Ask the Experts: Change a Habit, Change Your Health, Part 2

by in Ask the Experts, April 6, 2013

food journal
“If you could recommend just one habit that someone should start doing to eat, and live, healthier, what would that habit be?”

This is the question I posed to a group of my colleagues – registered dietitians and nutritionists – in the trenches coaching and counseling people in the science, and art, of eating better. So many experts responded with great tips, that I sorted the feedback into categories. In addition to the tips below, you can find additional tips in Change a Habit, Change Your Life, Part 1.

Adjust your portion sizes so you’re satisfied, not stuffed

• “To shrink your waist, shrink your plate! You’ll trick your brain into feeling more satisfied by the generous-looking portions. And if you go back for seconds, your overall portion may still offer fewer calories than if you had served your meal on an oversized platter.” – Jessica Corwin, RD, MPH

• Use smaller plates, bowls, silverware and glasses. Studies show you’ll eat less and you can clean your plate without the guilt. — Multiple experts

• “Gradually get used to being a little hungry between meals. Don’t deprive but eat 10 to 20% less (this may be two less bites at a meal, a half portion less of a side dish or one less piece of bread).” – Roseanne Rust, MS, RD, LDN

• “Eat with your stomach and not your wallet. Just because you paid for something — it doesn’t mean you have to finish it (or you’ll ‘pay for it’ in other ways!)” — Bonnie Taub Dix, MA, RD, CDN

Become more mindful of your eating habits

• “Before you eat, HALT = Ask yourself: are you hungry, angry, lonely or tired?” — Chere Bork, MS, RD, LN

• Write down/record everything you eat and drink. — Multiple experts

• Relax at meal time: put your fork down between bites, chew well and taste your food. Pretend like you’re a food critic. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to know you’re full, so you may as well enjoy it. — Multiple experts

• “Practice conscious eating . . . avoid distractions at mealtime (no TV, reading, etc.) and pause midway to ask if you are still hungry.” – Bonnie Giller, MS, RD, CDN, CDE

• “Ditch the fad diets, and discover the best way of eating for you, that you’ll love eating for the rest of your life.” – EA Stewart, MBA, RD

Have a positive outlook about eating – and life

• Nourish your mind through positive thoughts: believe in yourself, commit to making positive changes in your life, be happy and smile more often. — Multiple experts

• “Control what is in your control. Make the best food choices you can every day, so then when you’re in a situation where there are limited healthy options available, you can participate with limited stress because you know you make great choices most of the time.” – Kathy Ireland, MS, RD, LDN

• “Think healthy, not skinny.” – Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RD of

• Write down one achievement you’ve attained and one person/thing you’re grateful for each day. — Multiple experts

Review the habit changes recommended above (or from this post), choose the one that works best for you and give it a shot for three to four weeks. Research shows it takes about that long for a new action to become a sustained habit. If one recommendation doesn’t work for you, try another one; different approaches work for different people at different times.

Do you have another habit to share? Tell us!

In addition to the quotes above, I’m so grateful for all of the wonderful feedback I received from the following nutrition professionals: Jenn Randazzo, Lisa Young, Jennifer Neily, Ana Kucelin, Carlene Thomas, Janet Helm, Carol Plotkin, Kimberly Oswalt, Rebecca McConville, Marina Stauffer, Wendy Hess, Vicky Retelny, Dr. Sally Rockwell, Donna Israel, Carol Ireton Jones, Elizabeth Ward, Sheila Campbell, Kate Yonke, Lorraine Huntley, Yvette Quantz, Jennifer Erdmann, Jill Fuster and Aarti Batavia.

Originally an overweight engineer and traveling IT consultant, Jason Machowsky lost over thirty pounds and changed careers to pursue his passion. He is now a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Registered Dietitian, having received his Masters of Science in Applied Physiology and Nutrition from Teachers College at Columbia University in New York. Through his book and blog, Death of the Diet, Jason empowers people to live the life they want by working with them to integrate healthy eating and physical activity habits into their daily routines.

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