You already know that to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. You’ve tried dieting, keeping a food diary, creating an exercise regimen, and perhaps even hypnosis. It’s now obvious that the problem isn’t with the technique, but with your willpower. Old habits die hard. If you’re having a hard time maintaining your efforts over time, here are some radical ways to break away from the routine.
- Don’t neglect the tried and true. Ultimately, losing weight comes down to one key principle: Burn more calories than you consume. The steps that follow won’t work if you have a thousand more calories coming into your body on a daily basis than you have going out. Lay the foundation for weight loss with these practices:
- Count calories and keep a food diary.
- Go on a diet.
- Cut down on sugar, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats and saturated fats.
- Burn more calories by exercising: Run, walk, even exercise at the computer you are sitting in front of now.
- When possible eat food cold. If it’s reasonable, eat food cold or room-temperature as opposed to warm, examples include eating cold soup, leaving those hard-boiled eggs you had yesterday for dinner cold, and eating ice cream in stead of drinking overly-sweet fruit juices. Your body requires more calories to warm something up if it’s cold. There’s a very advanced formula to find out how many calories certain temperature water (yes water) will burn, which is another good example, when possible drink ice water instead of regular temperature tap.
- Raise your metabolism.
- Downsize your kitchenware. The human mind works in mysterious ways. It turns out that using smaller bowls, plates, and containers can subconsciously influence how much you serve yourself. Even nutrition experts are victims of this phenomenon; when 85 of them were given a random mix of small and large bowls and scoops, those who got larger bowls served themselves 31% more ice cream, and added on another 14.5% if they had bigger scoops!
- Put down the knife. By putting down whatever utensils you’re using between every bite, you can significantly slow down your eating time, leaving your stomach a chance to feel full and reducing the likelihood that you’ll go for seconds. Another technique that can have a similar effect is to take a sip between each bite. Numerous studies have shown that eating slowly results in eating less. There’s even a device you can get from a dentist that you wear to make your oral cavity smaller so that you take smaller bites, and “diet forks” that are so awkward to use that you’ll get less food per bite! There are also plates for eating slowly that keep your food warm, also called “Heat Retentive Plates”
- Know the enemy! Make a list of the food items that are your weaknesses. These aren’t always unhealthy foods, either. Sometimes we fool ourselves into believing that as long as we avoid the “bad” foods, we’re making progress. At least, that’s what we like to think as we get up for our third serving of fruit salad, or finish a bag of pretzels in one sitting, saying that they’re healthier than chips. Remember that too much of anything is bad. You probably don’t need to keep a food diary to know your enemies. Common culprits include soda, bread, alcohol, and fast food. Whatever your weakness is, cut down on it. If you cut it out completely, you’re more likely to binge. Buy only small packages of it and have it only once in a while. If cutting down doesn’t work, you might need to go cold turkey.
- Also seek out and reduce needless sedentary activities that burn few calories and can make you more susceptible to temptation to overeat.
- Choose whole grains over a whole belly. If you switch out all of your refined grain food (white bread, food made with white flour) for whole-grain food (oatmeal, whole-grain cereal, whole-grain pasta, brown rice and barley) you won’t lose additional weight overall. However, you will lose more weight in the belly area, which will make you look thinner–at least, that’s what a Penn State study implies. Not only will your slimmer profile make you feel better about your progress, but by losing the VAT (visceral adipose tissue) you’re also doing away with a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, coronary vascular disease, and some types of cancer. Check those labels and make sure that any grain-based foods you buy are made up of at least fifty-one percent whole grain.
- Limit your spending. Some people have an easier time controlling their wallet than controlling their diet. Go ahead, cut up those credit cards, and build up your emergency fund, if you haven’t already (in its own account, and leave the bank card at home). Limit the amount of cash you have in your wallet, especially if you’re subject to spontaneous fast food indulgences. When you go grocery shopping, have a list prepared, and bring just enough money to cover those items (this might take a few dry runs). The embarrassment of not having enough money at the register will keep you from throwing a few extra items in the shopping cart. If you don’t do the grocery shopping, then offer to take on this monumental role. Your family or roommates might complain about the absence of junk food, but you’ll be doing them a favor by stocking the kitchen with healthy stuff. They’ll thank you…later…years later.
