That's the question many (all) of us struggle with at the weekly "meeting" with our friend/foe the bathroom scales. But don't worry, we've got answers! We took our dress size dropping dilemma to the professionals, namely super star nutritionist Zoe Dent, and unearthed the two key reasons those scales aren't diving and what basic diet switch-ups we can make to get those numbers down. Drumroll... And the answers are? Mindful eating and portion control - two deceptively simple wellness words to be added to our vocab stat.
Here, Zoe decodes everything to know about these two wellness trends and how to follow the rules so you'll be slipping into that Hervé Léger bodycon frock by the time date night swings around:
What exactly is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is eating with intention and attention, which sounds simple but once you take note of every time you grab-and-go or graze as you're driving/talking/reading and you'll realise it is not as simple as it sounds.
Why is mindful eating so important?
Today's on-the-go society means that when it comes to mealtimes often our bodies are not properly prepared to digest food. Instead, our active and stressful lives keep our bodies predominantly in sympathetic nervous system dominance a.k.a "fight-or-flight" mode which ensures the majority of our blood supply is directed towards our limbs and brain for movement and critical thinking. In comparison, mindful eating shifts our bodies into parasympathetic state, a.k.a "rest-and-digest" mode, which enables us to extract the optimal nutrients from our food.
In addition, eating on the run doesn't give your body the same satiety signals as when you sit down and consciously eat, so you're much more likely to overeat. Same goes for grazing- if you open the fridge or cupboard and grab a few handfuls a few times a day you'll end up eating an entire extra meal unconsciously. Sitting down to eat enables your digestive system to properly do its job, and will leave you more satisfied and less likely to overeat.
How does eating mindlessly affect your body?
If the digestive system is not working optimally then we are unable to properly extract the nutrients from our food, and we also struggle to eliminate toxins effectively. The result? A tired body, bloated stomach, lacklustre skin and hair and weight gain - symptoms we all want to avoid.
How can we switch from mindless to mindful eating?
Make sure you sit down and actively consider the meal you're eating. By giving thanks to each meal we also heighten our awareness of the food supply chain and are more likely to make better choices when it comes to our food. Eat away from your desk and eliminate distractions - including social media! By eating mindfully you'll also chew your food properly, which aids your digestion.
What's the deal with portion control?
The last 100 years have seen a "normal" portion size almost double, and more often than not we are eating more than we need per meal. This is especially pertinent to our protein and fat consumption. Both are incredibly important macronutrients, but also very easy to overeat. For example, a small handful of unsalted nuts are filled with nourishing fats and vitamins your body needs. If you mindlessly reach for another handful (more likely when you choose salted nuts, so avoid these!) then you double your fat intake - leading to too many calories and inadvertent weight gain.
Portion control rule of thumb?
Fill your plate up with greens and mostly non-starch vegetables, choose a protein source no larger than the palm of your hand, and a fat source the size of your thumb. Finally, watch your snacks - aim for around 5g protein and no more than 200 calories. I advise clients to eat proper meals and not snack - because how many of you actually snack on carrot sticks? Instead convenient snacks are usually full of sugar, preservatives and additives.
If we overeat at dinner, how can we compensate the next day?
Choose a meal to have in liquid form - and by this I'm not talking fruit juice but instead a green protein smoothie for breakfast and a light soup for lunch. Liquid meals can be easier on the digestion and if they're protein-rich can aid weight control.
Is our "upsize" culture skewing what we think is a normal amount of food?
The upsize Western diet means that whilst we eat more food our body remains starving for nutrients as we skip nutrient dense meals in favour of processed sugar filled food that doesn't keep us full. Portion control is key for our fat and protein intakes in terms of calorie consumption per meal, but more importantly, so that we consider how nutrient dense our food is. Generally speaking, the more colourful our plate the more nutrient dense so fill your plate with the rainbow and avoid beige carb heavy meals like pasta and white rice.
What foods do we consistently overeat thinking they're "healthy"?
Fats in general - good fats (such as nuts, seeds, avocado and oily fish) are imperative to nourish our adrenals, skin and hormone health however too much can equal weight gain. If you are eating a salad choose one fat source the size of your thumb - rather than adding a handful of feta AND avocado AND nuts. Other food traps include sugar-filled food masquerading as health food - cereal and yoghurt being the key culprit. Your cereal bowl is more likely to be 80g rather than the 30g recommended serving size - elevating your seemingly healthy bowl of cereal to one laden with sugar. And seriously, who eats half a tub of yoghurt, which is the recommended serving size?
Finally, should we cut back on the smoothies and juices?
The main issue with smoothies and juices is that people sip on them mindlessly alongside their meal - when an average original sized Boost Juice smoothie contains around 400 calories - the same as a recommended meal or half a block of Cadbury chocolate. Instead, view your smoothie as your main meal source not a drink to go-with and ensure it contains recommended servings of fat, protein and vegetables and less than 10g sugar per serve. When juicing ensure vegetables are the base, and only a small piece of fruit if necessary.