The key to losing weight, and keeping it off, isn’t some secret potion or magic pill. The way to lose weight is by breaking bad eating habits and in exchange, adopting good ones. Despite promises by many advertisers, losing weight isn’t a quick fix. Losing weight (and keeping it off) is about establishing a common sense approach to healthy eating and exercise. It’s about changing habits in a way that is achievable and sustainable over the long haul. Know that with time and effort you can change your eating habits and lose weight for good!
It seems like such a good idea: to save some calories, skip a meal. Unfortunately our bodies are not so easily tricked. When you skip meals you are actually decreasing the rate of your metabolism. Skipping a meal every once in awhile is not a big deal, but when we do it on a regular basis we are setting ourselves up for failure. Over time, skipping meals triggers your body’s "starvation mode" where the body tries to compensate for the low calories. Your metabolic rate can actually decrease as much as 10-15%, and your body will hold onto the fat and burn lean muscle instead. In addition, skipping meals can make you excessively hungry so when you do eat your next meal, chances are, you’ll overeat.
Good habit: Instead of skipping meals to save calories, strive to burn more calories each day by sneaking in exercise whenever you can. Not only will exercise help you burn more calories while you’re actually exercising but after the workout as well. Plus working out will actually give you more energy that you can use to make healthy food choices.
In a world of instant messages, “real time” updates and 24/7 Tweets, sitting down for a relaxing, uninterrupted meal is not always, or ever, possible. As a result we often eat in the car, while the TV is on or at our desk at work. Eating distracted makes it a lot easier to eat more.
Good habit: Eat mindfully. Don’t just go through the motions, actually plan and be conscious of your eating. Turn off the TV, radio and computer. Walk away from your desk at work. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, make mealtime about eating. Taste your food. Chew. Enjoy.
From soft drinks to muffins to sandwiches, portion sizes are completely out of whack. The amount of food we now view as “normal” has grown way out of proportion. In order to control overeating, and overcome this bad eating habit, we need to recognize how much we are actually consuming. We need to understand that a portion of food we are served at a restaurant, or that we prepare for ourselves may be more than a single serving. Serving size and portion sizes are two completely different things and you need to count the calories accordingly.
Good habit. Retrain your mind as to what is a normal portion size. Trick your mind into perceiving bigger portions by serving your meals on a small plate or bowl. Avoid eating foods right out of the box or bag. Separate your food into individual portion sizes when you first get home from the store, before you even put the items away. Having your food already portioned out makes eating a reasonable amount a no-brainer.
Deadlines at work, demands at home…stress can be, well, a stressful thing. Unfortunately many people turn to food to relieve stress. Using food in this way, and really any way other than satisfying our hunger, leads to weight gain.
Good habit: When feeling stressed out, find ways to relax that don’t involve food. Go for a walk. Call a friend. Lose yourself in a good book. There are so many options. Making these choices a habit over mindlessly reaching for food after a bad day will go a long way in helping you control your weight.
Eating late at night is another one of those bad eating habits that is really quite terrible but is easy to “sweep under the rug.” We usually don’t eat late night unless we’re either totally by ourselves in which case nobody else knows what you’re doing, or we’re in a social situation where everyone is eating. Either scenario leads for the acceptance of this bad eating habit.
Good habit: Once dinner is over and the kitchen cleaned, turn off the lights. The kitchen is now closed. Make it off limits until the next morning. Another good tactic, brush your teeth immediately following dinner. When your teeth feel all nice and clean, you’ll be less likely to want to eat and lose that “minty fresh” feeling. If you still find yourself being drawn to the fridge after hours, go to bed! Making sure you get enough sleep will do wonders for your weight control. Plus, if you are sleeping, you can’t be eating.
Expert opinion varies on how long it takes to change a habit. But the good news is, habits are changeable. You can always break a bad habit and in its place establish a good one! You just need to make the commitment to do it and be consistent. Know that your hard work will pay off eventually.
Author: Sue Ridgeway