- Set a digital watch to go off every two hours. Eat only when the watch tells you to. Spontaneous eating sessions (those times when you feel those hunger pangs, those cravings, and you scour the cabinets or the streets in search of satisfaction) are your weakest points. This is why all weight loss books tell you to avoid skipping meals. If you eat every two hours, you won’t get so hungry that you gorge yourself when you do eat. You know how it goes: “Oh…I’m so hungry…the brownies are right there…I’d have to walk all the way to the deli to get a sandwich, but my stomach’s churning….” Of course, if you eat the equivalent of a cheeseburger every two hours, that’s a recipe for obesity, but again, you’re more likely to retain self-control and stick to your diet when you don’t have hunger pangs to cloud your judgment. It wouldn’t hurt, however, to plan out what you’ll eat (smoothie at 10, chicken salad at 12, a single piece of leftover cherry pie at 2, a slice of bread with peanut butter at 4, and so on).
- This has the added benefit of increasing your metabolism. Extending the time between meals makes your body go into “starvation mode,” which will slow down your metabolism in response to the perceived threat of starvation. This is why fasting and skipping meals will only make things worse. In addition to having four to six small meals per day, eating healthy snacks will also increase your metabolism.
- Another useful way to think about this is to use a “hunger scale.” Rate your hunger on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being so hungry that you feel weak and 10 being so full that you just want to curl up in bed and digest. Eat when you’re at about 3, which is when you’re just a little hungry, but not famished.
- Count calories. Of course, it is easier once you are organized, but it really works, and it doesn’t have to cost anything! In addition to helping you stick to a daily caloric limit, you’ll probably find yourself surprised to see how many calories certain foods contain (usually more than you’d expect!). The general rule of thumb is that for every 3500 calories you cut, you’ll lose a pound of weight. That means that by cutting 500 calories a day (a total of 3500 per week),you may find you lose approximately a pound a week.
- The “old school” approach is to keep a food diary, and record the number of calories your consumed. The caloric content of the food you eat can be found either on its label, or on the web.
- Another option is to get a tally counter (you can find them for less than $1 apiece on most auction sites), and increase the count every time you eat something (it’s most practical to make one click per 10 calories consumed).
- Alternatively, many smartphones have apps available that will look up caloric values for you, as well as calculate how many calories you should consume per day if you want to lose weight.
- By planning and queueing up food for low-calorie menus well in advance, you can not only put a more manageable effort into planning and gathering food for them but also avoid reminders to think about varieties of food daily, which is very helpful when trying to eat less of it.
- Trade weight for cash. A 2007 study showed that the more you pay people to lose weight, the more pounds they drop over a three-month period. If there’s someone who keeps nagging you to lose weight, ask that person about paying you for every pound you lose. If your employer is self-insured, he or she might consider enlisting the services of a company that develops reward programs to encourage employees to lose weight. You can also sign a contract that forces you to pay up for every pound you don’t lose (or every pound you gain) and whatever money you pay (or gain) can be donated to charity.
- One thing you might notice that happens if you eat slowly is that your food gets cold before you finish it. To address this, you can serve yourself smaller portions (heating as you serve) or even purchase plates specifically designed to keep food warm (heat retentive plates).
- Don’t cut fat completely from your diet. It’s important to recognize that fat is necessary for good health and sustainable weight loss. Remember that weight loss is about calories, and while fat does have more calories per gram than carbs or protein, foods like ground flax, nuts, and avocados are all high fat foods that are touted for their health benefits. Taking this approach will promote healthy weight loss by keeping you feeling full longer, and provide your body with the nutrition it needs to properly absorb and process nutrients.
