8. They don’t sit down with the whole bag.
Hitting up your local ice cream shop also has the benefit of providing your treat in a single serving size. “If you have a cup or a cone you know when you’re finished, as opposed to sitting there having one spoonful after another” straight out of the carton, says Abramson. Buying single-serving packages of your favorite chips or cookies can also help, he says, as can simply serving yourself in a cup or bowl rather than sitting down with a whole family-size bag of chips.
9. They know the difference between a snack and a treat.
Letting yourself get too hungry is a recipe for overeating — especially those foods you most want to keep to smaller portions. Snacking is a smart way to make sure you’re not ravenous come dinnertime. But snack choice is crucial to both keeping you full and keeping your healthy eating plans on track, says Abramson. “A treat is purely for enjoyment, while a snack is something you eat between meals to stave off hunger,” he says. “Nuts or fruit or cheese could be a good snack,” he says, but chocolate? A treat.
10. They give themselves permission to enjoy eating.
These tips aren’t plausible if we don’t make time to value our relationships with food. “So many times we forget to take the time to eat, and eating does take time,” says Fletcher. She suggests looking ahead at your day and making sure you have enough time carved out to eat, rather than planning to scarf something down in the three minutes you have between afternoon meetings. “We make it three minutes, and that may feed you, but does it nourish you?” she asks. And it’s not about feeling guilty for missing something else by making time to eat, she says. It’s about truly believing we are “worth sitting down and eating food.”
11. They don’t “make up” for a meal.
When we find ourselves feeling guilty about a food choice, “there’s this instinct to make up for it by either overdoing it at the gym or being very restrictive at the next meal,” says Cohn. Instead, she suggests thinking of this process as a more subtle “balancing out”. People with healthy relationships to food will have a lighter meal later in the day if they decide to indulge at brunch, for example, but they won’t restrict that later meal so much so that they end up binging later because they’ve made themselves excessively hungry. “You can balance out slowly over the course of a week, but you can’t make up within the same day,” says Cohn.
12. They don’t eat to see the scale shift.
Ideally, we’d all eat what makes us feel good, says Cohn. We’d pick the foods that gave us energy to fuel our daily activity, and we’d avoid foods that, say, gave us indigestion, regardless of how good they tasted, rather than restructuring our eating plans to make the number on the scale change.
13. They’re not afraid of feeling hungry.
One of the most restrictive patterns of thought that Cohn sees among clients is a fear of eating too much and consequently gaining weight. “People who have a sense of what their body needs and eat mindfully and intuitively when they can, they’re not as afraid of their hunger,” she says. “What’s there to be afraid of? If you get hungry, you just eat something!”
14. Their concerns for food don’t interfere with daily life.
After a long list of rules and habits like the above, even the healthiest eaters might feel a little overwhelmed. The key to taking in all this advice healthfully is remaining balanced. Being too rigid, restrictive or strict about nutritious eating can also cause problems, including disordered thoughts or behavior that could be classified as orthorexia, says Cohn. Scheduling a date with the gym is one thing; scheduling a date three evenings in a row when your best friend is visiting from out of town and you don’t make any time to see her may raise red flags, she says. “If you’re missing out on normal social engagements or sleep in order to maintain a certain lifestyle, that’s definitely crossing the line.”