Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 5)

This is the final step of our journey of finding more self-control.

In the first four steps, we’ve covered how to use our dinner plates effectively for improved weight management and weight loss, and have gained self-control while grocery shopping, at the office, and in restaurants.

The last place can sometimes be the most difficult.

At home.

We are going to apply three of the previous lessons here.  

First, I want you to treat your dining area as if it is a restaurant. Plate your first serving in kitchen, and do not forget to use the “Half Plate Habit” that we learned in Part One. 

But additionally, here we are going to divide all the food in the kitchen, just like we do on our plate. After we serve ourselves, bring the veggies, lettuce salads, fruits and milk to the table. Leave the entrees and starches in the kitchen.

This reinforces three previous tricks: “Half Plate Habit”, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” and the “Six Foot Rule.”

You will always eat what is easily obtained, so make sure the vegetables and fruit are always prominent. And this applies not just during a meal. Have a bowl of fruit out on the counter and hide the chips, cookies and crackers in the pantry (or get rid of them altogether.)

Make sure that everyone has water in a glass waiting for them on the dining table. Again, if it is already in front of them, it will more like be consumed.

Make the dining experience enjoyable, not rushed. Do what most of the nicer restaurants do to make people satisfied with the environment. Dim the lights a little to help people bring focus to the food. Soft music in the background is excellent. 

And turn the TV off. Television is a distraction and leads to mindless eating, instead of what we are trying to do here, which is mindful eating. And everyone stays at the table until everyone is done eating. Make dinner a social event something to be enjoyed rather than rushed through.

Those are the five “secret” tricks to gain control while eating, whether you are at home, in the restaurant, at work or anywhere. When you use these simple actions, you will begin experiencing controlled eating. You will start enjoying those Simple Small Successes. And that will give you the confidence to make other changes to your eating habits.

And you will enjoy life more than before.

By now, you may have already read the five secret tricks, but if you want to listen to me as I talk about them, here is the podcast episode

Again, I want to acknowledge Dr. Brian Wansink and both of his excellent books, “Mindless Eating” and “Slim By Design”. His research and more importantly, his well-written and easy to read books were the source of these suggestions. You can buy these books using the affiliate links within the show notes.

Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 4)

Welcome back to this series of life-changing tips which are very simple to use!

To recap, we use going to use the “Half Plate Habit” everywhere, chew gum while shopping, and move temptations at the office out of sight.

But many of us eat one or more meals away from home and office. What about when we eat at a restaurant? How can you use the “Half Plate Habit” when you are not in charge of plating your food?

I will offer a few simple actions. Oh, I know, you already know the trick about having the server pack up half the entrée before they even bring it to the table. That will prevent you from eating the entire meal without thinking.

(Do you do that? I don’t. I should, but I don’t.)

And we probably should order all those “heart healthy” foods. You know, those foods with the little heart logo. But do we? Not usually. Sometimes those foods just don’t look appetizing, or the portions seem too small, but for whatever reason, we ignore those options.

So what can we do? I have three simple suggestions.

  • One is seating location. Ask for a seat near a window or a well-lit location. When people sit in a booth, in the far corner, dark and isolated, people tend to order more and then eat more. Sitting near a window or on the outdoor patio, generally helps people make healthier choices. When you can be seen, you will usually do what you “should do.”
  • The second step is when you order a meal, remember to use the “Half Plate Habit”. Instead of a starchy side dish, ask for extra vegetable or a side salad. And when the server arrives, immediately ask for a glass of water with a lemon or cucumber slice, and ask him or her to not bring the dinner roll basket.
  • Lastly, you should try to limit alcohol consumption. Not only is alcohol empty calories, but one of the first effects of alcohol is to put our “decider brain” into a deep sleep. That is why we tend to eat when we drink. But if you are sitting near the window you probably will also not be sitting near the bar, so that decision will be easier. 

