How Good Manners Can Help You Slim Down

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Mind your manners, your mother reminded you at the dinner table each night. She was concerned about etiquette, but her affinity for proper decorum also created healthy habits. Good manners can help you make a good impression if you're ever invited to a state dinner, but they'll also help you with your weight-loss efforts.

Here's how:

Eat at the table.
Past generations ate dinner as a family at a table every night, and, it should be noted, they were also remarkably thinner and more active.

Many of us use our dining room table as a dumping ground for keys, coats and clutter (mea culpa) or restrict it to special occasions. Clear the junk, pull out real plates, and have a seat with your family. With no outside distractions, you can focus on eating and spending time with loved ones.

Eating in front of the TV has been linked to weight gain and mindless eating. Commit to eating at a proper table and you might find that you're more cognizant of what's going in your mouth at mealtime.

Read on for nine more tips on that help with weight loss--and one modicum of etiquette that healthy eaters should forget.

Make polite conversation.
Your favorite people are surrounding you, and you have their attention. There is no television, no iPod, no cell phone. Just you, them and food. Put down your fork and talk to your dinner companions. Make eye contact. The table is a great place to catch up.

By taking some time between bites and enjoying a leisurely meal, you allow yourself adequate time to digest.

Sit up straight.
Proper posture matters when you're eating. Maintaining good posture and sitting in a chair helps your body digest food properly. Your digestive system works better when you're in an upright position.

Resist the urge to do as (ancient) Romans. They gorged on food and binged drank wine, all the while lounging around on any horizontal surface they could find. Lying down or lounging might feel more comfortable, but your body prefers to be sitting up.

Use a knife and fork.
Whether you choose American style (alternating the fork between hands) or Continental style (fork in left and knife in right hand throughout the meal), use both your knife and your fork. Using both utensils requires a bit more effort with each bite. You'll also control the size of the bites you take and likely increase the number of bites, therefore giving your body more time to realize that it's full. It's hard to eat with a knife and a fork when you're not at a table, reinforcing another good eating habit.

Resist the urge to eat with a spoon to expedite your meal. Even with rice, small pasta, mashed potatoes, etc., use a fork to control the size of your bites. Leave spoons for soup, yogurt and the occasional bowl of ice cream.

Cut only one bite at a time.
Though it might seem easier to cut your entire steak or plate of pasta at the beginning of the meal, don't. By breaking up that large hunk of meat or slice of lasagna into bite-size pieces, it's harder to judge how much you've eaten, especially if you've been served gargantuan portions at a restaurant. Never take a bite that is larger than your mouth. If you have to cram in a bite of food, it's too big. The rule applies to salad, too. If you pick up a forkful of greens that are too big for your mouth, use your knife to fold or cut them. (Follow the lead of the French, who always fold, never cut lettuce.)

Put your fork down between bites.
Most meals are about more than eating and drinking. They're about spending time with friends and family, catching up on their lives and enjoying the experience and environment as much as the food and drinks. Never resting your fork means you're eating too fast, depriving your brain of the time it needs to receive the message from your stomach that you're no longer hungry.

Keep a full water glass at the table.
Drinking water between bites helps aid digestion and is another way to stall your stomach so your brain can catch up. A small sip of water between bites is a great way to get in some of your eight cups a day.

Swallow food, then drink.
If you have to wash down food with an immediate gulp of a beverage, you're eating too fast. You're also diluting the flavor of your food. Stick with small sips between bites. Just as eating too quickly can cause indigestion, so can drinking too much too fast.

Don't talk with your mouth full.
Conversation is important, but wait until you have swallowed your food to start talking. It's better to create silence while you chew and swallow than to give a garbled answer because you're talking around a mouthful of chicken. Eating while carrying on a conversation makes it easier to wind up overindulging.

Close your mouth when you chew.
When you chew with your mouth open, you swallow air, which can lead to flatulence and indigestion. Spare your dining companions the "see-food" and save yourself the tummy troubles later.

Don't clean your plate.
Was the "Clean Plate Club" de rigueur at your house? Enforcing clean plates forces us to eat a specific amount, regardless of whether we're still hungry. When we focus on whether the plate is empty rather than whether our stomachs are full, we lose touch with the sensations of hunger and satiety. Worried about wasting food? Serve smaller portions and save leftovers for omelets or stir-fries the next day.

Are you guilty of any of these dining faux pas? We don't always eat at the table, but I use a knife and fork for almost everything--even pizza! (I don't like greasy fingers when I eat.)

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Good poiints all of them - I was brought up to have good manners - "proper young lady" and all - i'm afraid I've slipped on some - time to bring them back! Report
Tho' my mom & I were the stereotypical mom/daughter struggling team (think attitude wrestling), she taught me such good habits, like eating breakfast every morning; making lunch the larger of the next 2 meals; eat a small supper. Put my utensils down. Don't cut a whole item at once. Keep your mouth closed. The biggest lesson, though, considering I come from a traditional Italian "mangia" family, was that I didn't have to finish my meal. Whatever I ate of it was enough. Thanks, Mom!! Report
All excellent comments (both the posted blog, and the responses to it). My only problem with it is drinking water WITH my meal.
For me, this is a sure-fire way to have heartburn at every meal (which I used to have daily). When the doctor wanted to prescribe some high-dollar Rx for it, I searched the internet and found my simple solution - drink water (or your beverage of choice) before eating, or after eating, but not WITH your meal.