- Keep a fitness log: Get a blank piece of paper and draw about forty small squares or print a spreadsheet from Microsoft Excel. Try to figure out your most common exercise-related activities and make two letter (or number) codes for them. Add a few more activities to get you moving. Set a date to complete all of your squares. Consider going over your log daily to fill in the squares, as you will not remember what activity you did three weeks from now. Make sure that your date goals are reasonable and timely.
- For physical activity, try something different. Maybe you’ve stopped going to the gym because it’s boring. Do something unique and preferably something that involves a long-term commitment and contract, such as swing or salsa dancing, swimming lessons, fencing, or martial arts. Choose a school or instructor you like–you’re more likely to show up, especially if there’s someone holding you accountable. The more expensive the contract, the more likely you are to stick with it…unless you’re filthy rich, in which case you can hire a personal trainer.
- If you are having a hard time getting started or maintaining an exercise routine, use Monday as the day to recommit. Instead of making it a New Year’s Resolution or something you start doing on your birthday, using Monday gives you fifty-two chances to get on track!
- Boost metabolism temporarily with aerobic exercise. Different activities burn different quantities of calories, but the important thing is to raise your heart rate and sustain the activity for approximately thirty minutes.
- Boost metabolism in the long run with weight training. Muscle burns more calories than fat does–73 more calories per kilogram per day, to be exact. Every muscle cell that you gain is like a little factory that constantly burns calories for you, even while you sleep, and revs up when you exercise.
- Don’t lose weight too quickly (more than one or two pounds a week). Losing weight quickly has its own health risks, as does being underweight. In addition, pushing yourself too hard can increase the likelihood of relapse. Slow and steady wins the race in this department.
- Consult your doctor before making any major changes to your lifestyle if you have a medical condition that could be affected. Consulting your doctor can also help you rule out medical conditions that could be contributing to your weight.
- Avoid “fad” diets such as the cabbage soup diet, “carb-loading,” boiled egg diet, etc.
- Avoid smoking as a weight-loss method. While nicotine is a metabolism booster and appetite suppressant, the health hazards far outweigh any benefits.
- Expect your metabolism to slow down as you lose weight. The more weight your body is carrying, the more calories your body has to burn in order to sustain itself, even at rest. When you begin restricting your calorie intake, you’ll lose weight relatively easily because your body’s high caloric needs are not being met. But after you begin to shed the weight, the body has less mass to carry and thus needs fewer calories. In order to continue losing weight, you will have to restrict your caloric intake even further in order to maintain a difference between what your body needs and what you are providing.
- Remember that being healthy overall is more important than losing weight. Preventing obesity should be like preventing diabetes or cancer or hypertension; you are preventing a disease. Never do anything unhealthful to lose weight. You don’t want to substitute one disease for another.
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Sources and Citations
- ↑ Brian Wansink, Koert van Ittersum, and James E. Painter. September 2006. Ice Cream Illusions: Bowls, Spoons, and Self-Served Portion Sizes. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 31(3):240-243
- ↑ Science Confirms Diet Tactic: Eat Slow, Eat Less
- ↑ http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20040525/dental-device-may-aid-weight-loss
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA400379/Whole-Grains-Shrink-Belly-Fat.html
- ↑ Whole Grains Shrinks Belly Fat
- ↑ Rev Up Your Metabolism
- ↑ Make the Most of Your Metabolism
- ↑ Kick the New Year Right With These 10 Diet Tips
- ↑ http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/1865.html
- ↑ Eric A. Finkelstein, Laura A. Linnan, Deborah F. Tate, Ben E. Birken. September 2007. A Pilot Study Testing the Effect of Different Levels of Financial Incentives on Weight Loss among Overweight Employees. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine. 49(9):981-989.
- ↑ An Economy of Scales: Paying People to Lose Weight Helps Drop Pounds and Health-Care Costs
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/make-most-your-metabolism
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