Habits work. Diets don’t.
Be a better changer, not a better dieter by incorporating these 5 stress-free habits into your daily routine. Beyond carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, your weight loss success is about making consistent and persistent changes in your eating patterns. Turn those changes into habits and you won’t have to think about being healthy; you’ll do it automatically. Here’s the top five habits:
1. Don’t eat when you aren’t hungry. (I heard that heavy *sigh*) I know we are biologically driven to eat, and love doing it. Controlling the eating impulse can be hard when food is everywhere. But in today’s world ‘o plenty, if you aren’t feeling those hunger pangs, put the fork down and walk away. (More like, run away!) How to tell if you are truly hungry? Try the apple test. Ask yourself if, at this moment, “Would I eat an apple?” If you would choose an apple, yes, you are probably hungry. If you wouldn’t eat an apple? You are probably eating for reasons other than hunger. I spent about a decade of my life just grazing from food to more food, never feeling real hunger and my weight steadily climbed. I had to learn what my body’s hunger and fullness signals were again. Now, I am amazed at how little food I really need to feel satisfied. So, I make sure each bite counts, which leads us to our next habit…
2. Eat mindfully. Mindfulness conjures up images of Zen masters and Buddhist temples. For me, however, it means staying awake at the plate: sitting up and paying attention before I start chowing. To begin your mindfulness journey, take a few breaths and get present at the table. (Put down that fork! You don’t need it yet.) First, engage your senses beyond taste. For example, when’s the last time you enjoyed the aroma of your salad? Ha! (Did you know that kale smells differently than spinach?) Next, when you eat, just eat. Put away your phone, turn off the computer, and focus on your food. Eat slowly (put your fork down between each bite), with minimal distractions. Next, take time to appreciate where your food came from and thank all those that helped to bring your food to your plate. Finally, explore the dynamics of eating, following the food from your mouth, down your esophagus, into your stomach. Tune into your body as you eat.
3. Avoid liquid calories. This means sugar and cream-laden coffees and teas, sodas, energy drinks, fruit juices, and alcohol *Boo* Liquid calories are stealth calories. They come in undetected under the radar screen, but have an impact on our eating patterns that can be enormous. There’s research indicating the body doesn’t detect liquid calories the same way as it detects solid food. Liquid calories don’t seem to be as satisfying and don’t seem to suppress hunger and additional intake like solid foods do. It’s best to drink, you already know this, water. Water, water, water. I enjoy my water infused with herbs and fruits. My current fusion-jag is cinnamon sticks, fresh mint and orange slices. Delish!
4. Plan tomorrow’s food the night before. In the evening, write out your food choices for the next day. Plan what you are going to eat for the entire day. For example, I’m a “three meals with nothing in between” kind of gal, so I write out exactly what I plan on eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is what one of my food plan pages looks like… Not super sexy, but it gets the job done!
Two tips on planning: Plan to eat only what you have on hand (no emergency trips to the grocery store) and if you are eating out, go to the restaurant’s website and choose your order now. Then, first thing in the morning, review your food plan and recommit to your plan. (You can see I circled my commitment in red.) This type of planning limits rash, unhealthy decisions and committing adds a layer of accountability.
5. Track something. Anything. Because what gets measured, gets done. (That’s a phrase I used a lot from my old LA County Public Health Project Director days. It is attributed to Peter Drucker, the 80’s management ninja.) Track your weight, track your food, measure your body parts, count the number of times you need to take heart-burn medicine each week, assess the quality of your sleep each morning…whatever it is, if you track something over time, you will improve. For example, many of my clients think twice about eating a mindless snack…because they don’t want to track it. Fewer snacks over the week, means they are a fewer steps closer to goal weight. In addition, many of my clients grumble about progress pictures. They don’t like taking them, but they like having them. Progress pictures show them that their small, healthy habits are compounding into big progress over time. Tracking makes you more aware, more accountable, more inspired to change. In the short-term and in the long term, tracking works.
Five simple habits, not that they are easy. It takes time to implement them all and each one should be customized to your needs. (A coach can help you with that. *shameless self plug*) For now, do a little better than you did yesterday. And the more you practice these habits, the easier they get. What habit would you like to try today? Experiment.