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Eating to Lose Weight – Facts for Real Loss
How many times have you tried a diet, only to find you can’t stick with it or the weight you lost comes back? Or maybe none of them were even successful. Many people will try many different techniques to lose weight besides diets, to again find they continue to struggle to achieve that ‘elusive’ goal.
In a recent study, thousands of people stated that they were following their doctor’s orders to eat healthfully and exercise vigorously. However, their weight was still going up and they usually gave up, deciding that the ‘diet gurus’ must have the right answer. When researchers evaluated the calorie intake of these people, they found that most people ate an average of 400 calories more per day than they thought. In a week, this is 2800 calories, which can result in almost a pound a week of weight gain.
This article will discuss some diet and eating methods that are ineffective, or just wrong, and then give suggestions on how to really make changes that will produce weight loss results.
Too much of a good thing
If you have improved your food choices, good for you! If you’re still not losing weight, however, look at your serving sizes. Too much of even a good thing can pack on the pounds if the result is more calories taken in than burned off. If you eat well but still can’t lose weight, try keeping a food diary for 3-5 days to discover just how much of a good thing you are eating. Don’t just list the foods you eat, weigh and measure your foods to become very clear on how many calories each serving is providing you with. After weighing and measuring your foods for a week, you will have a much clearer picture of what makes a serving and how many calories you are realistically eating each day.
“Lite” fare can add up
Another mistake people make is thinking that foods that are labeled as ‘fat free ‘, ‘low fat or ‘reduced fat’ means they can eat more without guilt. However, one thing to keep in mind, is that the taste has to come from something. So if a food is lower in fat, it may be higher in sugar, which means the calorie level remains the same, if not higher. As a consequence, you eat more and find yourself slowly gaining weight on your weight loss journey.
These lower fat choices can be good ones, but continue to make these foods an occasional treat and eat the same amount as you would if they were the full-fat versions. Depending on the taste, you may want to stick with your higher-fat version and just eat it less often or eat a smaller amount.
We can drink our calories
A regular soda, a sweetened tea, a smoothie, etc, all provide calories. It is estimated that approximately 20% of the calories we consume each day come from the liquids we drink. Research has shown that calories from these sources don’t satisfy hunger, either. Experts say that just one regular soda a day, every day, can add 15 pounds to your body in a year.
What do you drink on a regular basis? I love the Starbuck Frappuccino®, but I know that if I drank one every day I would be adding around 300 calories a day to my food intake! In one week, that would result in 2100 calories. It takes 3500 calories to equal a pound.
This is an extremely common mistake that dieters make. They believe that if they skip a meal, they will eat fewer calories throughout the day. However, your body gets used to a certain number of calories each day, so if you don’t get them in the first half of your day, you’ll likely crave foods later in the day, making up for the deficit. Unfortunately, evening foods generally are higher in fat and lower in healthy nutrients.
One suggestion is to never skip breakfast or lunch, and if you’re not too hungry at dinner, eat light or half of what you are served. Increase your water intake, especially 30 minutes before your meal. If you are not used to eating breakfast, at least start the new habit with some protein and fruit. Once you’re in the habit of eating lighter at night, you eventually will start waking up hungry.
If you travel a lot or feel you’re just too busy to stop and eat, have some ‘portable’ foods with you. Even a meal replacement bar is better than skipping entirely. Many foods such as cooked and chilled veggies or cut up fruit, along with some crackers and a protein such as string cheese or peanut butter keep well. Today there are many small, portable coolers you can take with you in the car or plane.
If it goes into your mouth, it counts
It’s not unusual for people to wonder why they’re not losing weight because they are eating very healthy, moderate meals. They’re not skipping meals, they have cut out the ‘junk’ and they watch serving sizes.
However, they forget about the between-meal snacking! A good rule of thumb is to consider every mouthful can average 25 calories: So, an ‘extra’ four mouthfuls in a day results in 100 extra calories for that day. An excellent site that gives suggestions for cutting down on those extras is at this link: http://lancaster.unl.edu/food/ftmar03.htm. Do you grab a quick handful of chips when you run through the kitchen? At work, do you stop at the vending machine to ‘just head off the hunger’ in the afternoon? Or maybe you head for a few bites of ice cream out of the container when you’re tired, stressed or mad. All of these ‘little’ extras add up! If you ate 100 extra calories every day, you will put on almost pound of weight in a month.
Again, keeping a food diary, more than 5 days, helps people become real aware of the ‘hidden’ extra calories they eat at times they were not even consciously aware of. In a previous program I offered, clients would keep a food diary for 30 days, journaling to me daily along the way. Every single client who went on this program discovered times they ate that they were not aware of, and each of them successfully lost weight on the program!
When I see nutrition clients who struggle with controlling their eating, snacking and craving habits, I will often encourage them to keep more fruit on hand. If you tend to crave sweets, eating fruit instead will satisfy that craving, you will lose weight, and you’ll even be healthier because of the high antioxidant foods.
Does life end on Saturday and Sunday?
This is one of my favorites! Weekend ‘free days’ became popular with one particular diet and exercise program. However, what I see in my clients is if they cannot gain control on their eating as a ‘natural’ part of life, taking the weekend ‘off’ is not going help instill new, healthy habits. It’s very easy to pack on the extra calories in just two days! If there is a food you avoid because you either perceive it as a ‘bad’ food, or you don’t feel you can control your serving amounts of that food, yet you ‘allow’ it on the weekends, you are depriving yourself of learning how to manage that food and could actually continue to struggle with it all your life. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel at peace with a troublesome food at some point instead of always avoid it as ‘the enemy’?
Fill up on nutrient-dense foods
Although 66% of all Americans are overweight or obese, there are still people who manage to control their weight without constant struggles. How do they do it? This article is not focusing on exercise, but as a personal trainer, I can contest to the benefits of consistent exercise. Another key is eating foods that are ‘nutrient-dense’, high in moisture and low in fat. These are foods that fill you up without a lot of calories. Multiple studies out of Penn State University have identified particular foods that fit in this category: Examples include water, broth-based soups, vegetables, and, in particular, green leafy vegetables. Adding vegetables to mixed dishes helps increase the nutrient density and decrease calories of the dish. Add water-rich vegetables such as broccoli, carrots or tomatoes to chili, stews and even macaroni and cheese. Studies have shown that people will eat the same serving amounts, but because of the increased ‘bulk’, they eat fewer calories.
I always suggest to clients to find one change they can make at a time. Review the tips above and determine what one small change you can make, today. Just work on that one change until it becomes a habit or a natural way to eat. Only after it has become second nature should you then work on a second change. Slow, small changes incorporating healthy habits that are valid will ensure that a year from now you will be lighter than you are today.
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