Research quoted in the joyfully titled “Happy Money” suggests that spending money on an experience like a great meal out is one of the most rewarding paths to happiness. With good company and fabulous food, how could it not be?
Well, it turns out that for many people who are watching their weight, meals out can be fraught with anxiety:
The Delicious Seminars are designed to show you, through a presentation on the psychology and biology of eating and appetite,
WHY you can enjoy eating out and enjoy food more than ever
Each Delicious Seminar includes a fabulous meal in a lovely restaurant, so that you can learn
HOW to put what you’re learning into practice immediately
Comments from previous Delicious Seminar attendees:
“I learned a lot… the nature of the teaching (learn AS you eat) very helpful”
“Delicious! If that’s part of a diet, I’m happy!”
“the parts of the brain that deal with the sensations of hunger and thirst are very close to each other, so it can be easy to confuse one with the other”.
I’ve heard it said so many times in the past by my clients, and in the media, that we can confuse thirst for hunger. I wasn’t sure this was right so a couple of years ago I looked into this. I turned to the writing of Barbara Rolls, Professor of Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University and past-president of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior.
“You see it all the time in tips for dieters: ‘You may be eating because you are thirsty, not hungry’. We’re sceptical. The body senses hunger and thirst through separate mechanisms… Because hunger and thirst are controlled by different mechanisms, it is unlikely that you are eating more food because you are thirsty” (The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan, p 108*)
Although hunger and thirst don’t get confused in the way implied in the quote, drinking liquid causes stretching of the stomach in the way that eating food does, so that when you drink, your stomach tells your brain that something has arrived. Stomach-wall-stretching is one of the mechanisms the body has to signal to the brain what is going on the gut. So when you drink, the brain receives messages that something has entered the stomach, and this can provide a temporary reduction in feelings of hunger. But this isn’t anything to do with feeling thirsty and interpreting that as feeling hungry.
Another myth is that when parts of the brain are close to each other that we confuse the signals. That’s not how the brain works.
*Rolls, B. and Barnett, R.A. The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan (2000) Harper Torch USA
Dr Helen McCarthy
Associate Fellow if the British Psychological Society
Founder of Delicious Dieting www.deliciousdieting.co.uk
Focusing attention on what you’re eating means you get more pleasure from the food
Whether you focus on food or not whilst eating, you’ll get the calories
Focusing on it determines how much of the pleasure that’s available in the food you actually get
Using all five senses helps maximise the sensory enjoyment you get from the food.
Do you find eating out difficult when you’re losing weight? Do you struggle to know what to order in restaurants?…
It can be tough to shed the pounds and keep them off. Fasting, calorie counting and fad diets are hard to keep up. And they can suck the enjoyment out of life, especially if you love good food.
But do you know what it is that makes your favourite food so delicious? It’s not just the food itself, but your taste buds that control the experience of how what we eat tastes.
You can use this to help you lose weight.
Our taste buds are most receptive when we’re hungry. That’s why the first bite is always the most mouth watering. To lose weight, simply:
We all ate in tune with our appetites when we were infants, but life teaches us to override our natural instincts. If you’re overweight you may have been ignoring your body’s hunger and fullness signals for many years.
Delicious Dieting shows you how to tune in to this system for a reliable internal guide to what, when and how much to eat.
Eating just as much as your body needs means your weight can fall naturally.
No more diet sheets, meal plans, calorie counters or fasting
If you’re a serial dieter, or you’ve lost weight only to put it back on again once you switch back to everyday eating, Delicious Dieting can teach you a simple and natural way to eat more healthily.
The appetite pendulum
If you’ve lost touch with your natural system, Delicious Dieting teaches you how to re-learn it, using the Appetite Pendulum
The Appetite Pendulum is at the centre of Delicious Dieting. It provides a way of judging your level of hunger or fullness. You can use this subjective 11 point scale to measure how hungry or full you are at any given point.
Simple rules for stopping eating at +3 and waiting to eat until -3 result in gradual weight loss.
You only need to use this scale when you think of eating, and while you are eating. The rest of the time you just get on with your life.
Delicious Dieting is run by Dr Helen McCarthy, an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society with 25 years of experience working as a Clinical Psychologist.
Dr McCarthy offers one-to-one consultations, workshops and seminars to help you lose weight eating the food you love.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information
Dr Helen McCarthy was interviewed by Marie Claire for the article “Six Smart Habits from People who Never Diet” ….
There are all sorts of influences on our enjoyment of food beyond the taste.
The weight of the knives and forks we use to eat influences our enjoyment of a meal. Food is judged to be of higher quality when eaten using heavy cutlery.
Crockery makes a difference too. If you hold the bowl you are eating from, the weight in your hand will make you feel more satisfied with whatever amount you eat. A study used three bowls filled with same amount of yoghurt. The bowls only differed in weight. When people held the bowl in their hand whilst eating the yoghurt, the yoghurt in the heaviest bowl was rated as having more intense flavour, more expensive and more liked than that from the lightest bowl.
Desserts taste sweeter on a round white plate, which is a simple thing to buy if you want extra sweetness without adding on extra calories. Strawberry desserts were rated as 10% sweeter and 15% more flavourful when eaten from white plate compared with black plate.
