Did you ever wonder why some people seem naturally thin without effort? You probably attribute this to their genetics; maybe they were born with a fast metabolism, or blessed with a small appetite – and while that may be true in part, the major factor can be described in one word: habit. These people have adapted to a way of life that puts them in balance, meaning they are regularly consuming the number of calories they need to expend through their normal daily activities and exercise. You too can stay in balance by simply adapting some of your habits based on the following tips.
Experience the amazing power of mindful eating. Want to lose weight and enjoy your food more? Practice this very easy and effective technique; at each meal put down your knife and fork at least 3 times. When you do, try placing your fork and knife in a very meticulous, perfect upside down V by turning your fork on its side and placing the last inch of your knife thru the talon in your fork at the top of your plate. Now close your eyes and take one deep, slow breath. Let this be your symbol of mindful eating. Then simply stop, sit back, and enjoy the scenery or the company you are with! Enjoy!
Remember to always slow down and take well-chewed, small bites, even when you’re eating sandwiches. When the speed of your eating feels unnaturally slow or odd, then you have it about right. You may find that the slower you eat the more you will enjoy your food and the thinner you will become. Practice being the last at the table to finish! Now stay with me on this and remember: it’s all about the first 3 to 5 bites, this is when you take or lose control of your meal. Perfect these techniques and you could lose up to 3-5 pounds this year. This is my number one tip for a reason, practice it for 60 days and experience its power! It’s not about the quantity of the food you eat; it’s about the quality and the dining experience. In short, eat slowly and eat petite!
Portion control. In the fifties, every diner across the nation featured 9-inch plates. Today, most of us are eating from 10-12-inch plates and even platters! Use smaller bowls, dishes and glasses; order small sizes on everything. Sound extreme? Just wait and see. Now let’s take this one step further, even use your smaller salad fork and replace tablespoons with teaspoons. This even goes for you big, brawny men with ever increasing waistlines! Remember, most Asian populations tend to be much leaner partially because of the use of chopsticks. Controlling the amount of food you consume in each bite and the amount of food you can fit on your plate is a simple way to cut down how much you are eating at each meal.
Know the numbers, know the facts. Now I know not everyone likes the numbers; but stay with me on this because calories trump everything! One pound of fat contains the caloric equivalent of 3500 calories. This is important because consuming an average of just 29 calories more per day than you burn will lead to 3 pounds of weight gain per year. Hard to believe? Let’s break it down: 3500 divided by 365 days = 9.58, or almost 10 extra calories a day will equal 1 pound of weight gain per year. So if you take in just 29 extra calories on average per day you will gain 3 pounds. These are the facts: any calories you consume beyond your maintenance needs are not only unnecessary, they will slowly make you gain weight and could actually shorten your life! The risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease all increase with excessive weight gain. Fortunately, this also works in reverse! Consume 29 fewer calories per day and you could lose 3 pound over the next year. This could be as simple as cutting out the slice of cheese from your sandwich or leaving the croutons off your salad. Enough of the right small choices can make a big difference over time.
Learn to feel your foods. After you have eaten a mindful meal carefully, observe how it makes you feel. Does it give you acid indigestion, upset stomach, constipation? Do you feel energized or lethargic? Learning to feel satisfied rather than full, and seeing how mindful eating affects your overall wellbeing is crucial both to losing weight and maintaining that weight loss.
Watch your liquid intake. Today’s extra large serving sizes for coffee, soda, alcohol, and other beverages are out of control and often full of sugar and fat. These can quickly add up to 2-5 extra pounds year after year. Instead of these, drink lots of water, aiming to consume at least 6-8 tall glasses per day. You may add lemon or lemon juice to your water. You may also have black coffee (½ pack sweetener, optional), or diet soda in small amounts (preferably caffeine–free). Fruit juices should be limited or avoided altogether when trying to reduce body fat because although they contain vitamins and minerals, their calories burn much like sugar in the body.
Get some exercise. Muscle is your best friend when it comes to burning calories, even when you are asleep! The best workout routines include resistance training to build or maintain lean body mass and aerobic exercise to burn fat and improve cardiovascular endurance. Try to get some exercise in every day. At the same time, remember nutrition is at least 50 percent of the formula for your overall health and fitness program.
Try eating five meals per day, made up of three regular meals and two healthy snacks/mini-meals. Do this with little to no snacking between these meals. This will help keep your portion sizes down and keep your metabolism up. Try doing this for a minimum of six days per week. Then reward yourself once in a while! One day a week, enjoy a celebration where you eat any time and anything you want (within reason). Just remember your mindfulness! This is simply planning and can be very effective. Think of the old adage, “People don’t plan to fail. They fail to plan.”
Keep your protein levels up when trying to lose weight. When reducing calories, try to remove most of your calories by cutting down on carbs and fat. If you cut your protein levels too much, you may lose lean body mass instead of fat. For a person doing moderate to heavy exercise, your consumption of protein should be about ½ of your normal weight or more in grams per day. For example, a 120-pound woman should have 60 grams or more of protein per day. This is very important when you are exercising regularly. It is also a good idea to consume some lean protein within 30 to 60 minutes after exercising. It is important to keep in mind, however, that any calories of any kind that you do not burn will be stored as fat.
Spend more time vertical. We are now spending massive amounts of time sitting or lying down and when doing so, we are burning almost as few calories as we do when we’re sleeping. The major factor is our new bad habit of too much time in front of screens. That’s right; TV, video games, computer screens and now smart phones are making many of us fatter. Standing, washing dishes, doing house and yard work and many other activities like this burn double the amount of calories. So limit your time in front of these video screens, be more active, and over a year’s time you may lose 1-3 pounds without even trying.
Seek the help of a register dietician. If you are overweight and/or experiencing medical problems such as digestive problems, bloating, loss of energy or other symptoms, set up an appointment with a dietician. Most people will see big changes by seeing a dietitian for 3-6 visits over 1 to 2 months. In many cases it’s covered by your health insurance. Think about it: what formal training have you received in nutrition? An expert can help clarify healthy eating habits and set you up for success.
By incorporating many of these tips into your daily habits, you will easily find balance, lose weight and maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Tip: Work on the first three secrets diligently for three months before moving to the others!
By Paul Maduri, President and CEO of Fitness Unlimited Milton, MA
Always consult your doctor or professional health care worker before starting a diet or exercise program.