Help Your Kids Lose Weight by Losing Weight Yourself (page 3)

By — Obesity Prevention Special Edition Contributor
Updated on May 17, 2010

The Importance of Taste

What we think of as taste is really 90% smell. In the mad rush of gulping down large portions, fewer of the volatile smell chemicals in food get to activate the 10 million olfactory receptors located in our nose. This loss of intense taste when large portions are eaten in big bites is probably why small portions have been found to be just as satisfying as large ones. Studies show that people given small bowls for ice cream eat about a third less than if they’re given large bowls but feel equally satisfied.

Be the Boss

Who’s in charge of your food environment? You are. So it’s up to you to get rid of what tempts you (and your children) and to stock good alternatives. This might sound like a small thing, but I promise you it can make a big difference. In fact, some families may find this is literally all it takes for everyone to lose a few pounds and keep them off. According to my research, being susceptible to foods lying around at home can cause a massive 40 pounds of weight gain between the ages of 20 and 55, so changing this one thing is really important! Below are some really easy but powerful suggestions for improving your home environment so that you can eat better – and, over time, your child will follow along.

  • Put these great weight control foods where you can see them and get to them easily.

    • Arrange fruit in a bowl, on the kitchen counter.
    • Keep a bowl of cut-up celery, red peppers and other vegetables in the fridge, ready to put out on the counter for snacks and before dinner.
    • Buy pre-washed salad greens and have a variety of tasty dressings available so that salad is instantly available and interesting every day.
    • Stock some high fiber cereals. (Trader Joe’s High Fiber Cereal, Fiber One by General Mills and All Bran Extra Fiber by Kelloggs are great choices.) Served with milk (the low/non-fat milks that are enriched to taste like full-fat milk are a calorie-wise choice), they can be mixed with regular cereal for older kids who get hungry, and adults can have one or two servings a day to increase fullness and satisfaction.
  • Get rid of unhealthy foods.

    I know this isn’t easy, but just do it. Clean out your kitchen cupboards and check under the bed and any other place where you might have hidden stuff that tempts you. Toss out all those half full bags of chips and crackers and the leftover cake from last night’s party.

  • Write down everything you eat.

    Keeping an honest record of exactly what goes into your mouth is an invaluable tool when it comes to weight loss. Food is everywhere, tempting us all the time, and we can easily think we’re eating a lot less than we really are. It’s even possible to overeat when we eat nothing unhealthy. You may well discover that casual eating is your diet destroyer. At Tufts, we find that many volunteers cut down on portion size and casual eating soon after they start recording everything they eat. In fact, writing down what they eat improves their food awareness to such an extent that quite a few of them begin to lose weight even before their diet starts.

  • Make high-calorie foods less user-friendly.

    The less often you see large amounts of foods like nuts, cheese and chocolate, and the harder they are to get at, the less tempted you’ll be to overeat them. You might, for example, limit yourself to grated Parmesan cheese (not the delectable soft blocks that you can cut nice slices from). In the chocolate department, try buying a chunk of Belgian chocolate and storing it in the refrigerator so that cutting off a piece to eat is a job in itself (and requires care!). Incidentally, most people are less likely to overeat dark chocolate than milk chocolate, so stick with the dark if that helps. At mealtimes, don’t put anything on the table that you and your family shouldn’t eat in unlimited quantities. Leave entrée dishes on a side table or countertop nearby. Amazingly, research has shown that just those few feet between the table and counter means that people will eat less. And put less food on your plate, and cut it up before you start eating. The more small changes you can make to control the food environment around you when you’re not eating at home, the easier it will be to avoid backsliding.

    In Praise of Small Spoons

  • Limit restaurant meals.

    Eat at home as often as possible, and avoid takeouts. Restaurant meals have more calories and less fiber than home-cooked meals, and the more often people eat out, the heavier they tend to be. In a study I did of 73 men and women from age 19 to 80, those who ate in restaurants only three times a month on average had fully a quarter less body fat than those who ate out once a day. It didn’t matter where they ate; it was the frequency of restaurant meals that mattered. Partly this is because of the huge portions that restaurants serve: chefs tend to have a very distorted view of what normal portion size should be: one study reported that the portions they considered “normal” were two to three times the size recommended by the U.S. government!

Dr Roberts is author of The Instinct Diet: Use Your Five Food Instincts to Lose Weight and Keep it Off (Workman Publishing 2008). For more details on getting started with instinctive eating for the whole family go to

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