If you’ve been trying to lose weight or have tried multiple diets in the past, you are definitely not alone.
While maintaining a healthy or ideal weight isn’t the end all be all, the two everyday habits we discuss in today’s article can help provide a solid foundation for weight management over the long-term in the realm of your nutrition/dietary lifestyle.
A Common Problem with Diets
Depending on who you talk to, “dieting” can bring about positive or negative feelings and perspectives.
We could dedicate a separate article on the pros and cons of dieting (and many more on the different kinds of diets out there–like the Paleo Diet and the Keto Diet). In today’s article, however, we’ll briefly discuss one common problem that seems consistent across that majority of dieters…
Diets can be hard to sustain over the long-term, especially if they’re excessively restrictive in nature.
For example, restrictive calorie or macronutrient diets are typically meant to last only a short to moderate period of time. This is good as they can have quick effects but, if your goal is to develop a long term, sustainable way of managing your weight, a 30-day challenge or cleanse probably won’t do the trick.
Those who don’t have a continual plan on how to manage their weight will tend to regain it. In fact, roughly 90% of dieters gain back the weight they’ve lost. While dieting itself can be challenging, it’s what happens after the diet is over that tends to be overlooked.
So, how can you reap the benefits of your hard work when your diet ends (whether planned or not)?
Instead of focusing on what to eat or not eat…try focusing on how you eat.
2 Habits to Help Manage Weight Long-Term
1. Eating slowly.
2. Stop eating BEFORE you’re full.
Scientific evidence backs up the effectiveness of these two traits. The most significant benefit is that you can make these small changes without necessarily having to change what you eat. Plus…they don’t cost anything (and could potentially resulting in spending less on food)!
For the record: this isn’t a free pass to just eat processed, junk food slowly. Instead, it’s a way to be mindful of what you’re eating, no matter what you’re eating.
1. The Benefits of Eating Slowly
Chances are, you eat most meals without thinking at all.
Here’s a little quiz: In the last 24 hours, have you eaten while…
- watching TV
- looking at your phone
- replying to an email or a text
If you answered “no” to none of those, we are impressed!
While carrying out a little task while eating isn’t inherently wrong, it can have implications on the amount you eat in one sitting. For example, studies have demonstrated that people who eat slowly are more likely to be successful at weight loss/management and even have better hormonal regulation than people who eat quickly.
Eating slowly offers the added benefits of consciously experiencing and enjoying your food as well as breaking down your food more, so it’s easier to digest.
Here are some tips to help you slow down:
- Clear Out Distractions. Whether it’s the television, your computer, or your phone, turn everything off. Make your meal times solely about the experience so that you’re not tempted to multitask and rush back to some other activity.
- Meal Prep or Plan What You’ll Eat. You’re more likely to want to savor a meal that you’ve thoughtfully prepared ahead of time, than one that you’re rushing to fill the meal-time hour.
- Put Your Utensils Down While You Chew. Most of us take one bite, load up our spoon, and shovel the next bite in before we’ve completely swallowed the first one. If you put down the spoon or fork between every bite, you’ll take more time chewing and experiencing the flavors. At first, it might be difficult to do this, but with enough practice, it can become a habit.
Check out this helpful article by Precision Nutrition for more tips and tricks.
2. Starting to feel full? Stop Eating
How many holiday meals have ended with everyone at the table complaining because they’re too full? On the one hand, it’s a great compliment to the cook and totally fine to enjoy meals with friends and family, but on the other, eating past the point of being 100% full isn’t a rare occurrence for most of us. (Especially for us speedy eaters!)
So, how can you set yourself up for success for your next meal?
- Order a size smaller or ask for half of your meal to be boxed “to-go.” Portion sizes are usually far bigger than the recommended size for any dish, so even If you look at the dietary menu and weigh out your dinner, for instance. If you’re still hungry after you’ve finished, wait at least five minutes. There’s a slight delay for our stomach’s stretch receptors to tell our brains that we’ve “hit capacity” and are full. Still hungry after waiting? Order a small side or snack…just eat it slowly!
- At home, use a smaller bowl or plate. This is another clever way to control portions. While portions may not matter a lot if you’re eating healthy options, such as fish and veggies, it will make a big difference for starchy, high-carb foods like rice, bread, and pasta. Like the tactic above, if you’re still hungry after eating your first small serving, it’s okay to get a second.
- Think “want vs. need” when going for a second or third helping. During the holidays or at an event, it can be hard to resist the want for sweet and savory foods. Luckily, for most of us, the majority of our days are not special occasions. Try to be conscious of when you’re feeling 80-85% full and notice what’s motivating you to eat more. For example, are you still hungry because you haven’t eaten enough? Or are you bored, distracted, or prolonging work or an errand that needs to be done?
- Drink a full glass of water 15-20 minutes before your next meal or when you start to feel hungry at an inconvenient time. This can be helpful in two ways. First, dehydration can sometimes feel like hunger. Second, it will help fill your stomach, cueing it to start monitoring and relaying the message to your brain that says, “I’m full!” 15-20 minutes also gives some time for the water to travel down the digestive tract, leaving your stomach’s digestive enzymes and acids to be less diluted and do a better job at breaking down your food.
Now, Make an Action Plan
Now that you’ve read through some ways to implement both habits into your daily lifestyle, choose one of each to focus on over the next week.
You might find it difficult to remember to eat slowly at first. Or, you might realize that you forgot to pay attention to your level of “fullness” at the end of your meal when you’re completely stuffed–this is normal! Don’t get discouraged. The more you think about these two habits, the more they will start to be ingrained as actual habits.