This post appears as part of our Healthier 2021 series, in which we follow three WebMD team members as they strive to improve their health this year. You can follow their journeys here.
By Bill Kimm
I love food. I mean, I really love it. I get comfort from food, and I enjoy eating. It started at an early age, and for as long as I can remember, I associate happy thoughts and good feelings with food. There is just something about the taste of food that brings me so much joy and pleasure. I love my wife’s cooking; I love going out to eat; I love food.
This might not be a big deal if I could control myself and how much food I eat. I remember as a teen, my parents would jokingly refer to me as “a human garbage disposal” because whatever wasn’t eaten on their plates or my brother’s plate, I would consume. As a teen and in my 20s, a value meal at fast food places just wasn’t enough, and I would order a second burger or extra burritos because I just loved the taste of all of it.
Unfortunately, as I got older, those bad habits never went away. I still love a good steak — and we’re talking a 12-ounce portion. (Don’t even tease me with a 4-ounce serving!) A double cheeseburger is ALWAYS better than a single. Free popcorn refills at the movie theater (oh how I miss seeing movies)? Yes, please! And don’t even get me started on desserts and sweets.
Because I enjoy eating so much, it has become a crutch for my emotions. Bored? Hit the pantry for some chips! Stressed? Cookies will calm those nerves! Sad? Ice cream! (Always ice cream!)
I say all of this because I realize it is why I’m where I am today. I’m 46 years old and 246 pounds. For a healthy BMI at my height, I should be around 180 pounds (and that’s flirting with the healthy/overweight line). Full disclosure, at my age I don’t have the desire to entirely stop eating my favorite, delicious foods. But I know that I at least need to limit them. Unfortunately, I don’t have much willpower. That’s why I need to develop strategies to help me.
My friend Sara is a dietitian, and she gave me two tips that are easy and surprisingly effective.
1. Eat on a smaller plate. It’s amazing how much eating is actually mental. When I use a dinner plate, I will fill up the dinner plate because that’s just what I’m supposed to do. Well, that leads to bigger serving sizes and overeating just because it’s on my plate. (And who wasn’t taught to clean their plate as a kid in the ‘80s!) Using a salad plate, I still fill the plate, however, with much smaller serving sizes, and believe it or not, when I’m done, my brain thinks, “I ate an entire plate of food, I’m satisfied.” I’m stunned at how well this works, but it really does. I don’t get seconds despite eating less food because my brain thinks I ate more than enough. And speaking of seconds …
2. Put away all leftovers BEFORE you eat. I love this simple piece of advice so much! I often get seconds for two reasons: The food is delicious and more is readily available. By putting away all leftovers in containers and in the fridge before I eat, when I’m done, it’s too much work to pull out everything just for a few more bites. Plus (here’s the mental thing again), if all the food is put away, my brain says dinnertime is over. There is no more food to enjoy. It’s such a simple trick, and it really works.
Those two easy changes have helped me eat healthier and reduce my calorie intake quite a bit. And a few weeks ago, my fellow Healthier 2021 blogger Mark had a brilliant third trick he wrote about that I’ve also added, which is to immediately ask for a box when eating out, and put away half your meal before you start eating.
I love the taste of food, and that’s not going to miraculously change (nor do I want it to; I enjoy food!). So I need to find hacks to resist the temptation to overeat. These tricks work for me, and I would love to hear about hacks that work for you. Please send them my way!
Bill is the Senior Manager of Funded Content Strategy for WebMD. He’s been trying to find balance with his weight, exercise, and overall wellness for 15-plus years. As Bill approaches 50, he understands how important it is to keep good healthy habits and take better care of himself. He has the support of his wife and two children (ages 22 and 15) and hopes this blog humanizes the difficulties of weight loss in middle age and offers hope to others who are experiencing the same. For more on his journey, follow him on Instagram @billkimm and on TikTok @billkimm3.