Staying trim and watching your weight are as much about how you eat and drink as it is about what you consume. In a nutshell, people who are overweight tend to eat differently from normal weight people and, as a consequence, tend not to heed the signals that tell others that "enough's enough".
Overweight people do, of course, eat too much. That's pretty obvious. If you consume more than you burn off, then the excess has to be channelled somewhere - and that's under your skin and around your organs. You could combat that with hours in the gym - but it takes a lot of rowing, cycling and treadmilling to burn off a second helping of chips, pudding or cake. And gyms cost a lot of money. Did you know that they all rely on people forgetting to cancel their monthly subscriptions once they've joined, gone along a couple of times - and then found it all a bit of a groan?
Easier, cheaper and, ultimately healthier (gyms are a very recent invention!) is to control the intake end of the whole process - and that's where good old "will-power" may just not be enough. Psychologists have observed and monitored the differences between "fat eating" and "thin eating" behaviours - and we can now teach the overweight sufferer how to "do it like a slim person" - eat, that is.
Starting with "cues" for eating, slim people eat when they're hungry much more than overweight people, who tend to eat "because it's there; because it's feeding time; because it's comforting". All of these non-hunger eating triggers are hazardous if they're the only triggers for eating. Of course, slim eaters will partake of a tasty restaurant meal if they're out for fun and they'll take their meals at regular intervals. But they will also be eating as a result of feeling hungry - mostly because they haven't been snacking between meals. Overweight people rarely experience hunger because they "top up". Instead, they eat because they eat. Important, then, for an overweight person to experience and "make friends with" healthy hunger.
Overweight people will eat more quickly and taste their food less than slim eaters. They will chew less and their food disappears from their plate rapidly - making room for seconds. They will clear up others' left-overs and rarely heed the internal messages that are saying "it's full in here: time to stop". If food's there, it's there to be eaten - "waste not, want not". A slim eater, however, will say "into the waste, not onto my waist".
Keeping food (decent food as well as convenience food) handy in quantity is also the downfall of many who are overweight. Open the fridge and take out a lump of cheese; cold cuts from yesterday (if any were left); butter for the toast; or a slab of chocolate - and that's another few calories that didn't need to be consumed. Slim eaters don't keep food "handy" - often shopping daily only for the day's meals (and, of course, benefiting from the exercise of walking to and round the shops every day as a bonus).
These and many other eating traits can be learned by overweight sufferers. Diets are actually pretty unnecessary and rarely last. Slim eating habits work simply because, well, they're how you're supposed to eat! Although it's not rocket science (pun not intended!), psychologists have compiled tips, hints and eating behaviour learning courses that will help overweight eaters to eat "slimly". And it doesn't have to mean that you're living on lettuce leaves for a week or two every few months! Thinking and eating slim is the lifestyle way to keep your body in shape.
Dr Robert Sharpe - Consultant Chartered Psychologist
LifeSkills self-help recordings have set the standard for excellence for the last 25 years. Thousands of GPs, hospital doctors, psychologists and counsellors recommend the LifeSkills series every year to their clients and patients and they are still the UK's best sellers.