Louise Thompson 's Opinion

Inspirational advice to rock your life with energy, passion, happiness and balance.

Louise Thompson: Eating out without pigging out

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Ask yourself 'am I still hungry?'. Photo / Thinkstock
Ask yourself 'am I still hungry?'. Photo / Thinkstock

Nadia Lim's recipes in last week's Bite encouraging us to eat more slowly, reminded me of an article I read recently that said the average person puts on 3.6kg when on a two-week vacation to the U.S. I expect the American tourist development office is working very hard to kill that story.

That is clearly a hell of a lot of weight, in a very short period of time. What is that all about? Obviously food content and the way it is cooked play a big part.

However, there is another factor at play here, which is mental rather than nutritional. It's the "eating out" mindset that can kick in, not just on holiday but with any kind of treat meal out (or in for that matter). Getting a handle on what is happening in your brain at this time, and practising what we coaches call "intuitive eating" is a crucial life skill in terms of avoiding overeating in social situations, whether overseas or in your local Thai.

When we eat in a social situation we are far more likely to be distracted from our actual food intake as we are paying attention to the conversation and our surroundings. We are also more likely to be served a portion size that is not under our control. What we do with these two factors are just as influential in weight gain as the nutritional content of the food itself.

There is a signal that goes from our stomach to our brain to tell us that we have eaten enough food, we are no longer hungry but pleasantly satisfied. This is our cue to stop eating. When we eat alone, we are much more likely to "hear" this signal. When we are in a big distracting group we have to focus much harder to hear that internal signal, and often we miss it. Consequently we eat much more than our body says we need.

When you combine this with the fact that portion sizes are usually significantly larger when we eat out, then you can see how easy it is to inadvertently stack on the kilos. The more interesting and stimulating the company the more likely you are to overeat. The solution? Either find really boring dinner companions, or, take back control and practise intuitive eating. Put your knife and fork down between each bite to slow yourself down.

Drag your attention away from the chat periodically to momentarily check in with your body... ask yourself "am I still hungry?". Ask your stomach, not your mind, be aware of the physical sensations of fullness in your body. If the answer is that you are already pleasantly satisfied then honour that message from your body and stop eating. Your body will honour you right back by not gaining the weight.

Action step

Make the decision to practise intuitive eating at your next meal. Put your knife and fork down between each bite and listen carefully to the physical sensations of hunger (or not) in your body.


Louise Thompson is a life coach, yoga teacher and corporate escapee. For more from Louise visit positivebalance.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

Louise Thompson

Inspirational advice to rock your life with energy, passion, happiness and balance.

Louise is a corporate escapee turned wellbeing pro. After 17 successful years on the commercial side of media a serious health crisis led to a complete lifestyle overhall and a brand new direction. As a life coach, and the first Martha Beck accredited coach in New Zealand, she loves nothing better than to help her clients get inspired, get happy and make their own rules for a connected, passion-fueled life. Her first book, The Busy Woman’s Guide to High Energy Happiness, aims to motivate people with practical solutions to step up and live their best lives. A qualified yoga teacher she also runs her own yoga studio and leads corporate wellness seminars. Louise loves to run, cook and dance, and is an incurable travel junkie.

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