Most weight loss advice starts and ends with food and exercise. However, it is usually much more complex than that.
Identifying troublesome eating behaviours or negative habits is key to long-term weight loss and maintenance. These 5 tips focus on developing healthy eating habits that will give you the tools required to achieve your weight loss goals, but most importantly to maintain a healthy body weight for life.
1. Readiness Evaluation
Before you decide to embark on a weight loss regime, ask yourself a few questions.
– Why do I want to lose weight?
– What will change if I lose weight?
– Are the answers above worth the costs involved in losing weight? For example, eating less sugar, foregoing French fries, waking up early to exercise, cutting down on alcohol?
Think about it for a few minutes. If it were easy, we would all be our ideal weight. It’ll be challenging and take effort, day after day. Are you up for it? If so, I want you to think about what “The Prize” is in your mind.
- Picture yourself playing tag with your kids and not being out of breath.
- Picture yourself putting on that little black dress and it fits beautifully.
- Picture how strong and light you will feel when you go for a run or walk.
Whatever it is that resonates with you, that is The Prize. You must have The Prize on your mind when you wake up in the morning, when someone at work brings in freshly baked doughnuts from the coffee shop, when your mother-in-law brings you a box of chocolates “just because”, when you look at the menu and see “grilled fish with winter greens” vs “12oz sirloin with pepper sauce, mashed potatoes and garlic cheese bread”.
Keep The Prize in your mind, present and ready for the next temptation.
2. Food Journal
Studies show that most people under-estimate the amount they eat and over estimate the amount of exercise they do. Start writing down everything you put in your mouth.
Make a simple chart like the one below so there is room to add information about your emotional state, hunger & satiety levels and activities.
|Time||Place||With Whom||Actitivity||Mood||Hunger||Food||Fullness||Emotional state after eating|
|Breakfast 6:40am||Home, standing kitchen counter||Family around||Making lunches, organizing kids, usual chaos||Tired, grumpy.||Famished||1 cup oatmeal,|
1/2 cup berries, black coffee, ate crusts off kids' toast
|1= still hungry|
2= quite satisfied
3= uncomfortably full!
|Good after oatmeal, felt guilty for eating crusts|
This type of chart will help you identify any triggers or situations that can lead to mindless eating. Many people may not realize that they start snacking when the TV comes on or when their ex-spouse calls or when a work email comes through after hours. Keep writing in a food journal for as long as it takes for you to figure out your triggers or potentially sabotaging situations.
3. Hunger Scale
We often know when we are hungry, but knowing when to stop eating can be a bit more tricky. Part of the problem is in our English lexicon. We describe the feeling of being satiated by saying we are “full”. I find this extremely unhelpful as we naturally tend to assume that the feeling of fullness is what we should be achieving at the end of each meal. Far preferable is the French lexicon, “Je n’ai plus faim” , that is, “I am no longer hungry”.
Eating should take away our hunger but not leave us with the uncomfortable, tight belt feeling of fullness. Ideally, we want to start eating when we fall between 3-4 on the scale below. We want to be “stomach” hungry, but not famished as this could lead to poor choices in reaching for the quickest and easiest food available. We want to be hungry enough that healthy food looks really appealing right about now.
Eat slowly and mindfully being aware of your satiety level. You want to stop eating around a 6.5-7 depending upon the meal. If it is a 4pm snack and you will be having dinner in 2 hours or so, make sure you stop at the 6. If it is breakfast and you have awhile before you’ll have a chance to eat again, a solid 7 would be a good idea.
Aim to never ever ever go beyond a 7. It’s tough. It takes practice but it can be done.
4. Plan & Shop Smart
Eating well can take some planning.
Shop with a list that contains ingredients for at least 3 full meals, ample veggies and fruit for snacks and any special items that you require for your meals, for example, containers for a packed lunch.
Before you leave work for the day decide what you will eat tomorrow. Jot down what you’ll have for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. Do you have all the ingredients at home? Beside each item write down what you need to buy and where and when you will buy it. Stick to your list!
Breakfast: 1 egg, veggie smoothie (need Kale, corner grocer on way home)
Lunch: turkey lettuce wrap with orange for dessert (buy turkey – grocery store 5pm)
Snack: ½ oz almonds with apple (got it at home)
Dinner: 4oz salmon, ½ cup quinoa, broccolini, side spinach salad (buy spinach- corner grocer on way home)
Then make sure you go out of the way to buy any items you need and when tomorrow comes stick to your plan.
5. Stay Positive & Don’t Let a Lapse Become a Collapse
Congratulate yourself when you make decisions and choices that will get you closer to your goal. Reward yourself with small non-food treats when you reach certain milestones. Book a massage, get your nails done, that top you’ve been eyeing would fit nicely now.
On the flip side, don’t berate yourself when a slip occurs. It is easy to throw in the towel and say “well I just had a chocolate chip cookie so today is blown, I might as well order a pizza for dinner and start again tomorrow”. That is a cop out.
Recognize that the cookie was a lapse but don’t let it lead to a collapse. Compensate for the cookie instead. Extend your exercise session by 20 minutes or substitute your planned carbohydrate for veggies at your next meal.
More importantly, work backwards to determine why you slipped. What led to the cookie consumption? Were you starving? Did you skip breakfast? Did someone bring them into work and leave them in front of your desk? Figure out what happened and what can you do next time to avoid the same result. Then move on. You are human. You will have slips but it is how you deal with those slips and recover from them that will determine your success.