We all have that one thin friend—the one who's never bullied into submission by the bread basket, and when she says "I'll just have a bite," she does just that. Is she for real?
Turns out, research shows that thin people simply don't think about food the same way as—well, the rest of us. "Thin people have a relaxed relationship with food," explains David L. Katz, MD, an associate professor adjunct in public health at Yale University. "Those who are overweight, however, tend to be preoccupied by it. They focus on how much or how often they eat, or attach labels like good and bad to certain foods. As a result, mealtime is always on the brain."
Here, weight loss experts explore the mysterious minds of the "naturally" slim. Learn what they do, what they don't, and how you can act the part.
Secret No.1: They Choose Satisfied Over Stuffed
On a fullness scale of 1 to 10, the slim stop eating at a level of 6 or 7, says Jill Fleming, RD, author of Thin People Don't Clean Their Plates. The rest of us may keep going to an 8 or 10. Why? It may be because you mistakenly equate the sensation of fullness with satisfaction and feel deprived if you stop short, says Fleming. Or you may just be used to finishing what's in front of you, regardless of whether you really need it.
Copy Them: About halfway through your next meal, put your fork down and, using the 1 to 10 scale, rate your level of fullness. Do it again when you have about five bites left. The goal is to increase your awareness of how satisfied you feel during a meal. (Bonus: It also slows down your eating, which allows the sensation of fullness to settle in.)
Secret No.2: They Realize Hunger Isn't An Emergency
Most of us who struggle with extra pounds tend to view hunger as a condition that needs to be cured—and fast, says Judith S. Beck, PhD, author of the new Beck Diet Solution. "If you fear hunger, you might routinely overeat to avoid it," she says. Thin people tolerate it because they know hunger pangs always come and go, buying them some time.
Copy Them: Pick a busy day to purposely delay lunch by an hour or two. Or try skipping an afternoon snack one day. You'll see that you can still function just fine. Then next time you feel those grumbles, you'll hold off before making a beeline for the fridge.
Tip No.3: They Don't Use Food To Cure The Blues
It's not that thin women are immune to emotional eating, says Kara Gallagher, PhD, a weight loss expert based in Louisville. But they tend to recognize when they're doing it and stop.
Copy Them: Add the word 'Halt' to your vocabulary, says Gallagher. More than just a command (as in stop eating that entire sleeve of cookies), it's an acronym that stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired—the four most common triggers for emotional eating.
If you're truly hungry, choose a balanced snack, such as a handful of nuts, to tide you over until your next meal. But if you're angry, lonely, or tired, seek an alternative calorie-free solution to your emotional need. Blow off steam by going for a run or just jumping around—the heartbeat boost will help dissipate your anger. Lonely? Call a friend, e-mail your kid, or walk to the park or mall. Being around others will make you feel more connected to your community (even if you don't bump into anyone you know). If you're tired, for heaven's sake, sleep!
Tip No.4: They Eat More Fruit
Lean people, on average, have one more serving of fruit and eat more fiber and less fat per day than overweight people, reports a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Copy Them: Start tinkering. Examine your diet for ways to add whole fruits (not juices) to your meals and snacks. Aim for two or three servings per day. Sprinkle berries in your cereal or on your yogurt. Add sliced pears to your turkey sandwich, or bake an apple for dessert. Keep a bowl of fruit on your kitchen table or desk to motivate you to think fruit first, vending machine never.