Healthier Mealtime Mentality Can Help Diet Success

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shutterstock_294930056It s January 2016. New year new you. And if you re like most people, this means one thing: Time to Diet (insert *Sigh*). We all know it s for the best, and the optimist in us can even see the slimmer, healthier more vibrant version of ourselves, just in time for spring when we can start shedding winter clothes.

But instead of feeling empowered by our healthy proactivity, why is it that simply uttering the word diet can make us feel ¦ anxious, uninspired and sometimes downright sad? Is it due to the need to accept the inevitable food restrictions? Well, maybe there's a better way to help your consumption reduction: Bringing a better mental approach with you to the table.

"Foodtalk" wreaks havoc on our emotions for many reasons, and those emotions differ dramatically for each individual. But what we can tell you is this: For many of us eating has become robotic. When it comes time to sit down for a meal our bodies go on autopilot, and we stop thinking about why we're eating. This is a problem that needs to be addressed, and a few simple fixes could translate into fewer pounds and added motivation.

So what's involved? We ve come up with a few simple ideas we can all do to alleviate dieting stress, dethrone the dreaded four-letter word while working towards regaining our control.

Pay Attention to Size

Not just portion size, but dish size. Nowadays, it s not uncommon for a standard dinner plate to rival a buffet-style serving platter. In fact, the size of dinner plates have grown significantly over the last decade. With more and more evidence showing a link between plate size and food intake, it's best to opt for something smaller. So try this: Enjoy your entree on a salad plate. This gives the illusion of a full-sized meal without running the risk of overconsumption. And while you're at it, serve your salad on the dinner plate, and hopefully that'll encourage you to eat more healthy greens.

Don't Succumb to Plate-cleaning

Free yourself from the burden and guilt of clean-plate eating. Recent research out of Cornell University s Food and Brand lab found that when children are raised to clean their plates, they are more likely to request larger food portions when eating out, which can then lead to overweight and obesity. It s likely this concept might also apply to adults although no evidence to date has confirmed this. But most importantly, when you feel full, put down the fork and stop eating. And in order to know if you're full, you have to think about whether you're satisfied. So next time, as soon as you feel full stop and leave that extra bite on your plate (and then next time, those two extra bites). The more you practice, the easier this becomes.

Develop Social Awareness

As it turns out, who you dine with can greatly influence how much you eat. Studies show that individuals tend to align their food choices with those of their eating companions serving themselves larger, unhealthier portions when they would otherwise be more health conscious. To combat this, ask yourself why you're eating what you're eating. Is it really your choice? Or are you feeling pressured by the crowd? Simply being aware of this can help you, even in the most calorie-laden social settings.

Slooooooooow Down

Take a moment before you decide on a second helping once again, asking yourself whether you're full, and whether you need to eat anymore. And pause between bites. Why? Because ingestion pace affects the rate at which we release satiety or "hunger" hormones. The faster we eat, the less hormones we produce. Conversely, the more slowly we eat, the more the body increases its "postprandial satiety response." In a recent study, scientists found that when subjects were given identical servings of food on two separate occasions, they released more hormones, making them feel full, when the meal was eaten over 30 minutes instead of just five minutes.

So, what's the takeaway message? Successful dieting has many components, and the way we think about food, as well as the way we think about how food satisfies us, is an overlooked but important way to help dieters reach their elusive new year's resolution.