Updated 25 January 2017

4 ways to enjoy food while you watch your weight

Whilst cutting down on energy intake (calories) promote weight loss, very often it is the eating behaviour around food that we need to correct to sustain the weight loss in the long term.

The following advice can assist you to the way you plan, savour the taste of your food, and listen to your body’s hunger and satiety signals. This can help you to achieve your weight-loss goals without getting exhausted by counting calories.

The secret to strengthening your will power

When it comes to eating, an effective way to strengthen your willpower is to limit the need to make a decision.  For example, if every day you go to the canteen for lunch you are more than likely having to choose from a number of meal options ranging from the very healthy salad variation to the less healthy; chicken schnitzel with a side of fries.

Read: Count your calories

Regardless of your good intentions, repeated exposure to less healthy foods as well as additional factors such as tiredness and uncomfortable emotions (anxiety, stress, exhaustion, aggravation) may weaken your good will and have your heading for the calorie laden option. Rather, help strengthen your willpower by eliminating the need to make daily food decisions, and pre-plan and pack your meals and snacks for the day.

Creating a supportive environment at work and home also goes a long way to strengthen your will power and budget. Healthy eating thus start in the supermarket by buying more healthy food and much less of the unhealthy food.

- Cheating with your eating? Enjoy it!

When it comes to selecting less healthy options, those watching what they eat usually take one of two routes. They feel so guilty about what they’re eating that it’s almost not worth it, or they try to make an unhealthy meal healthy, and thereby alter the taste so drastically that satisfaction is slashed.

Enjoying treat foods guilt-free is an important skill to learn. Be present in the moment, eat slowly, taste your food, savour every bite, and stop when satisfied. 

Read: Why exercise promotes weight loss

Acknowledging treat foods, and enjoying them, will remove the feeling of deprivation that often accompanies those on diet or watching what they eat. Removing this feeling of deprivation is part of making healthy eating sustainable and a part of your lifestyle rather than a 3-month stint.

Stop trying to “healthily” your treats

Have you ever tried a cauli-pizza? Or a sugar-free, fat-free cheesecake?

The latest food craze seems to be new “healthy” twists of your old favourites. Although this has noble intentions, you are often consuming a similar amount of kilojoules (or more!) for much less taste and satisfaction.

Read: Low-calorie, lower-fat alternative foods

Take for example, a low carb cottage pie with cauliflower mash used as a replacement for potato, the kilojoule content for this meal is 1603kJ, 500kJ more than its regular cottage pie (with a mashed potato topping) which is 1190kJ. So rather than trying to find healthy versions of your favourite foods, incorporate your favourite foods into your eating plan.

Treats enjoyed within the correct frequency and in the context of going out, social event and celebration will still result in adequate weight-loss if the net kilojoule deficit is maintained over time.

Stop when you’re satisfied, not overfull

When your stomach begins to expand during a meal, a variety of sensors (nerve signals, gut hormones) are triggered, which send messages to your brain, alerting you that you have had enough. Unfortunately, many of us receive this message, swiftly ignore it, and continue eating. 

The result is that when you do stop eating, you feel overfull and uncomfortable, and you have consumed more kilojoules than you actually needed.  Eating slowly and learning to listen to the subtle messages your body sends you is essential in controlling your energy intake and feeling comfortable after meals. 

Subtle changes to your mind set and behaviours when it comes to eating can mean big savings when translated into kilojoules. Inevitably it is behaviours that are learned and sustained that will ensure that the weight that is lost, stay off.

Read more:

Low-calorie, lower-fat alternative foods

Exercise less effective for burning calories than diet

Calorie restriction improves health, mood, sex drive


Mahan LK, Raymond J, Escott-Stump S. (2011). Krause's Food & the Nutrition Care Process. Saunders, 13th Edition
Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Interventions for the Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults.  2016. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116 (1) 129-147.