Lose the Fourth Meal to Win at Losing Weight

mom-eatingA mom who was struggling to lose weight recently told me that she feels like a human garbage disposal–eating bits and pieces oof leftovers off her son’s plate.

Eating from your child’s plate or “disposing” of his leftovers is one of the worst fat habits that’s increasingly common with busy moms. I had to explain that the only way she was gong to win at losing weight was to stop this bad fat habit.

Find out why not eating regular meals and snacks is undermining your diet and probably making it hard for you to maintain a healthy weight.

There are three key reasons why this habit makes it almost impossible to eat a healthy, balanced diet that promotes an ideal weight.

Bite-Sized Calories Add Up: 

A taste of this, a bite of that may seem innocent, but when you do that repeatedly during the day, those calories can easily add up to equal or exceed, what you’d normally eat in a real adult meal that is balanced and provides the nutrition you need.  In fact, we commonly refer to this as “Moms Fourth Meal.” Moms who simply stop eating their child’s find it’s easier to lose weight.

Kid Foods Lack What You Most:

Bread crusts, Cheerios, cheesy broccoli, mac n’ cheese, cheese and crackers….they’re probably not the most filling or nutritious choices that adults can make and probably aren’t what we’d normally prepare for ourselves.  You need foods that fill you up on fewer calories so you’re satisfied.  Many kid-friendly foods aren’t choices that we recommend for adults struggling to lose lbs. In fact, kids foods are often laden with sugar and fat to pack in a lot of calories to promote growth whereas foods that help us lose weight are rich in fiber and/or protein to help us stay satisfied.  When it comes to fighting hunger, bottom-of-the-bowl Spaghetti-Os isn’t going to cut it.

It’s Mindless Eating:

When we grab food as we’re cleaning up or as our kids are eating, it’s eating mindlessly.  When you eat with your own plate, utensils and sitting down, that’s eating purposefully.  There’s a big difference. When we eat mindfully, we get more satisfied with our food with fewer calories but with mindless eating, it’s hard to feel satisfied.

Here’s what happens: When we eat mindlessly (while distracted or doing something else), the brain doesn’t provide the correct signals to the stomach to signal when we’re full. Think of it as the movie theatre popcorn effect: We can plow through the ginormous buckets of popcorn without a problem because we’re so distracted with what’s on the big screen.

In fact, research shows that those who eat mindlessly can eat twice as many calories before feeling satisfied compared to someone who eats purposefully.

Once we get moms to realize all their mindless munching, weight loss generally follows.  The best way cure is to use a food log of  everything you eat and drink for a week.

How to Put an End to Mommy’s Fourth Meal

There are several tricks you can use to help end this fat habit Chewing gum while preparing food and cleaning up to help curb this habit and you can also teach your kids to throw their leftovers right into the trash (if they’re old enough to help). If your husband is home, you can ask him to clear the plates so you’re not even tempted.  Think, “I’m not the garbage disposal,” to remind yourself what you’re about to eat. If you’re still tempted to eat your child’s food, get your own plate out and put it on there and eat with utensils. If you do that, it will at least make sure that you’re eating mindfully.

Another reason you may be tempted to eat off your child’s plate is that you’re not eating your own meals or snacks. Moms rarely leave the house without having snacks prepared for their child, but they usually forget about themselves. Have smart snacks that provide balanced nutrition and satisfaction like fresh fruit or veggies. Other satisfying snacks include those with protein and/or fiber, the two most filling nutrients.

Since fresh fruits and veggies may not be always feasible, keep some non-perishable healthy snacks for yourself in your car, purse or diaper bag. Mixed nuts, dried fruit, beef jerky or natural energy bars like a Lara Bar.

–Julie Upton


  1. says

    Once a client wrote down all her “bites” of food that she mindlessly consumed cleaning up after dinner or when passing through the kitchen. We estimated about 600 calories a day.

    While calories count, sometimes the kind of calories consumed count more. The most common source of her mindless calories were consistently refined starches and sugars–with and without the fat. These are the typical kinds of foods that moms are eating off of their children’s plates.

    Refined starches and sugars are the kinds of calories that cultivate bacteria likely to drive greater appetite and promote fat storage. (http://muchmorethanfood.com/?p=640&preview=true) Just this week one very savvy client started eating more beans and legumes in her diet, fewer refined starches and sugar. She has been dieting for years and had tried everything else. The impact was immediate and profound. She didn’t feel that hungry. The cravings for sweet quieted down. She lost 3.5 pounds–some fat and the rest water (diuresis is the most immediate impact when insulin levels decrease as a result of lower carbohydrate intake).

    Bacterial overgrowth has been linked to irritable bowel syndrome. Many of my clients (adults and children alike) have experienced less gastro-intestinal distress when they eat fewer carbohydrates: less reflux (GERD), less constipation, less diarrhea and dumping, less gas and bloating.

    Maybe everyone needs to rethink “kid’s food”. The idea that kids can “get away with it” is utterly misguided. Too often kids grow into adults that end up not getting away with it anymore.

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