If you really want to throw caution to the winds, and bypass everything we’ve learned so far, order food while sitting at a dimly lit bar, during double-bubble happy hour, and with 2 televisions going.

But if you really want to do that, we will need to have a one-on-one session.

And just a reminder, if you do not want to wait, you can listen to last week’s podcast, where I list all five suggestions. The show is about 30 minutes long, and you can find it here. You can also subscribe to my podcast in iTunes (for users of Apple products) or Stitcher (non-Apple devices.)


I want to acknowledge Dr. Brian Wansink and both of his excellent books, “Mindless Eating” and “Slim By Design”. His research and more importantly, his well-written and easy to read books were the source of these suggestions. 

Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 3)

If you just found this blog, I am giving five tricks (they really are not secret) for learning how to gain control over your eating habits.

On Monday, we learned a new method of portion control. It does not require weighing or measuring your food, nor do you need to record what you eat. It is called the “Half Plate Habit.” Yesterday, we went grocery shopping and learned a simple (and tasty) tip for keeping your buying habits under control while at the grocery store or market.

What about at work? Oh, that is a major challenge, right? I know coworkers who always have a bowl of candies on their desk. In fact, I have a bowl of candy in my cubicle, too.

There are two saying that could apply here. One is “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” But the saying which really applies is “Out of sight is out of mind.”

Did you notice the difference with my candy bowl? Mine is not on my desk. I keep it in a cabinet drawer, locked, behind my chair. I only use it when I know I am meeting with students, especially at the end of the semester. I unlock the candy, and place it out just before the students arrive, and when they leave, I immediately lock it back up.

The time it takes to unlock my cabinet is just enough for my “decider brain” to kick in and remind me that I really do not want nor need that candy. Another option is to put the candy in a covered bowl (ideally not a clear bowl) and moving it a mere six feet away. Just six feet! Those few steps are enough to get your “decider brain” active and in control. Candy in sight and within reach is candy that will be eaten.

Something else to do at work is to lock you purse or wallet in another drawer. That will prevent the random wander past the vending machines or cafeteria. The other tip for the work place is to bring your own food from home. When you pack your food, you are in control of everything. You know exactly what you packed, and how much you have. (Remember, you will still use the “Half Plate Habit” even when packing your food.)

Don’t sit at your desk and eat. Go to the cafeteria or go outside and eat while enjoying the sun. But don’t bring your money with you, so that will eliminate the temptation of buying some food there. Enjoy your time away from your desk. Enjoy your food. Recharge your mind away from your desk.

And just a reminder, if you do not want to wait, you can listen to last week’s podcast, where I list all five suggestions. The show is about 30 minutes long, and you can find it here. You can also subscribe to my podcast in iTunes (for users of Apple products) or Stitcher (non-Apple devices.)

I want to acknowledge Dr. Brian Wansink and both of his excellent books, “Mindless Eating” and “Slim By Design”. His research and more importantly, his well-written and easy to read books were the source of these suggestions. 

Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 2)

Yesterday, I talked about a new approach to weight management. Specifically, I gave you the idea of  the “Half Plate Habit.”
Using the Half Plate Habit whenever you eat from a plate will help you regain control over your eating. It is an easy method of teaching self-control, and costs nothing to implement. That’s right. A free new method to assist weight management and possibly weight loss.
While the Half Plate Habit can be used anywhere, the next suggestion is location-specific. Another place where you encounter food is at the grocery store. We all know that shopping on an empty stomach is a bad idea (but we still do it all the time). 

However, studies show that it is not that we are hungry when we shop, but rather that our good memory and imagination kicks in to tempt us. We walk past broccoli, cabbage and onions with no imagination input, but walk past the delicatessen, the aisle full of potato chips or the bakery with its fresh doughnuts, and we start remembering how good those donuts taste, we remember the sound of crunching those chips, and we revel in the memory of the last time we ate those warm onion rings (at the last football game, right?)

