If you are one of the small minority of those of us who have diabetes but have a normal weight, you are excused. You can read my other articles here.
But if you are among the 85 percent of people with diabetes who are overweight, please read on. Please also send me your comments on the successful strategies that you use to lose weight. I want to be able to include your best tips in my forthcoming book.
All my life I’ve been a fast eater. I tell myself that’s because I don’t like my food to cool down too much. I might not walk too fast, but I can usually beat everyone to the finish line of the meal.
It’s important to slow down at the table. The trouble with eating fast is that when we don’t slow down over our food, we can be full before we know it. When we eat fast, we can eat more than we need to satisfy our hunger. Everyone knows that bit of conventional wisdom.
But we didn’t have any proof until October 2006, when researchers at the University of Rhode Island compared how much people ate when they gobbled down their food and when they savored their meal. The researchers, Ana Andrade, Tara Minaker, and Kathleen Melanson, reported their results at the annual meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity.
The people who ate more slowly not only took in fewer calories but also had a greater feeling of satiety when they finished and also an hour later. They even said that they enjoyed the meal more than when they were in the quick eating
I have even heard of an electronic device that counts how rapidly you eat. It has a contact sensor on your plate.
“If the utensil strikes are too rapid, the plate will play fast and aggressive music,” the inventor says. “If the person eats more slowly, the music will be calmer and less stressful.”
But I’ve found that I don’t need to go that high-tech. Some of my best strategies come from Brian Wansink.
Brian taught me that the best way for me to eat slower is to think about my meal as I eat it. In practice what this means is not to think about something else that we are watching on TV, listening to on the radio, or reading in the newspaper. Brian calls that all too common way of consuming our meals “Mindless Eating.”
In that book Brian reports many experiments that his university laboratory conducted showing how we can eat less. Some of my other favorite tips are:
1. People who eat only at the kitchen or dining room table eat less. And this doesn’t mean eating at the kitchen sink
2. When we eat directly from a package we eat more. Until I read this, I made an exception for eating some of the plain non-fat yogurt that I love. No more.
3. The best part of a dessert is the first two bites. This means that I now buy smaller pieces of fruit than I used to buy.
Then, Brian shows us that size matters in more ways that one. Two of these ways that he taught me are that when we use smaller bowls and smaller spoons we eat less. I eat a lot of stews and soups, but now I use smaller bowls than I did before and teaspoons rather than tablespoons or soup spoons.
When I am most successful at limiting how much I eat for dinner, I decided ahead of time how big my portion will be. That decision needs an action boost.
I cook a lot of stews and chili bean dishes, always making enough in a big pot for several days. Typically, the first time I have one of these delicious meals I eat a couple of bowlfuls. Because it’s there. But on succeeding days, I take out just one serving, reheat it in the microwave, and simultaneously put the big pot back in the refrigerator. That action leads me to stop with the first bowl, no matter how good it tastes.
An even more powerful action is to freeze leftovers in meal-size portions and take one portion out of the freezer well before dinner. That way you really have a long wait to get seconds!
At a minimum I wait at least 10 minutes after finishing my serving before taking a second helping. By then, I almost always feel full and don’t want any more.
Just increasing the awareness of what you eat can help you to eat less. Another man who is consulting on a Joslin Diabetes Center project with me says that he lost more than 100 pounds in a couple of years by taking a digital photograph of everything he ate. He says that he doesn’t even look at the photographs after taking them, but the act of recording what he eats helps him to stay in control. Others are able to achieve the same results by keeping a food log.
I don’t buy anything that I just can’t stop eating. What’s irresistible to me, may not be for you. But I just can’t have chocolates, cheese, or bread around me without eating it all. So I limit myself to eating just a bit of what other people offer me in their homes or as free samples in supermarkets, because I would be ashamed to eat their entire stash.
In a similar vein, Tara Parker-Pope suggests that we downsize our favorite foods. “We all have favorite foods we eat almost every day,” she writes. “Instead of giving them up, look for ways to trim calories.”
The best way to stay in control of what you eat is to prepare it yourself.
Tara points out that restaurant and take-out foods have far more saturated fat, calories, and sodium than foods that you cook in your own kitchen do.
“One way to cut calories is simply to commit to home cooking more often,” she writes. “Studies show a direct relationship between cooking at home and body mass index. In the past 30 years, every half hour less we spent preparing food at home, body mass index increased by 0.5.”
Likewise, consider not snacking. I know that whenever I start eating, I want to keep going. So at least for me the best way to avoid overeating is to not even start, except at regular meals.
The only exceptions that I make are when I absolutely need a sweet. Then I eat a piece of fruit or suck on a Ricola sugar-free throat drop or eat a Solo Low Glycemic Snack Bar, which has just 100 calories and a glycemic index of from 23 to 27.
One of Tara’s readers offers tip about how to avoid snacking. “I’ve found that brushing your teeth after every meal helps you resist the temptation to snack,” he wrote her. “Of course, it’s good for the teeth too.”
The really good news is that eating breakfast can actually help you lose weight. I reported here at “Eating to Lose Weight” that a new study show that breakfast skippers were heavier than those who ate breakfast.
Before breakfast is the best time to weigh yourself. I make sure to weigh and record the results the first thing each morning.
But be forewarned that your weight will go up and down for unfathomable reasons, cautions my friend John Dodson. Don’t let it discourage you when you have done everything right the day before and your weight goes up.
The worst time to eat is after dinner. What we eat then doesn’t have a chance to get digested while we are still at least relatively active.
Make it a point to leave something on your plate – even if you waste it. You don’t have to eat everything that’s there, even if your mother kept telling you about all the starving children in China and India. If you can leave something to be eaten another day or not at all, you are in control.
The National Weight Control Registry more than 5,000 people who have succeeded in keeping their weight off for a long time. The Mayo Clinic Health Letter these biggest losers in its January 2007 issue.
Different strategies work for different folks, that article shows. And nothing works all of the time.
But the most common motivation of the losers who succeed was concern over their health or coming to the realization that their weight was at an all-time high. Those were my motivations in spades. What are yours? What works for you?
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.