by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Some people have all the luck. They eat what they want and remain thin, with every tempting forkful. You can join this often-envied group. Take a few of their habits and make them yours …
Skip the trendy diets and stop overdoing it on the Exercise Floor. Often, a healthy weight can be achieved and managed by adopting new ways of living. Better eating patterns complement exercise by providing fuel when and how you need it. Plus, less junk calories means less to sweat off.
This is not a reference to the mama mantra, repeated about peas, beans, and meat in an attempt to forever get the plate cleared. Rather, it is about asking yourself if certain calories are worth it. Don’t waste your daily allotment on random eats that are less than satisfying. Think: Slightly stale donuts, a rather tasteless sandwich of mostly white bread, the kids’ scraps. You know the nibbles to which this refers. Stop the it-is-there-so-I-eat-it mentality.
To help avoid wasting food, cook less, serve less, and buy less. Don’t make your body stomach the burden of misjudgments in the kitchen. Overeating in itself is wasteful; it can lead to carrying excess body weight.
Those who refuse to eat mediocre calories make a conscious decision to save calorie consumption for that which is truly worth it. They don’t feel deprived when they turn down a slice of pie because they are saving that splurge for their favorite dessert later. Sure, the pie may be delicious, but a favorite treat is even better.
This mental shift is easier to make than mindlessly putting down your fork when “pie” is presented. Are you officially dieting? No, you are simply transforming your way of eating. No more day-old donuts! Try a new mantra: I won’t waste calories on passable food.
It is difficult to feel satisfied on food we find unsatisfactory. We tend to be relentless in our quest for the better bite, until we are stuffed or reach the bottom of the bowl. And, we still crave satisfaction.
Eat with Good Intentions
Before you head to the fridge, ask yourself why. Good reasons to eat:
- to satisfy hunger
- to fuel a workout
- to be social (because if you refuse, your boyfriend’s grandmother will think you dislike her cooking — and her.)
Unhealthy reasons we find ourselves eating:
- to comfort
- to feed a mood
- to satisfy boredom
- to continue unhealthy habits
- to fill time (between dinner and clean-up, while waiting for the train, while waiting for a meal)
By eating mindfully without distractions, you can determine your real reason for eating. You can control what and how much is consumed. You can identify if eating is even necessary. Research shows eating with awareness can result in consuming 300 less calories per day, which can translate into dropping two sizes over a year.
Unlike dieting, there aren’t restrictions. Rather, there are requirements: Eat, but eat mindfully. Chances are good you only will eat what you need, when you need it. What if it’s your sweet tooth that is hungry? Respond appropriately and within limits. With this new approach to food, you have that treat coming to you.
Slow down the pace and focus. Numerous studies have proven an association between eating speed and body weight. One study reported people who eat quickly tripled their risk of becoming overweight compared to their slower-eating counterparts. Along with better recognizing when full and more fully appreciating each bite, slow eaters may simply run out of time to eat as much.
Experience your food. Don’t just swallow it while paying bills, watching TV, or rushing through your day. You will lose track of how much you are eating, and deprive yourself the satisfaction of savoring. Save multitasking for time-outs on the soccer field, when you can send a quick text or leaf through a magazine. When eating, eat.
Be Serving-Size Wise
All things in moderation. This wisdom has been circulating since biblical times. Its truth still reigns today, including at the buffet table. Portion control is an easy way to help shed pounds. With “less calories in than calories burned” as a weight loss philosophy, it makes sense to keep portions reasonable. Can you really spend the five hours needed at the Center to burn off the likes of that meal? Avoid heaping it on the plate. Serve yourself only as much as you have time to burn off.
Food variety has never been more ample than today. Although nutritionists advise to “eat the rainbow” and have a color-full plate, we might have misinterpreted. The variety of which they speak is in fruits, vegetables, grains, and other healthful choices.
The more colors on your plate, the better– but that does not include Froot Loops® cereal, a colorful variety of sweets, or an endless all-you-can-eat buffet. When presented with excessive variety, we tend to sample everything. Portion control does not apply here. Your servings may be small, but there are many of them. This sampling often accumulates to a higher calorie bang than if we simply ate a full serving of only a few foods. Limit your choices or risk overwhelming your willpower.
The latest research finds eating 20 percent less food than you think you need is sufficient. Use salad plates or smaller dishes to avoid the mental feeling of deprivation, because your physical self likely will not notice a difference. Restaurants notoriously provide excessive portions. Make the meal last twice as long. Before your first bite, box up half of it for lunch the next day. Order healthy: fresh fruit instead of fries, dressing on the side, decline the complimentary breads and chips. Of course, if eating out is saved for special occasions, enjoy a splurge.
The phenomenon of habituation helps here. Repeated exposure to a stimulus results in decreased response. The enjoyment from each forkful of your favorites depreciates after the first bite, and with each bite following. Take the initial enjoyment, experience it for all it is worth, and set the rest aside. Apparently, love after first bite dwindles, so don’t waste the calories.
Be cautious around snack-sized packs and products that tout claims like fat, sugar, or cholesterol free. Even the most conscientious calorie-consumer may find themselves munching out of control on this selection. One study proved snackers ate up to 47 percent more of a food labeled as such than those nibbling on unlabeled packaging.
The simple term “low fat” caused study participants to consume an extra 89 calories in one sitting. Perhaps another advantage of the non-dieting-but-thin person. S/he never bothers searching for these type of food features, so they aren’t tempted to overeat them when offered.
If exercise gear were as predominate in our world as food, everyone would be in better shape. Television alone showed 32 percent more food advertisements in 2011 than 2007. This translates into about 20 food-related commercials viewed per person daily. You can bet they aren’t about salmon and veggie burgers.
Social networks have become an outlet for everyone’s food cravings. People who like to eat, people who like to cook, people who love to eat and cook (and we all fall into one or more of these categories) — all are posting, blogging, photographing, and chatting about food. Our hunger is continuously being stoked. Conveniently, food is everywhere to satisfy it, even free nibbles at car dealers and furniture stores. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is!
Fight back. Keep reminders of your healthy lifestyle within sight. Display your workout program, the Group Fitness schedule, and fresh produce. Replace the candy dish with a fruit bowl. Print out this article and put it on the fridge or coffee table. These subtle reminders are proven to keep you on track to a healthier lifestyle. A quick glance can have a lasting effect on willpower.
Have other hobbies readily available as well. Keep your favorite book within reach. Start a jigsaw puzzle. Have your sneakers ready by the door. When cravings strike, satisfy them with non-caloric means of healthy pleasures. A hug can release endorphins that rival that of chocolate. A fun sweat session with a workout buddy takes you out of the kitchen and puts you into the game.
Own the Lifestyle
Most slim people don’t walk the earth feeling deprived. (Well, maybe models, but don’t they live on cucumber water and carrot sticks?) With some small changes, you can enjoy a rich life, sprinkled with pleasures– and that includes the occasional brownie.
“5 Habits of Naturally Slim People You Should Steal,” by Cynthia Sass at www.health.com.
“Fat Proof Your Life,” by Andrea Bartz at www.fitnessmagazine.com.
“The Faster You Eat, the More You Weigh?” by Amanda Chan at www.huffingtonpost.com.
Healthy commute (introductory photo): www.flickr.com/photos/militaryhealth/6950602476/
Finishing up: www.flickr.com/photos/showbizsuperstar/2310025353/
Apples on branch: www.flickr.com/photos/imaffo/1396348341/