It’s the middle of April and while you’re glad spring is upon us, you’re likely thinking of summer – beaches, bikinis, and losing those winter pounds. And if you’re like most people, your beautiful New Year resolutions for weight loss are long forgotten.
I’m not going to lay on any heavy diet, or even tell you what to eat or not to eat. I’m not even going to tell you to start hitting the gym. What I do want to offer are a few tricks that can help keep overeating at bay, reduce your daily caloric intake, and help you develop better habits that aid in weight loss.
- Restrict eating to certain hours of the day – I doubt it is a secret that midnight snacking is horrible. First of all, this kind of snacking is not usually for nutritional needs, but more out of cravings, boredom, or after a night of drinking. Therefore, the food you are most likely to consume is crap you wouldn’t normally eat during the day. But in addition to unnecessary calories from less than diet-friendly sources, did you know that your body desperately needs those midnight hours to heal and regenerate? Your body needs its rest in the form of sleeping just as much as it needs its rest from food and digesting. You can choose the end time based upon your schedule, but aim to consume your last meal/snack between 5 and 7pm.
- Intermittent Fasting – I have previously blogged about this topic, and you can read about all its health benefits here. In addition to having a specific cut-off time for eating in the evening, it can also be very beneficial to have a specific start time. By allowing your body a few extra hours in the morning, or even until lunch, to continue in its fasted state, you are giving it more time to detox and heal. It has also shown huge success for those trying to lose weight.
- Don’t eat standing up – Have you ever been to a get together where platters of cheeses, meats, fruits and veggies, dips, chips, etc. are just lining the table, and all the guests are standing around chatting and mindlessly eating? We all have! And while eating and drinking are a major component to social gatherings, it can wreak havoc on your diet if you don’t pay attention! Or what about munching while you’re cooking? A little taste here, grab a handful there, and before you know it, you’ve consumed dinner’s calories without even sitting down to actually eat your dinner. When you take the time to sit and eat your food, you are more mindful of what and how much you consume. You will also enjoy it more. But be careful of the next pitfall…
- Do not eat while watching TV or at a movie theater – Unless you only bring a tiny bowl of [healthy] snacks and not an entire bag of Cheetos, eating while watching TV is a horrible idea. You are not paying attention (just as you’re not while standing around eating and chatting) and therefore are likely to overeat and to do so on junk. And yes, movies can be a fun place to go and grab snacks, but these diet disasters, if you MUST have them, are better split with several people! On average, people consume about 1,500 calories by themselves while watching a movie! That’s almost an entire day’s worth! And again, the calories are not even from good sources. Nope, nachos are not a food group! Additionally, the cost for theater snacks are highly over-inflated, making them cost way more than the ticket to get in! You’re better off, diet and finance wise, to skip the snacks at the movies and go out for frozen yogurt after.
- Emotional eating – I know firsthand that this one is VERY hard. When we’re bored or feeling stressed, we reach for food. And usually, it’s comfort food in the way of carbs and sugar. If you’re feeling this way, take a quick walk. Even 20 minutes around the block can help get your mind in a better place and off the need to munch.
- Entitlement eating – This is kind of like emotional eating. You just started your pre-summer workout program and ran for 30 minutes, or hit the gym for an hour. That’s great! But your hard work does not justify the splurge on garbage food or an extra snack. I’m not saying that a healthy snack to replenish after a workout is bad, just be sure your choices are health conscious and you’re not just making an excuse to cram pizza down your throat.
- If you can’t control it, don’t buy it – Fact: Before I knew I was gluten intolerant, if I bought a package of Oreos, I would eat a package of Oreos. And not over the course of a month. Nope, all by myself , maybe stretched out over two days. If snacking is your downfall, do not buy snack food. Diet battles are won and lost at the grocery store. If it’s not in your house, you can’t eat it. Also, be limited and sparing about how many “healthy treats” you make, because even too much of a good thing can be too much.
- Don’t go grocery shopping/out to eat when hungry – Just a bad idea all the way around. When you’re hungry, the whole store looks amazing! Weird veggies you’ve never cooked but decide will go great with a side of whatever. Fruit gushers because OMG your mom used to pack them in your lunch… Just don’t. The same goes for eating out. It’s best to have a little snack before you go so that you don’t attack everything in front of you and the dessert cart, too. This leads me to…
- Skip the bread and chips when eating out – A basket of chips at a typical Mexican restaurant contains almost 1,000 calories! And we all know that’s just the first serving! How many times have you gone out to eat, and while waiting on drinks and studying the menu, you refill a bread or chip basket more than once? When I go out to eat I pretend I’m at home – I know my self control is limited, so if it’s front of me, I’ll likely eat it, and if it’s not, then I can’t/won’t.
- Drink a glass of cold water before your meal – A glass of cold water has filling properties. And as it turns out, most American’s mistake thirst for hunger pangs. If you drink a glass of water before you eat, you take care of the thirst, and are also less likely to overeat. It is also best NOT to drink with your food. We all do it, so it may sound crazy, but “washing your food down with milk (water)” can cause gas and bloating and also inadequate chewing (necessary for good digestion). When you chew your food thoroughly and savor each bite, you are less likely to overeat… and less likely to have a stomach ache when you’re finished. Drink water, eat food, then drink water.
- Keep a food journal – I saved the best for last! There are countless apps for tracking food and logging your calories, fitness, etc. While this is highly convenient for on-the-go lives, physically writing down anything these days seems to take discipline. And if you have to physically write down everything you ate in a day, you may be less likely to eat as much. Accountability that you can see! When keeping a journal, you’re not trying to count calories, but rather, trying to get a good look of what you actually eat in a given day. Most of us really are not aware of how much and what we eat. We’ll remember the main meals, but not the in-between snacking, or the soda and chip refills. Writing it down is a huge step towards setting real goals for yourself and implementing good habits. Try this food and activity journal and start taking healthy steps to picking up that New Year’s resolution.