If one was to ever eat with the Okinawan (japanese) elders, we would hear this phrase prior to eating - Hara Hachi Bu - literally meaning - to stop eating when the stomach feels 80 percent full1.
Painlessly cutting 20% of our daily calories is something that would put many of us in western societies more in line with that of Japan where even today the average adult consumes approximately 1900 calories per day.
For reference, a joint review of the evidence by the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported industrialized nations consuming on average 3440 calories per day in 2015!2
The logical place to start in reducing our mindless calories is (hopefully) our kitchen as this is where food is generally kept. Where you keep certain foods is actually a pretty good predictor of weight gain, unwanted weight gain at least. We know this because researchers in New York managed to find a couple of groups of homeowners that let them in to their houses and take photographs of them in their underwear as well as photographs of their kitchen and then seeing if there was any features that predicted slim or not so slim waist lines (Wansinks' Syracuse Study) 3 .
What is most conveniently on your kitchen counter is what you will reach for not only first, but when life gets busy. Breakfast cereals are one theme throughout most kitchens, but where do you keep yours? Women who had even one box visible anywhere in the kitchen on average weighed 21 pounds more than someone who didn't. The same study showed that those who kept pop or fizzy drinks on show weighed up to 39 pounds more, cookies up to 9 pounds and crisps came in at 8 pounds 3 .
All bad news? Those who had a fruit bowl (containing ANY fruit) weighed 7 pounds less.
HAVE AN ATTRaCTIVE BLOSSOMING FRUIT BOWL EASILY ACCESSIBLE IN YOUR KITCHEN
Next step in influencing your manipulators is to spend less time around them. Research shows, logically, the more time we spend in nice restaurants, the more we eat4. The same holds true in our homes, the more we 'hang around' our food stores, the more likely we will graze mindlessly. In order to help ourselves in this regard we make our kitchen less 'lounge-able' by removing TVs, computers, comfy chairs or anything else that makes chilling there convenient. This has been shown to result in approximately 18 minutes less per day in the kitchen and increased productivity in the time we do spend there (meal prep)4.
LESS TIME IN THE KITCHEN - MAKE IT LESS LOUNGE-ABLE
Apparently, we are 3 times more likely to eat the first food we see in our cupboard than the fifth3. Wansink moved snacks from above workers desks to in their desks, on avergae they ate 75 calories less per day, the equivalent of nearly 6 pounds in weight over a year. When food is out of sight, it is out of mind. Store your treats somewhere out of view and they will not be constantly enticing you throughout the day.
Better still, pick whatever your 10 percent treat is and do not store it in the house. Buy it, eat it. This is what I do so I am not fighting will power all day to eat chocolate or ice cream. Once it is bought, it is eaten!
Similarly, rearrange your fridge and cupboards so healthier eating is what you see first, not fifth (remember you are much less likely to make it that far!!).
FIRST SEEN, FIRST EATEN. HIDE / DO NOT STOCK YOUR TREATS BEYOND WHAT YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO EAT
For all the opposite reasons, store your veggies somewhere convenient and accessible to encourage cooking with them - in sight, in mind.
KEEP YOUR VEGGIES PROUD ON DISPLAY
Apply these simple strategies and effortlessly start to reduce the manipulative strain on your willpower to consume those things you want to regulate, and encourage those things we all know we should eat more of.
In part VII of this series we look at really simple strategies to address our tablescape.
Luke R. Davies :)
1. Buettner, D. (2012). The Blue Zones, 2nd Edition: 9 lessons for living longer, National geographic Partners, Washington, USA.
2. Global and regional Food consumption Patterns and Trends, accessible at www.FAO.org
3. Wansink, B. (2016). Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, Noting Hill Gate, London, UK.
4. Kaplan, L. HouseLogic.com