At the beginning of each New Year, so many of us take a closer look at areas of our lives that we’d like to change or improve a bit. Losing weight, whether it’s a few pounds or 50 pounds is up there with the top three. Even those that don’t need to actually lose weight, vow to eat healthier.
Although everyone starts out motivated and with the best of intentions, most people rarely make it past the first month. What happens? For anyone that has ever been on a diet, you know that overly restrictive and very low-calorie diets are not sustainable. To truly lose weight and maintain the weight loss, a slow, consistent change in your eating pattern will bring about the results you seek.
10 Ways to Health and Perfect Weight
1. The most important element is your physical environment. What is in your pantry, fridge and freezer? Is it stocked with veggies, fruit, whole grain bread and crackers, lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy, etc.? Or are you surrounded with Twinkies, white bread, cookies, soda and other junk food?Out of sight, out of mind… if you must keep unhealthy fare in the house for other family members package it up and put it in the back of the pantry and fridge. Keep the nourishing food front and center.
2. Do you eat only when physically hungry? Start rating your hunger on a scale of 1-10, 1 = starving and 10 = stuffed. During a meal or snack, pausing when reaching a 5 (neutral) is the perfect time to take a moment to decide if you need more food or if your body has had enough nourishment. Getting in tune with true hunger connects us to correct body signals for eating.
3. Focus on the delightful food in front of you. Take away all distractions when eating: TV, radio, reading, computer, cell phone and mail. Take notice of the color, aroma, taste and texture of each bite. When we eat while distracted, we can overeat without noticing. Start out small, perhaps with a snack at first and move to one meal at a time.
4. Eat s-l-o-w-l-y. This takes practice for those used to multitasking and eating while driving, answering email or running between appointments.
5. Because it takes our brains at least 20 minutes to register fullness, eating quickly leads to eat more than we need. Set a kitchen timer at your next meal and time yourself. Did you make it the full 20 minutes?
Because we tend to eat as much as we see before us, plate your food in the kitchen and bring only your plate to the dinner table. The only exception is salad. Bring a large bowl of salad to the dinner table. Also, use a salad plate rather than a dinner plate. Dinner plates have gotten larger and larger through the years. Look at your great grandma’s china dinner plate… much smaller… and so were the people back then!
6. Drink plenty of pure water. Although there is no perfect formula for the “right” amount, if your urine is a pale yellow color, you’re adequately hydrated. By the time you are thirsty, you are most likely dehydrated. Many times when we “feel hungry” when we are actually thirsty and this can prevent adding unnecessary calories.
7. Eat protein and fiber at each meal. Protein empties the stomach at 4 calories/minute, is the most filling and reduces hunger. Fiber is satisfying, also reduces hunger and is very filling. You will notice less hunger between meals.
8. Make ½ your plate veggies. Increasing your veggie intake adds essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants known to help reduce the risk of chronic disease such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. Also, eating mostly veggies adds the filling fiber. If you’re not a veggie-lover, don’t get stuck in the green beans, broccoli, and corn rut. Try something different: snap peas, bok choy, collard greens or jicama.
9. Choose whole, natural foods over processed foods. Processed foods are loaded with sugar, fat and/or salt. These 3 addictive ingredients are the known triggers for many overeaters. They keep us coming back for more. Feeding your body nourishing food that provides the fuel and energy needed for cell growth and regeneration prevents those “got-to-have-it” cravings.
10. Plan, plan, and plan. Don’t let yourself go too hungry or run out of the healthy food. Until eating healthy becomes your new practice, write down exactly what you plan to eat for each meal/snack and write a grocery list based on this. If you’re running from meeting to meeting with no time for lunch, carry a small snack baggie of almonds and raisins in your pocket to nibble with water. Keep a stash of fruit, nuts, whole grain crackers and nut butter in your desk drawer. A hungry belly is a sure plan for overeating at your next meal.
Remember, to lose weight and maintain long-term requires changing your lifestyle. Make changes you can live with forever and make them gradually. Baby steps… or as I taught my children many years ago… inch by inch, everything is a cinch.
Happy, healthy eating! Eat slowly, savor each bite and enjoy.