Psychological Tips For Weight Loss: Look Ahead To The Next Meal
Here is a funny thing: When the time comes around for us to eat, let’s say lunchtime, many of us can think of only one thing: food. Plus, when the opportunity arrives to eat that food, most of us can hardly contain ourselves as we anticipate the satisfaction of eating it. It is furthermore difficult to stop midway through a meal with so much more food, delicious food, still available to eat on our plates or on the table or in the serving area. In fact, many of us experience this phenomenon something akin to a biological imperative. We feel a strong compulsion to eat the food that is presented to us. One could imagine some biological programming that speaks to ensure we do in fact the calories that become available because one could never know if a reliable source of calories would be available later. Such a strong behavioral instinct to consume the calories currently available, would serve to guarantee a strong nutritional intake for a species that struggled to obtain reliable sources of food through difficult harvests, bad weather, poor hunts, etc.
So if we are seeking to lose pounds and achieve a healthier overall weight, how in the world are we supposed to overcome such a strong and deeply engrained behavior to eat at mealtime and to eat all the food available to us? Well, here is one trick that works well and has served many of my patients well. Put simply, think of the next meal.
What I mean by this is force yourself to stop focusing on the food that is currently right in front of you and instead think about the meal you are going to eat in just a few hours. For example, it is lunchtime and you are being served a mediocre burger with some nothing-special side dishes and wilted lettuce salad, nothing great here, right? Yet, of most of us are driven to eat that meal and we take satisfaction from eating most of it or all of it. It is very difficult to overcome that drive, and instead simply eat a small portion of the meal that would be more appropriate for achieving weight loss. But if you stop focusing your mental energies on the meal that is currently in front of you and instead think about the next, that is the really delicious dinner, that is something you actually look forward to, say, your favorite marinated meatballs with yummy spices, then it becomes far easier to overcome the temptations to overeat in the present meal.
I know this all might sound a little strange, but is it a behavioral trick that often works. Let me give you an extreme example and you will see how you might use this in your day-to-day weight loss efforts and your goal of cutting down portion sizes. Let’s say you have a dinner planned for a special evening at your very favorite restaurant. Now if you are at all like me, you love those special meals with your favorite chef cooking your most favorite recipe (think of a mouthwatering sizzling steak from your favorite steak joint or think of what you know as your special favorite dish). Many of us with such a special, special meal coming up would “save room” and eat less during the day approaching the special meal in order to more fully enjoy the dinner. Many of my patients and I, myself even have entirely skipped lunch and all food through the afternoon on a day when a special gourmet feast was planned. So the trick here is to tap into that sort of thinking on a more regular basis and when you are presented with food at mealtime, pause for a second and think about the next meal. Then remind yourself you have a plentiful steady supply of food and it is really not important for your health or nutrition to eat everything on your plate at lunch, in fact it is really not that important that you eat any of it. But a small healthy portion is good for you to maintain your metabolism and stave off hunger later in the afternoon. Reminding yourself that a whole other meal is just a few hours away will often help you find the willpower it takes to cut down your portion size and stop eating. This type of psychological trick is just the sort of thing that may help you regularly avoid excess lunchtime calorie consumption and lead to a healthier new you over the course of the year.