(Side note: as I sit here and write this section, my stomach is growling and my salivary glands are working overtime. And I do not have anything in front of me other than my laptop. It is all my imagination and memory creating this physiological response, just as if I were standing in front of an endless sea of sweets.)

How can we short-circuit our imagination and memory? We are going to give it something else to focus on:


It could be Bubbliscious, Juicy Fruit, or Bazooka Joe, but when we chew gum while shopping, it is more difficult to imagine the taste of those onion ring and sweet rolls. Please give this a try. This is the only suggestion that will cost you any money, and the price of gum will probably be offset by the savings when you don’t buy that bag of Cheetos.

That’s it for today’s tip. Tomorrow will be a suggestion for simple changes on the job.

And just a reminder, if you do not want to wait, you can listen to last week’s podcast, where I list all five suggestions. The show is about 30 minutes long, and you can find it here. You can also subscribe to my podcast in iTunes (for users of Apple products) or Stitcher (non-Apple devices.)


Again, I want to acknowledge Dr. Brian Wansink and both of his excellent books, “Mindless Eating” and “Slim By Design”. His research and more importantly, his well-written and easy to read books, were the source of these suggestions.

Do You Want to Eat Healthier, Gain Control and Maybe Even Lose Weight?

Such a simple thing: a bowl of fresh fruit

This bowl of fruit will help you eat healthier by making better choices. It will help you gain control over your eating habits and your life. And it will help you better manage your weight. It may help you lose weight.

It may help increase your happiness.

It sounds like it is magic, bit its not. But it is a sneaky trick.  Our brains our powerful and sometimes work against our best interests.

Next week, I will post a 5 part series here, beginning on Monday, October 27, 2014, giving you secret “tricks” that you can do anywhere: at home, the office, in a restaurant, in the grocery store.

These tricks are simple. And effective when used. And they cost almost nothing. Well, one trick will cost you about 50 cents a month. Maybe less.

But take note. With these five small changes, you will not be asked to:

  • Buy different food
  • Cook differently
  • Eat at strange restaurant
  • Stop eating at restaurants
  • Count calories (Yes. That’s right I said “NOT count calories!!!!”)
  • Weight and measure your food
  • Perform exhausting exercises
  • Attend meetings
  • Buy special “fat burning, metabolism-revving, appetite suppressing” pills
So what are the five secret tricks?
I’ll post them next week, one a day, beginning on Monday.
Yes. I know. This is an unsufferable tease. Do you really want to know what they are sooner? If so, you can listen to my podcast where I release all the goodies. 
Wow. Such a mean way to oncourage more people to listen to my podcast. (Guilty as charged.)
And after you listen, go to the homepage ( and click on the yellowish button that reads “Varsity Squad” and join the group of team mates who get the earliest scoop on new information.
Get ready for five simple changes that will change your life.

Change is an Ongoing Process

If you want to change something, there is a defined process or set of steps. Everyone takes all the steps. Sometimes the time lag between steps is brief, and sometimes the duration of one step can be very long. Some people repeat a few steps, but every step is always part of the process. Since I–and many others–are in the “weight change” process, my examples will all refer to that decision.

Step 1: Pre-contemplation
At this point, you don’t even think about a change. Life is happening and you are riding along. You rarely consider your weight, because it is not interfering with anything. Changes only occur when someone decides that an improvement can be made. At this point, you are content.

Step 2: Contemplation
Something has happened. You had an “a-ha!” moment, and it might have been an unpleasant finding. Maybe you were invited to a nice event and when you went to try on your favorite slacks, you found that you needed to coat your legs with bacon grease (why do you have so much bacon grease on hand?) and stand on the dresser while your significant other holds them open so you can jump in. In my case, my blood pressure was up to the point where the Red Cross started deferring me from donating blood. And since I worked in an ER, and knew what happens to overweight guys with very high blood pressure, I suddenly saw the problem and realized the gravity of it. In this phase, you do nothing, but you understand that something needs to happen.