To my amazement and delight, I have not suffered from heartburn one single time since I have adopted this habit. Report
Agreed. But man...sitting a table and not in front of the TV. That would mean we would have to actually talk to each other ! LOL Report
I am fortunate to have grown up with a Mother who was at home and we had "supper" where I came form in Pa at 5 pm every night. We did not eat in front of the TV, and we were taught good manners. Mom set a nice table every night even when my brothers were babies.

My Husband and I eat "dinner" at 5:45 every night and I continue to set a nice table with a table cloth and nice dishes and napkins, He cooks for us every night and his dinners are wonderful. I don't clean my plate anymore like I used to and my plate has the proper portion on it. We do have the TV on low to the news, but we talk to one another too. In our home the kitchen and living room is all open and one big room. I love the open floor plan. Report
While I do not disagree with the most of the advice. Grwoing up, we always ate at the dinner table as a family, had to sit up straight, use a knife & fork, never talk with our mouths full, take small bites, and chew our food. However, since I live alone now, sitting at the table talking to myself as a means to slow down my eating and eat less, seems a tad silly! Report
Yes: the clean plate was "de rigueur" when I grew up ("think of all the starving children in" -- insert name of third world country here -- and "You don't want to be rude to your mother/aunt/grandmother who worked so hard to make you this meal; if you don't eat it, it will hurt their feelings" -- "young ladies don't do that, " and "What do you mean you don't want any ice cream/cake/cookies/pie/dessert" -- usually said immediately following a comment about your weight being too high! And speaking of sports, there were lots of things that "young ladies" didn't do). Enough said. Even though many years have passed, it's still hard for me not to eat everything on my plate. When I am eating a carry-out meal that I know is going to be too much food, it's much easier if I put half of it away first, and then start eating. If it's on my plate, I'll probably eat it. But, I know better than to teach that to my children. They both stop eating when they are full, and get regular exercise. Report
This seems so obvious to those of us that have many of these habits already. But with the change in many of the way of life that were common decades pass we could do well to reacquaint our self with them. It is called culture. I don't want to see a future where conversation is replaced with text messages. Nor do I expect people to "dress for dinner" before they go to a drive through. Living well is good manners. Report
The article mentions using a spoon for soups...and these are all just small things that MAY OR MAY NOT aide in losing a little bit of weight. Of course, these all have to be added to lower caloric intake and more exercise. I don't think the point of the article was ever "manners equal immediate weight loss." These tips are also great for getting in some more quality family and friend time whenever the opportunity arises! Report
I am so guilty of eating fast. Sometimes I don't even remember what I ate. I have to admit in that short period of time I do get full. I think these suggestions are great and will be mindful of them. Recently I have tried to put my fork down after every bite and taking at least 20 chews out of each bite. Report
Already starting these items and they do help to control how muh I eat. Report
I'm going to try this!!! Thanks Report
Isn't that interesting!? A lot of people eat too fast. My husband is one of them. Almost every meal I have to ask him to slow down and he always says "I am hungry". He could eat twice as much as I do in half of the time. I explain to him it takes at least 20 minutes for our body to feel full but that doesn't matter. The habit is so rooted that he can't seem to be able to change it. Report
This has got to be the dumbest advice since "get up to change the channel and you will lose weight." So if I don't have a dining room table, I am destined to be fat? If I live alone, should I have polite conversations with my imaginary friends? How exactly do I eat vegetable soup (a very healthy meal) with my fork in my left hand and my knife in my right hand? Then again maybe that WOULD make me lose weight, since I would never get to eat a single bite.
So it has nothing to do with portion sizes, nutritious foods, or your activity level - it's where you eat and what utensils you use that make all the difference. Give me a break. Report
It is such a bad habit some of us get into, eating standing up, in the car, wherever. Sitting down, lighting candles and eating leisurely makes a huge difference and not in what I sit on. I am going to challenge myself to eat at the table all the time. That will be a real challenge! Report
Very good article. Really enjoyed it. That guy pictured eating spegetti reminds me of my brother when we were kids.
My husband & I rarely eat at the table and yes it holds all those items mentioned & some. I have gotten much better at portions and chewing slowly to better enjoy & get the full signal sooner.
Thanks for some good reading & I will work on putting this to practice. I am into changing my bad habits. Report
I agree 100% with the article as well. many people who are now boese would lose weight if they followed those tips. ((including myself) Report
I was always taught you eat what you took - no wasting food - there are starving children in other contries. It took me a long time to train myself to not having to eat everything on my plate. And you can take food home, too!

