your brain catch up to your stomach. Leave the serving dishes in the kitchen. You can always still have seconds, but the extra pause may provide an opportunity to assess your true hunger level.


Eat Better Desserts

Assorted homemade Chocolate truffles
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Become a dessert gourmand. Eat only the finest, most expensive desserts you can find and afford or those that you truly enjoy. You may find that you eat less when allowing yourself to eat something you truly enjoy. The cookie and candy aisle in the grocery store is filled with sugary things that you may not even like. Instead, give yourself permission to enjoy your favorite foods regularly in moderation to avoid overly restrictive habits. If you need to feed your sweet tooth, find some $4 truffles and relish them (in moderation).


Eat Often

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Try to eat only until you are satisfied at meals, but tell yourself you can always go back in a few hours for more food if you need to. Have trail mix, nuts, yogurt, and other snacks handy. Eating until you are satisfied may lead to a decrease in overall consumption. Many registered dietitians recommend an eating schedule closer to the following:

  • Breakfast
  • Mid-morning snack
  • Lunch
  • Mid-afternoon snack
  • Dinner

Eat When You Eat

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When you eat, eat. Do not watch TV, read a newspaper, talk on the phone, or drive a car. Just eat. Pay attention to your food. Monitor your servings. Distraction will only lead to automatic eating. That said, sitting down to a meal with a friend or family member to chat with can be a good tool for slowing down, so don't shy away from healthy lunch dates.


Liquid Calories

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Examine the number of calories you drink. You can usually cut out hundreds of calories a day by decreasing your intake of sodas, juices, sweetened coffee drinks, and alcohol. Keep a log of everything you drink and then add up the calories. You might be surprised by how many of your calories each day are liquid.

Instead, try substituting with water. If you're in the need for a little caffeine or flavor, try a cup of hot or iced tea. You might also want to consider skipping the diet sodas and drinks as well. While they have little to no calories, the sweet taste only makes your brain and body crave sugar more. Do yourself a favor and drink water instead.


Crave From Your Plate at the Table

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If you have craving for a certain food, you should enjoy it in a small portion, but try to do so using a plate. While avoiding a craving may lead to overconsumption later, mindfully enjoying it by slowing down with a plate at a table may lead to greater satisfaction with a smaller portion.

In addition, you may find that some healthier substitutions for certain cravings also do the trick. For example, you might be surprised how satisfying the sweetness of Medjool dates can be when your sweet tooth is acting up.

By Mark Stibich, PhD
Mark Stibich, Ph.D., FIDSA, is a behavior change expert with experience helping individuals make lasting lifestyle improvements.