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How do you eat?

How can be just as important as What we eat

This tip is about how we eat at meals and snack times. Although WHAT we eat certainly affects our weight, HOW we eat can also influence weight loss or gain.

You may be thinking this tip is ridiculous - anyone should just sit down and eat. But in reality, sitting down to eat at a table has become less common as family life becomes more hectic. How we eat varies greatly from person to person. This can be due to individual habits or preferences, how we were taught within our families, or even influences from cultural and national traditions.

For example, try answering the following questions to see how YOU eat.

Question a b c
1. Do you eat while standing up in the kitchen or while in the car? usually sometimes never
2. Is the TV or computer on while you eat? usually sometimes never
3. Do you talk on the phone or text while you eat? usually sometimes never
4. Do you eat directly out of boxes, cartons, or bags? usually sometimes never
5. Do usually skip breakfast? usually sometimes never
6. When you are at home, do you eat your meals alone? usually sometimes never

Kids who answer more questions with "c" (never) than "a" (usually) will have less difficulty losing weight.

Cell Phone BanWe tend to eat less when sitting down at a table with food on a plate, no TV, no video games, and no phone conversations or texting. When we are more focused on food, then we are being mindful. In other words, we are thinking of what is going on the present. Being more mindful can allow you to make clearer and more rationale decisions. On the other hand, being distracted means we aren't paying attention and those bag of potato chips disappear very quickly while watching TV. A previous Lucy Tip provides a useful guide to being mindful with food.The mind has a difficult time recognizing when we eat on the go or while standing leading us to eat and snack even more. Seeing everything laid out on a plate helps to visually satisfy cravings and hunger. Eating while sitting down at the table compared to standing up or on the road ultimately makes the meal more satisfying and full.

Breakfast Waffles
Skipping meals, especially breakfast can also backfire on weight loss efforts. One big reason is that kids find themselves feeling starved later in the day. They then overcompensate by eating big snacks and meals in the afternoon and evening, resulting in more overall calories than if they had eaten breakfast. Eating breakfast will help prevent binging later in the day, plus it helps us to better concentrate at school.

Families who eat meals together at home (without the TV on), tend to have slimmer waistlines. There are exceptions to this, as when families have a habit of eating large portions or multiple servings of high calorie foods. Some kids also find that they may eat more when going out with friends to fast food restaurants or visiting them in their homes and snacking. Other kids may be more likely to have food binges when home alone. Loneliness can be an uncomfortable void that is "filled" by junk food. Reflect on your own food habits around family and friends, then decide what situations are best for you in losing weight. For example, if you find that you snack more often when alone, then find activities where you can be with others or outside the home away from the temptations of the kitchen.

Family Dining TogetherBest "how-to" habits for eating:

sitting down at the kitchen or dining room table for all meals and snacks

food served on a plate or in a bowl

eat with other family members at regular meal times

TV, computer, electronic games, and cell phones are OFF

Teen Girl in Garden with TomatoAdded bonus - being mindful of how and what we eat can start before the food even reaches your plate. Additional good habits:
Make a list of foods or dishes you would like to try or make. Then go to the grocery store with your parents to select these items.
Try growing a few vegetables in a small garden if your family has a yard. Easy plants to grow: carrots and beans from seed packets, or tomatoes and squash from a greenhouse.

In the comments box below, please share how you eat and if you think you can make any changes to improve your habits.

"Blueberries and Strawberries on Waffle" Image courtesy of Paul /

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