Me, at about 290 pounds, in July 2006

This is a step that many people linger on. It is easy to say “I need to…” but making the decision to do something and acting on it, is much harder. And scary.

Step 3:  Preparation
At this point, you have decided what to do and have started. This can be the most exciting step! You finally are addressing the problem and very often, you quickly see initial results. Maybe you join Weight Watchers. Maybe you join a gym. Maybe you buy a bicycle. But whatever you choose, you decide a course of action and begin. In my case, I found a diet plan (The Sonoma Diet) which was very Mediterranean and looked like I could do it. I started eating the Sonoma/Mediterranean way. And I started to lose weight! In the first eight weeks, I took off 47 pounds. Then….

Step 4: Activation
This is where the action step you chose is in full swing. You are firing on all cylinders. You are making progress, and continuing to follow the plan. You may develop a support system around you, finding strength in numbers. At this point, success becomes a self-supporting machine. It gets easy. Until…you…begin…to falter.

Maybe the action plan becomes boring. The food–the same foods every day–becomes tasteless. The bike ride becomes a chore, and now the seat really starts to hurt. You start finding reasons to skip the gym. The losses slow down, and maybe you stall. These are all the mental obstacles that pop up because you have lost the excitement of the Preparation step and forgotten the “a-ha” event that sparked your Contemplation step. This is where the support system is critical. When you find yourself standing in front of the donut display, and you are thinking “will anyone notice if I lick the display case?” you can send a text message to your supporters and gain the resolve to walk past.

But without that team effort, progress can stop. Regression begins at this point, and again, without a cast of supporting characters in your life, the regression will gain speed.

April 2009, after losing 70 pounds.

For me, this did not happen until I was nine months and 70 pounds into the plan. I just sort of stopped. I thought, “Huh. I guess I’m done now.” I didn’t know about the next step, which is…

Step 5: Preservation
I thought that once I reached my goal, I was done! But in this step, you will continue to learn new habits to lay on top of your bad habits so that you can preserve your success. That takes time. And effort. And you need to keep your focus now, just as when you were beginning your action plan in the Preparation step.

Me? Over the next eight months, I put most of the weight back on. This is not uncommon, and was another “a-ha” moment, which made me re-enter the change process at the Contemplation step and restart from there. Again, this is a common detour that many people make. And like me, many people enter into a repeating loop at this point. I restarted three additional times over the next 13 months, until May 2011 when I found the LoseIt application on my iPod. Once I had my fourth “a-ha” I found a method that has served me well into the Preservation step.

May, 2011, back up to 265. How did THAT happen???

July 2012, about six months at my goal weight, about 185. 
I am still at or under my goal, 15 months after than picture was taken.

Step 6: Termination
This step applies to many changes, but not all. If you are building your home, eventually the builders give you the keys and you move it. Or you find that your retirement fund is large enough that you can stop working, so you turn in your retirement papers and move into the next phase of your life.

Weight loss is a different change, because we keep adapting our thought process. We don’t get a hair cut just once, in the style we like and never get it cut again (unless you are my oldest son), because other changes happen around you, and your hair doesn’t stop growing. We might continue to work, even into retirement, but the definition of “work” may change.

When we reach our goal weight, the Preservation step may need to become permanent. You may need to carefully consider what you eat for the rest of your life. Or, maybe you can stop being so vigilant. We are all different. Personally, I have been at or under goal weight for 19+ months, and I still measure my food and log everything I eat. It is not a burden, so I have no issues continuing. And my LoseIt app is my security blanket. I know that as long as I am able to log my foods, I can keep the weight off. I worked too hard to go backwards. Might that change? Probably. But I am in no hurry to move to the true Termination step.

Where are you? How many times have you looped back? We need to always remember that restarting is not a failure. Failure is when you never loop back and never restart the change process.

Question: What change you working on? Where are you in this process? Give us the answer below so we can all gain more confidence and success.

Also, go to my Make Your Someday Today podcast and stay current with my changes by clicking HERE.