Testing the Harvard 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating: Week 2 — Longing for bacon but eating mindfully

In Week 2 of the “Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating,” our two testers, Helen Hoart and Tonya Phillips, recount their struggles and triumphs as they embrace a step-by-step plan to boost their intake of vegetables and whole grains and curb fast-food calories.

Helen Hoart

I’ve often joked with friends that eating while standing, walking, or even driving is calorie free. Under this wonderfully delusional approach I have probably packed in more calories than I care to count.

Eating mindfully. One of my goals is to eat more mindfully— to become more aware of when and what I’m eating and to savor the food. I also want to eat more slowly. When my children were little I developed the bad habit of wolfing down my food. (Quick, better finish dinner before someone cries, spills, or has a meltdown.) This, coupled with the fact that I eat many of my meals at my desk at work or in front of the TV at home, means that instead of eating mindfully I’m probably eating mindlessly.

This past weekend I decided to put mindful eating to the test. My husband was away. In the past, I’d probably have thrown something together for dinner and then ate as I watched TV, checked email, or trolled Facebook. Instead, prepared delicious dinners—fish one night, chicken the next—along with veggies and salad. I ate at the dining room table with no multimedia distractions. (OK, I did have music playing.) Eating dinner slowly and being thoughtful about my meal was difficult. A few things helped: I cut my food into small little bites like I was feeding a toddler. This forced me to slow down. And I added some really flavorful condiments to my main course (pickled ginger with the salmon, non-fat yogurt and Dijon mustard with the chicken). The intense flavors made me stop and think about my meal.

The breakfast challenge.The other part of last week’s plan—eating breakfast—wasn’t a problem for me. I’ve always eaten breakfast. On the other hand, my husband, who’s joining me on the six-week healthy eating plan, is not a big breakfast fan. He’s a cup of coffee for breakfast guy. The key for us was to agree the night before on what we wanted for breakfast. At the beginning of the week we made a big pot of steel cut oatmeal. That got us off to a good start. Oatmeal with walnuts and an orange was on tap the first couple of days. But we can only eat so many bowls of oatmeal in a week. A good alternative for us—because it was quick—was the suggested whole grain bread, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and a small banana (see page 19 of the report).

Before my husband started eating breakfast, he said he was always ravenous by noon and sometimes ate too much for lunch. Now he feels hungry by lunchtime but doesn’t feel the need to eat as much.

Next week: Exercise. Now I just have to figure out how to add more exercise into my schedule. It may come down to facing the ugly fact that I have to get up earlier. Stay tuned.

For more tips on creating goals that help move you toward eating healthfully, see Setting Goals for Healthy Eating Success.

Tonya Phillips

It wasn’t a good idea to start week 2 on Easter Sunday. Let’s just say I had a rough start and fast-forward to Monday.

Banishing bacon. Okay, Monday wasn’t a good day either. But I did realize that I just don’t have time for a healthy breakfast at home on the weekdays. My first problem is my love affair with the snooze button. My feet touch the floor in the morning and I’m out the door in less than forty minutes. By the time I arrived at work Monday, I was starving. I fought back my temptation to get a bacon, egg, and cheese on a hard roll from the deli. The Plan suggests one-third protein such as an egg, one-third starch, and one-third fruit. So my Monday morning office breakfast consisted of multi-grain toast and some fruit that a coworker had in the freezer. The rest of the week, I alternated between toast and oatmeal, both with a side of fruit.

Making a morning exercise appointment. Yeah right! I have so much respect for the joggers I pass in my car every morning. But me jogging in the morning? It’s just not going to happen. To incorporate some extra physical activity, I walk the six flights of stairs up to my office and repeat twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. I grab a bottle of water on my way down, which has helped me reach my goal of drinking 6 cups of water per day.

Curb coffee-drink calories. This was easy for me since I’m not a big coffee drinker. I have a half-cup in the morning and each day I have been adding less sugar. I also used low-fat milk instead of half-and-half. By the end of the week, there was barely any sugar in my morning Joe.