My family DOES eat in front of the TV only because we get home so late (sometimes after 8pm) but that has no bearing on how much and what we eat. We still have sensible, healthy meals and converse during. It is our "family time" when my little man can see his before bed cartoons and settle down. We still eat at a table, the coffee table. Report
Good article. My DH and I generally eat at the kitchen island (no TV), however if any of the kids or grandkids are with us we will eat at the dining room table. I think it is unfortunate that as a society Americans have gotten away from eating their meals together at a table with no outside distractions. Report
Growing up, we were definitely part of that "clean plate club." No dessert if you didn't eat everything on your plate! Now I have to make a mental effort to leave something there, but I'm doing alright at this so far!

Thanks for the tips. I can't wait to try folding my lettuce! Report
I've been guilty of many mannerly infractions - however, having a toddler at the dinner table is really helping - and now we've the justification on why. Thanks !! Report
When my three children were home we all meals at the dining room table. It was a great way to keep up with everything that was going on with each of us. I really enjoyed the interaction and I think that my children enjoyed it also. Report
This is a huge problem at my house that I am going to address tonight. I have a one year old and i want him to learn healthy habits. This is a great article. Thanks!! Report
I totally agree with the article.In fact, all meals take place in the dining room(no tv) with everyone present. My teenager really enjoys this. I remember that's all we did growing up! Report
Good advice! I never heard of the folding lettuce technique before.

Being raised in America, I was taught to swallow before talking. However, my parents and other relatives were raised in a country where talking with your mouth full was acceptable. You can imagine my cringing at the dinner table. Report
I so totally agree. When we ate a s a family around the table, not only did we converse but the focus was off the food and on the people. We always sit at the table for meals and try not to have the tv on. Report
Good ideas all. I'm guilty of eating in front of the TV, but we fill our plates in the kitchen so the temptation for seconds isn't there. Report
This explains a lot, and is definately I will keep in mind! Report
That is great information for my family at the dinner table ENJOY! Report
Guilty. We have a table in the living room, where we usually eat in front of the TV. The dining table is rarely used for eating. My son will take his dinner into the kitchen and watch TV there, if he doesn't like what we're watching.

And of course, the morning news is on when we are eating breakfast in the kitchen, which is usually a solo thing, whenever anyone gets up in the morning.

We do dine out as a family, though, about once a week, at our favorite Chinese restaurant. And we frequently have meals with friends at church. So I guess that's something, at least.

OK. Next month's new habit is to actually dine at the dining table at least once a week. Which means I'll have to clean the bills off of it at least once a week. That's two habits! Report
I'm going to add this suggestion to my Plans... eat dinner at the table a minimum of 3X per week.... with the expectation to expand this to 7 days a week! Report
We always eat at the table...the living room coffee table, that is! We have always enjoyed watching a movie or TV while we eat, but we do talk too - we don't get THAT engrossed ;) I have a little safety net with this - my BF is an incredibly slow eater, so I just try to match his pace and I know I'm eating slowly! We should try to eat at the table more though!

I'm almost always working while I eat my lunch too, since I work out on my real lunch hour. Typing, mouse-clicking, or reading slows me down since I HAVE to put down my fork to continue! Report
Good Advice! Report
Good advice ! I do have a bad habit of Hoovering my meals. I'm trying to slow down.

Here's a trick I read somewhere that makes a lot of sense. When eating at a Chinese restaurant ask for chop sticks. Do your best to eat with them even if you've never tried them before. The idea is that when using chop sticks, you'll take smaller bites. You'll also eat your food at a slower pace.

When I was a child, we always ate at the dinnertable. Now with my kids, we eat at the dinnertable everynite, with the occasional treat in front of the TV on a Saturday nite. I think its important to eat together at the table, its a great way to catch up on what went on during the day. Report
This is excellent information. A reminder of how our family dinners use to be. We have to get back to these basics. Thanks for sharing. Report
I knew there was a reason my mother insisted on all those things during dinner. I follow them almost always, with the exception of watching TV once in a blue moon. Report
most of that is the premise behind the French women don't get fat diet book that was big a few years ago... Solid advice and one most people should practice... Report
One thing I do right is I portion out my plate before bringing it to the table and then I leave the food in the kitchen, it really makes it easier not to go for seconds. Report
We do eat at the table, but I've almost always got the news on --- it's a hard habit to break. Maybe I can't do it for evening dinners, but I can make sure to do it for our weekend meals. I need to stop taking my evening snack in front of the T.V. on the is mindless eating. THANKS FOR THE ADVICE Report
Yes I am guilty of a few of thes dining faux pas. I spend time alone and I like to eat breakfast at my desk reading e-mails. I do put my spoon down to type a note of two and to move my mouse. I hope that counts. I also belong to the clean you plate club, I can't bear to waste food. But I put the food on my plate that is approperate to eat and eat only that portion. When eating out I bring what I can't or shouldn't eat home for another meal. Report
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