Healthy Aging Micro-Habits: Get into the Habit of Thinking About Your Food Portions
Toast is not a healthy snack, though it does compare well to cakes, sweets, and puddings.
Putting two slices into the toaster is a great example of an automated habit.
You’ve always put two slices in, right? That was what your parents did, and likely theirs too.
I love questioning this type of habit and have expanded it to the number of potatoes on your plate, the scoops of pasta – or even how big a handful of nuts you take for a mid-afternoon snack.
This week’s healthy aging micro-habit is not about cutting down, or starving yourself – it is to pause, and think about how much food you put on your plate.
Develop the habit of actively deciding what portion sizes you choose, instead of doing it automatically.
This Week’s Micro-Habit: Stop and Think Before You Choose ANY Portion Size (Especially Carbs and Sugar)
Simple carbs digest into glucose.
There is no such thing as a ‘carb crash,’ what you experience is a sugar crash.
Finely ground carbs (think bread or pasta) release their sugar rapidly. Your body responds by releasing insulin, storing away as much of the glucose as possible. The crash is on the other side of that insulin spike.
Over time, the result of regular sugar spikes is insulin resistance. You need more insulin to rid your blood of those toxic sugar molecules – and the cycle that leads to metabolic syndrome begins.
Yet almost everyone has a default portion size for snacks, meals and even drinks.
A set number of slices go into the toaster, four spoons of pasta go with a meal, or five small potatoes.
Why not one slice of toast? If you feel you’d still be hungry then an avocado on top, or a little cheese would work.
Why not two potatoes instead of five? You can make up for it with some healthy greens, how about two types of vegetables per meal, instead of just one?
Why four serving spoons of white rice? How about some fresh beansprouts on the side instead, or replacing that rice with cauliflower chopped up fine?
How to Begin the Mindful Portions Habit?
I’ve stolen a trick common in therapy for this healthy aging habit.
Using a scale of 1 to 10.
When you feel that pang of hunger and decide to eat a snack. Rate it from a little peckish to famished. If you are like me, then most of the time those pangs will be a 2 or 3, a mixture of bored and maybe a little hungry.
You then use that score to decide on your portion, rather than the default two slices or half a bowl of toxic breakfast cereal.
The same concept works at mealtimes. Getting in the habit of mindfulness works when you put things on your plate, and while eating. Are you desperately hungry today? Or is this an average dinner on an average day?
If you don’t need that extra sugar, then why eat it?
Anchoring the Mindful Portions Habit
This habit has a natural anchor – it is linked to the moment you decide to act on your hunger, and when dishing out your daily meals.
Remind yourself to stop and think ‘how much do I really need?,’ on a scale of 1 to 10.
Each time you remember to calibrate, celebrate – punch the air or complement yourself for avoiding extra food that would have contributed to aging.
It only took me a week to get into this habit. Sure, I forget sometimes, though 4 out of 5 is still good.
Going One Better: Make One Rule to Avoid Making Multiple Decisions?
Linking mindfulness about portions to other habits covers the major decisions we make about what and when to eat.
I only eat between 12pm and 6pm. This is one big decision, which saves me having to use willpower many times each day. Other big decisions are not having snacks in the house, and the types of food you do / do not eat.
Let’s leave that topic for another time!
This post is part of a series of 52 weekly micro-habits, which each combine to boost healthy aging (they all work together).
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Previous Healthy Aging Micro Habits / Related Pages:
- Sunlight in the Morning (significant sleep quality boost)
- Glucose Revolution Book Review (excellent for blood sugar info and ideas on managing them)
- Minimum Viable Exercise for Longevity