I’m a nutrition and weight loss doctor, and I’ve spent the past 11 years teaching teens and adults how to eat better, exercise more, and lose weight. Since becoming a mom 18 months ago, I’m starting to focus more on helping busy moms lose weight. By watching my toddler these past 6 months, I began to realize that almost everything you need to know about weight loss can be learned from your toddler.
Toddler Tip #1 - Don’t ever feel obliged to clean your plate. Children eat with their stomachs, not with their eyes, until the age of about 3-4 years old. Then they start responding more to visual cues like the amount of food on their plate. Follow their lead and really try to pay attention to when you feel satisfied, not stuffed. Eating more slowly helps as it takes about 20 minutes for your gut to tell your brain that it is satisfied.
Toddler Tip #2 - Make eating a social occasion. Toddlers don’t just devour the food on their plate mindlessly. They savor the experience, make eye contact, laugh, and socialize. By interacting more with family and friends during meals and focusing less on the food, you may find yourself actually eating less, or at least eating more slowly. This does not apply to eating while watching TV. You probably don’t let your toddler watch TV while eating, neither should you as it could lead to mindless overeating.
Toddler Tip #3 - Eat off smaller plates. I got this idea from my husband who is trying to lose weight and now eats his breakfast cereal out of our son’s bowls instead of grown up bowls. As adults we tend to eat with our eyes, not with our stomachs. Eating off smaller plates and out of smaller bowls can help you feel as if you are eating a larger portion and research shows it can help you eat less. I’ve started using toddler spoons for dessert treats like pudding and frozen yogurt as it helps slow me down and savor each little bite.
Toddler Tip #4 - Remember, out of sight = out of mind. Have you ever noticed that toddlers don’t beg for a treat unless they see it, which is probably why you don’t keep a lot of unhealthy sweets lying around where your toddler can see them. Research shows that adults don’t eat as much candy if they don’t see it too. Keep tempting, high calorie indulgences hidden on the highest shelf in your cabinet or in the back of your freezer to minimize temptation and you will probably eat a lot less.
Toddler Tip #5 - Move more. Toddlers are constantly on the go. Many of my patients don’t feel like their workouts count if they don’t go to a gym or workout for at least an hour at a high intensity. This is simply not the case when it comes to weight loss, especially for busy moms. Start by focusing on just moving more in general and you will start to burn calories throughout the day. If you have time for something more vigorous, even a 10 minute workout, go for it, but don’t forget that lifestyle activity counts for a lot when it comes to weight loss.
So as you can see, while toddlers may not be able to say the words ‘diet’ or ‘fitness’, or have any idea what they mean, imitating some of their behaviors might just help you finally get your pre-baby body back!