Ask anyone who is starting a weight loss program and you’ll hear a groan when the word diet comes into the conversation. Taking time out to pick a diet, plan your food, and actually follow the plan can be exhausting and frustrating. To avoid all this, many folks are tempted to skip all that and just shed those extra pounds by starving themselves for a couple weeks. However, experts all agree that this quick starvation diet method just doesn’t work. Losing weight is a process, and like it or not, it takes planning. Here are some tips to make your dieting more effective, healthier, and something that will fit your lifestyle.
Make Eating Simple
Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories, measuring portion sizes, or performing college algebra just to eat your lunch, try thinking of your food in simple terms. Looking at your plate, focus on color variety, for instance. If you make sure you have a plate filled with different colors, your diet will naturally be healthier and more satisfying. If everything on your plate is white, your diet will suffer and your weight loss program will be jeopardized. Rather than measure ounces and calories, just choose portions that are about the size of your fist. Depending on your diet, you will want one or two fist size portions of protein, vegetables, fruit, dairy, and carbs. Put away the scale, the calorie counter, and the list of foods allowed. Keep it simple to stay on track without the frustration.
Don’t Make an Off-Limits List
Try not to think of certain foods as off-limits, rather cut your portion sizes in half or allow a favorite food less often. This allows you to keep the foods you like while still making healthier choices. When you ban certain food groups, it can backfire. You could end up craving those foods even more. Then when you give in to temptation, you feel like a failure and the downward spiral begins. If you over-do it, don’t beat yourself up, just get up and make the next choice a healthy one. If you can’t resist that chocolate chip cookie, just follow it up with a large glass of cold water or milk, and make sure dinner consists of super-healthy choices with extra servings of crunchy vegetables.
Whenever possible, eat with others. Eating in a group setting allows for healthy eating habits, such as eating slower and taking smaller bites. Mindless over-eating tends to happen in front of a computer or television. Eating in groups creates conversation, which means you’ll be taking breaks between bites. This process over the course of a meal allows time to listen to your body, especially when it tells you it is full.
Take Your Time
When you do eat alone, remind yourself to slow down. Rushing through a meal is never a good idea. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you’re full. Plate up your food in an attractive way. Sit at the table, not in front of the television. Choose foods that take some time to chew and chew that food slowly and savor the flavors. With each slow bite, you are allowing your stomach and brain to catch up so you begin to feel full faster. Now your brain has a chance to tell you to stop eating when you no longer feel hungry.
We’ve all heard that a good day starts with a good breakfast. This is true for several reasons. The term breakfast literally means to “break your fast.” During your sleeping hours, your body went into hibernation mode. Think of a bear in a den during the winter. A bear’s metabolism slows down and their body stores fat for the long winter nap. Your body is doing something similar each and every night; slowing down and storing fat. In the morning, you trigger your body to stop storing fat when you give it some nutrition in the way of some healthy food. Your breakfast jump-starts your metabolism by telling your body that it’s time to burn some fat for energy. Skipping breakfast keeps your body in hibernation mode. It still thinks it has to store fat away for later. It just makes sense to have an egg, a glass of milk, some yogurt, a handful of nuts, a bowl of oatmeal, or a muffin to wake up your metabolism.
Eat Several Smaller Meals and Snacks
We have also heard about having 3 square meals a day. Unlike the breakfast anthem we just discussed, this one isn’t considered a wise move anymore, especially when it comes to weight loss. Rather than eating three large meals a day, having several smaller meals and interspersing healthy snacks throughout the day keeps your body’s metabolism on a steady course which keeps the blood sugar levels on an even keel. Starting with breakfast, then midday snack, then a light lunch, then another snack, then dinner, then another snack; you get the picture. Choose the schedule that works best with your day and just be sure to not allow yourself to get really hungry during the day. That hungry feeling is a sign that your body is scared it won’t get fed and it’s gone into fat-storing mode.
To set yourself up for success rather than failure, think about your healthy diet in these smaller, more manageable steps rather than one big drastic change. People often think of healthy eating as an all or nothing proposition, but a key foundation for any healthy diet is moderation. Your diet is about more than the food on your plate; it is also about how you think about food and how your body reacts. With just a few changes in your eating habits, you could be on your way to that ideal weight.