Start small; end with smaller. Think 80% and it can change your life.
In the beginning of my challenge to reduce my meal portion, I looked at my food which seemed small on the big plate and I thought, “it’s not enough”. The need for more, for bigger, is so ingrained in the fabric of our lives that we think anything smaller, is disappointing. During our recent vacation to Europe I took advantage of sitting outdoors enjoying the people watching; and I became aware of the difference in food choices and how most Europeans eat – an overall focus on smaller portions.
My family and I were out for dinner one evening and I was enjoying Tapas (small plates). It’s a great way to enjoy a variety of dishes culminating in one meal, and you can experiment without overeating, most of the time. It’s a running joke with my family that I am overboard with Tapas, but I say, “when in Spain”.
After a lovely meal we decided to have gelato at a local place on the Square (The Plaza). The size options were incredible, but amazingly the largest size was smaller than what our local ice cream parlor serves as “small” back home in the US. In that moment, I was quite satisfied with what we might call a “tiny” cup, which was just enough to satisfy my craving, without feeling guilty for having consumed too much. It’s a mind-shift, an alternate world-view, since I would easily have enjoyed the larger size. I reminded myself (and need to remind myself constantly) to make better choices, because in reality it’s up to us to choose.
We need less than we think, but have been programmed living in this society to believe that “value for money” equals more. Think of the immense popularity of “supersizing” at fast food restaurants. The Japanese living on the remote island of Okinawa (Okinawans) think quite the opposite. They embrace the philosophy of “less is more”. They practice “Hara Hachi Bu” which requires they eat until they are about 80% full. They have trained their minds to always consider whether they should have another bite and their bodies to accept no as the answer. Okinawans are also some of the longest lived, healthiest human beings on our wonderful planet, often living to 100 years old or just about.
While it is difficult to change habits formed over years, it is possible, and that’s all you need to get started. My personality is to eat what is on my plate, so portion control isn’t always easy. I began with thinking it may be possible to change. Small steps. Larger steps. Supersized steps. Mindset changed. Worldview altered. Smaller portions the norm. It’s at least worth a try.
Tips to begin eating less:
- Eat from a smaller plate; the visual impact makes a difference.
- Improve your ambiance and environment – set the table, play soft music, make eating an enjoyable event.
- Eat slowly – focus on chewing; slowing down your eating supports the theory of eating less.
- Limit distractions- put away your cell phone and don’t watch TV. Studies show that when these are present, you end up eating more.
Start small; end with smaller. Think 80%.
End with a cup of tea.