The feel of the place we eat in makes a difference too. Background noise levels influence enjoyment of food. Music playing helps if it is appropriate to the kind of food being served. Sound has such potential to alter how we taste that in fact the intensity of bitterness and sweetness of some bittersweet toffee was altered by 10% just by varying the pitch of a soundtrack playing over headphones.
The overall atmosphere of the place we eat influences our experience of the food. The same meal was rated as more acceptable when served in a 4 star hotel restaurant setting than in army training camp. Even though the food was the same.
And finally, the extent to which we concentrate on what we are eating makes a huge difference to how much we taste our food and to how much intensity and how much pleasure we get from each bite. Studies have found that people rate sweet, sour and salty drinks as less intense when they are engaged in a demanding secondary task than when they are concentrating on the food.
These findings are all described in “The Perfect Meal” by Charles Spence and Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, who study neurogastronomy (the complex brain processes that give rise to flavour perception).
Sources in Number 10 Downing Street report that David Cameron is giving up his favourite treat, a bowl of Bird’s custard late at night, in order to help him lose weight. Not surprisingly Mr Cameron really struggles with this.
First because he has a lot going on at the moment. The front page headline of the same newspaper is “PANIC GRIPS DOWNING ST”. Like the rest of us, times of stress are not the best for making major changes to existing habits. If you want to change a habit, you need to bring it to the front of your thinking for a few weeks. You need to be able to focus on it.
Times of stress make us more likely to need soothing. And if Bird’s custard does it for us, that’s where we are going to want to turn.
Second, because late at night our energy levels tend to be low. When your energy is low, your willpower is at its lowest. Even if you have shed-loads of energy and willpower at other times. I see lots of people who, like Mr Cameron are highly successful and very disciplined in other areas of life but who struggle to resist their favourite treat.
The worst place to start trying to lose weight is by giving up a habit that is pleasurable and soothing at the end of a (phenomenally) demanding day.
If I were David Cameron and I was wanting to lose some weight now, I’d:
This way, you learn to reduce the size of your favourite snack whilst really enjoying it. Adjusting the size of the previous meal so that you are definitely hungry means that (a) you’re fat-burning in the time between meal and snack and (b) your taste buds will be at their most sensitive by the time you start the custard so you’ll enjoy it more than ever.
For more guidance on The Most Delicious Diet in the World, go to www.deliciousdieting.co.uk
Losing weight permanently is about changing how we eat permanently. And changing old habits isn’t easy.
How and Why We Change is the subtitle of Polly Morland’s new book Metamorphosis, nineteen stories of personal transformation. Only one of the stories is about someone losing weight, but each story includes nuggets of truth about any journey of personal growth. These apply as much to changing your relationship with food as to any other journey.
Morland’s gripping story-telling makes this a joy to read and each of us will take different lessons from it. The points which jumped out for me, which come up time and again when I work with people to change unhelpful established habits are:
Start with who you are now. You need to change one step at a time. The steps don’t have to be slow; sustainable change can happen quickly or slowly. Focus on habit change.
She quotes Didier, a monk who became a successful businessman “You believe something then you do it. You do what you believe”
If you’re eating more than you need in place of human contact, or in order to stifle difficult emotions or as an antidote to boredom, discovering how to deal with the feeling directly frees you from compulsive eating and allows you to discover what it feels like to be flexibly in control around food.
Although changing habits isn’t easy, it is possible. And it’s not just the habit that changes; it is your very view of yourself.
The British Psychological Society’s Research Digest (www.digest.bps.org.uk) recently reviewed a study suggesting how helpful it can be to plan to deviate from your diet.
It’s an interesting read, as the study found that dieters who stuck rigidly to 1500 calories a day did no better than dieters who kept to 1300 calories 6 days a week and on the seventh day had 2700 calories. The second group, with the relaxed 7th day reported stronger feelings of self-control during the dieting period, found the experience more enjoyable and reported feeling more motivated. The two groups lost similar amounts of weight. The second has more chance of sticking to the diet.
The flexibility of the 7th day in this study makes this a 6:1 diet (rather than the familiar 5:2). Just as with the 5:2, the built-in flexibility means that apparently going off-track isn’t the end of the diet; it’s part of it. And actively planning when to have the relaxed days means that you’ll feel more in control and more likely to be able to postpone overeating until the relaxed day you have chosen.
It has long been known that restricting your intake when dieting is associated with the “What-the-hell” effect: if you’re following a strict dietary rule and then break it, you tend to abandon the rule for the day and overeat. If this happens often enough, you abandon the whole diet. This sort of un-planned “failure” is the result of feeling under too much pressure (psychological and physiological) from the demands of following a diet which is too different from how you normally eat.
Using planned deviations from your usual weight loss eating guidelines doesn’t have to involve a whole day off. It also isn’t necessary to work out calorie allowances for each day. The basic principle is of planning in a time when you’ll relax your eating “rules” as part of your weight loss plan. It could be that you decide to have a much-loved treat at a particular point in the week such as your favourite cake or cheese and crackers.