I noticed that when I ate breakfast in the morning, I had more energy and ate less at lunch. According to the Plan, other benefits of a healthy breakfast should be improved performance on memory-related tasks and less impulse snacking. If the office manager would just stop filling the candy bowl with Peanut M&M’s I’m sure I’d be snacking less, too. Next week we focus on lunch. Wish me luck!

Tonya Phillips (left) is the Product Marketing Manager at StayWell Consumer Health Publishing. Helen Hoart (right) is President of StayWell Consumer Health Publishing. StayWell is the publishing management agent for Harvard Health Publishing.

Join the fun and learn to eat healthfully with the Harvard Medical School Six-Week Plan for Healthy Eating.


  1. Healthy Living

    I believe that a lot of people underestimate the importance of eating slowly. If you take you time to taste the food and eat slowly, you will feel full sooner and eat much less calories.
    There is a saying in Russian: eat slower – live longer. This is very true. Low calorie intake is a great way to stop overeating. By doing this, we intake less fats, salt, sugar and other things harmful for our health.
    Thanks for the article! It was very informative.
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  2. Anonymous


    I think Eating the right foods and exercising can have a positive impact on your Health and help you to Keep your body fit and healthy.

  3. naya

    yes, you are right. taking meals with no multimedia is weird. i used to take my meals with the TV turns on. luckily i never take a meal while i’m working or doing any other activities. doing such things make me couldn’t focus and taste what i eat. this is a nice blog. thanks for sharing this to everyone.

  4. LivinggHealthy | Healthy live

    It was a pleasure to read this article about the plan for healthy eating. Since yesterday I started a new blog about healthy living. Here I will be posting tips and information about a healthy lifestyle too. Here in Holland people don’t know a lot about the content of their foods so they do a lot of overconsumption. Thats why there is a lot of obese people in countries like Holland and the US. Great initiative this 6-week harvard plan. I just bookmarked it and will visit this blog from time to time ;)!

  5. Sam McDonald

    One of the keys to eating healthy is simply to be aware of what you put into your shopping cart at the supermarket. If I put in a bad food {bacon}, then that’s what I’ll be eating that week. If I put in a better food {salmon}, then that’s what I’ll be eating. It’s all about choice.
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  6. Andrea P

    It’s great to hear the creative ways that the two of you are approaching a healthy lifestyle…kudos! If you’re looking for additional ideas on improving fitness and health, you may want to check out the Army National Guard’s Guard Fit Challenge website. Even if you aren’t training for the Guard, you’ll find a number of healthy eating tips, recipes and nutrition guides to help you along your healthy living journey. http://bit.ly/jqrvQq

  7. Lauryn F

    One way I have found to slow myself when eating dinner is to cut the food small as Helen recommends and then use chop sticks. It’s not always practical but it does slow me down.

  8. Nancy Ryan

    Upon reading this main posts of yours I thought a lot about my eating habits. I eat while reading, watching TV or just looking at my PC whether there are some new emails that I have to attend. I eat fast as well. I think that was also one of the reason why I had this case of anxiety before because I don’t know what to do first: to eat or check my mail and so I did both. [URL removed by moderator] I learned how to tend to myself and gradually, I’m improving better and better including with my eating habits! I’m glad to come by here because I’m looking for some great tips on how to cut down my caffeine intake and “eating habits”. Anyway, I just want to share some part and I hope you’ll help more people from hereon.

  9. holly holt

    I really like the way the two bloggers are giving specific tips–cut your food into small pieces to help you eat more slowly or have foods with strong flavors to help you enjoy what you’r eating. This is a great help. Thanks.

    • Helen Hoart

      Thanks for your feedback. It’s been a challenge trying to break old habits but also really gratifying. Following a plan has been a big help. Also announcing publicly how I’m trying to change bad habits has really kept me focused.

  10. Dan Flynn

    Exercising is important and hard to “add” into your life. I sneak a run into my life in the morning and evening. I think of it like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. Add it into your lifestyle and it will be come easier.

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