Everyone has that one friend. The one slim soul who always manages to resist the lure of the free bread basket, or that of the dessert trolley come to that. When eating at all they’ll say “I’ll have just a few bites” and they actually stick to that. How so they do it, they can’t be for real right?
However, according to various research studies they actually are, and they are not some super species either. Instead, according to the researchers at Yale University who have studied these ‘naturally skinny’ people extensively say that they just have a rather different relationship with food than the rest of us do. They tend to be far more relaxed in their attitudes towards food while those who struggle with their weight obsess over it to the point that mealtime is almost always somewhere at the back of their minds.
So what is it that these naturally thin people do that others do not and how can anyone concerned about their weight learn to copy them? Here are some tips:
They Stop Before They’re Stuffed
On a fullness& scale of one to ten the majority of the people observed in the Yale studies reported they usually ate until they were a seven. Most people however go on eating until they are at least at eight and often even ten. That may be because they feel that they will not be satisfied until they reach that level although more often it is just because they feel that they should clean their plate (like their parents used to tell them to do)
How to Learn the Habit: When you are about halfway through the food on your plate put down your cutlery and self-access where you are on the fullness scale. If you don’t feel close to satisfied, that you are at a 4 or 5, repeat the process when you have five or six bites left to go. The goal is to teach yourself to be more aware of how you feel when eating. And as this all slows the eating process it allows a feeling of fullness to settle in more quickly than usual.
They Understand That Hunger is Not an Emergency
For many people if they are used to eating at noon, and then they cannot for some reason (an overlong meeting in the office perhaps) they begin to panic. These people do tend to see hunger as a condition that has to be cured, and cured as quickly as possible. The result is that they often overeat to avoid ever having to feel too hungry and risk not being able to function properly because of it.
Naturally thin people on the other hand, with their more relaxed approach to eating, may occasionally experience hunger pangs but they know that they come and go and that, when they have the time, they will be able to tame them.
How to Learn the Habit: Try delaying lunch on one of those busy days, or skipping that afternoon snack you always have. You’ll find that yes, you’ll survive just fine and yes, you will still be able to carry on as usual and only eat when you really need to, not just because it’s a habit you have.
They Recognize Emotional Eating
Skinny people are not necessarily immune to emotional eating, it is just that they know how to recognize the signs that that is what they are doing and that it is time to stop.
Most naturally thin people unconsciously understand the principle of HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired – and that the latter three should not be used as excuses to eat. Instead they channel their emotions into something else and if they are tired, they sleep, not eat.
How to Learn the Habit: If you are truly hungry, eat a healthy snack to satisfy that need. If however you are lonely or angry go for a walk or better still, hit the gym. And if you are tired, take a nap not an extra serving of ice-cream.
They are Creatures of Habit
The usual advice is that a varied diet is a good thing, but too much variety can backfire, and the subjects of the Yale study did tend to be creatures of habit when it came to their usual diet. The majority of their meals were made up of simple staples that rarely vary.
How to Learn the Habit: Eat as consistently as you can on most days; a healthy cereal for breakfast, a salad for lunch, a basic protein and vegetables dinner. To add variety you can add chicken to your salad one day and ham the next. Or choose a slightly different breakfast cereal but by sticking to the basics and avoiding fad eating you will be able to establish a better diet overall.
They Sleep Better
The subjects of the Yale studies were found to sleep, on average, two hours more a week than most people. Other research has found that a lack of sleep reduces the amount of lectin produced in the body, which is a hormone that controls hunger naturally.
How to Learn the Habit: Think you don’t have the time to get two hours more sleep every week? You can. It breaks down to just 17 more minutes a day, which is easier to fit into your schedule than you ever imagined.