In my line of work, I have many opportunities to listen to people’s concerns relating to weight loss. And for good reason: According to the Center for Disease Control’s latest report, over 42% of Americans are obese; a condition that directly correlates to heart and lung disease, stroke, type II diabetes, and even COVID-19.
Our bodies, it seems, are telling us there is a problem. So maybe shedding some of those excess pounds is worth being concerned about.
Yet, despite knowing the risks of being overweight and wanting desperately to slim down, many struggle to find a way to do so. While I strongly suggest working with a diet coach or nutritionist who can customize a plan specific to your lifestyle, food preferences, and health concerns, there are steps you can take immediately to position yourself for success.
Or in the case of this article, five things you should not be doing (or should be doing instead). Read on to find out what they are. Simple changes can make a world of difference!
1: Don’t eat food directly from the package
You know I’m talking about you, Chip Lovers. The worst thing someone can do is open a bag of chips, cookies, crackers, [fill in highly-processed carb here] and expect that you won’t be hypnotized into submission by its salty, greasy goodness. One standard 9 oz bag of Ruffles contains around 1500 calories; so even if you ate *only* half the bag, you’d still have taken in a hefty 750 calories in one brief moment. That’s more than 1/3 of a day’s worth of calories for most, with little – if any – healthy benefit to be gained from the experience.
DO measure out portions and put the package away
I don’t care who you are – fat or fit – everyone should practice portion control when it comes to packaged goodies. Whether that means using a scale and weighing it out, counting the number of pieces according to the label’s serving size, or just plain eyeballing it, the only way to prevent over-indulging is to avoid the ability to do so in the first place. Take out what you need and put the rest of the bag/box/package away. If this strategy still doesn’t work, then purchase the item in single-serve packs that are already measured out for you. Or better yet, just don’t buy that particular food in the first place. Which leads me to the next item on the list…
2. Don’t have “kryptonite” foods in the house
Everyone has a food or two that they just can’t resist. For me, it’s chocolate cake. What, you say it has chocolate frosting? Um, can you give me a few more slices?! Can I scrape the plate the cake is on too?
I consider these types of foods “kryptonite” because, like Superman, they turn us into weaklings when they are around. In fact, this weakened willpower is a real thing; psychologists have determined that the more times we put ourselves in a position where self-control is needed, the less likely we are to tap into said self-control when the next opportunity pops up (like five minutes later). It’s not unlike how our muscles work: you are strong during the first rep or two, but by the final rep you can barely complete the movement. Apparently, when it comes to willpower our brains work in a similar way.
DO purchase foods that don’t present unrelenting levels of temptation
I realize this can be difficult since most of us live among others in the same household. Our spouse and/or kids may not be on the same page relating to weight loss, so to them having goodies in the house is NBD (“No Big Deal” if you are old like me and have no idea what “NBD” means). That being said, if you know you cannot resist a certain food then your housemates are going to have to do without; your health is far more important than their love for Little Debbie. Focus on buying them foods that they still consider a treat, but that you don’t find impossible to resist.
3. Don’t eat while you’re watching a screen
I don’t know about you, but if I sit in front of the TV I usually find myself so focused on what I’m watching that I’m not even aware that I’m chewing/swallowing/digesting whatever is in front of me. It’s like I sit on my Lazyboy with a plateful of somethingorother one minute, only to discover it disappeared the next. It’s an entirely unsatisfying experience, not to mention disappointing. I mean, were the Golden Girls so riveting that they were worth giving up tasting anything all together?
DO eat without distractions
I know many of you are so busy that the idea of sitting down at the dinner table is laughable, but if you’ve struggled with weight loss, you may just have to make time to do it anyway. Really, it doesn’t even have to be at a table, it can be in your car for all I care. The important thing is that you are not in a place where your attention is in constant demand. Close your eyes if you must, but mindfully focus on the process of food going into your mouth, chewing, tasting. Eating even a small meal this way is far more satisfying than eating an entire buffet if you’re not paying any attention to the flavor or experience.
4. Don’t assume that because it’s healthy, you can eat endless amounts of it
Oh if I only had a quarter for every time someone said, “But it’s made with low fat sour cream!”
I’d probably only have like 50 cents, but the point is, people often assume that because something is considered “clean,” or “low carb,” or “low fat,” or “plant-based,” that this means you can eat as much as of it as you want since “it’s healthy.”
But here’s the scoop: Even healthy foods can contribute to weight gain.
That’s because all food has calories. And calories add up no matter where they come from. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sleeve of Chips A’Hoy or a peck of fresh apples you picked yourself; if you consume more calories than your body needs, then that number on the scale inevitably goes up.
In other words, if you’re looking to lose weight, it’d be wise to remove “eat as much as you want” from your vocabulary. Because there is no such thing.
DO pursue healthier food choices, but be mindful about how much you’re eating
While calories in = calories out regardless of where the calorie originates from, digestion, absorption, and blood sugar levels are dependent on exactly what you are eating. A 250 calorie cookie will digest faster, elevate blood sugar levels longer, and provide little nutritional benefit as compared to 250 calories worth of grapes (which will digest more slowly due to their fiber content, keeping blood sugars from spiking, and providing the body a variety of vitamins and minerals). Plus, a 250 calorie cookie is a far smaller portion than 250 calories worth of grapes (that’s a heckuva lotta grapes by the way!). So healthier food options are still a far superior choice when it comes to weight loss; just keep in mind that portion control is still on the table no matter what it is you’re eating.
5. Don’t set goals that are too lofty or unrealistic
I commonly hear people declare a dietary goal that’s well beyond where they’re currently at. For example, someone might have a habit of eating fast food four nights a week, but then decide “starting Monday” to ban fast food from their life forever; only to find themselves at the Wendy’s drive-through on Wednesday.
That’s because they’ve set unrealistic expectations for themselves. Even a cheetah can’t maintain top speed for more than 30 seconds before it tires out. And you can’t either.
DO set small, achievable goals that serve as a step ladder to where you want to be
There are very few people who can quit anything “cold turkey” and actually stick with it. When it comes to diet, changing behaviors is even more challenging because eating is not just an activity we do to survive. It’s also a social activity. A pleasurable activity. A cultural activity.
In other words, eating does not happen in a vacuum. Lots of external factors influence the entire experience. So expecting to entirely revamp your dietary behaviors is like swimming against a river of white water rapids.
Instead, you want to be pushing against a gentle flowing stream, where the resistance is barely noticeable and you feel confident you can follow-through consistently.
So if you eat fast food four times a week, set a goal to eat fast food only three days for the next month. Want to eat cleaner foods? No problem, just make sure you focus on doing so only for one meal a day in the beginning. Then, when you feel that you’ve successfully achieved your goal for a set period of time, set a new goal to build upon the old one. It’s like a set of stairs leading you to the top; but you have to climb each step to get there.
- Don’t let a product’s package serve as your dinner plate.
- Remember that Superman couldn’t overcome kryptonite, and you can’t either.
- Don’t pay attention to anything but the food going into your mouth.
- Remove “eat as much as you want” from your vocabulary because it doesn’t exist.
- Don’t be a cheetah and climb the stairs one step at a time.
If you’ve struggled to lose weight despite numerous attempts, you may want to consider having an advocate in your corner. Not sure how to modify your diet? How much is enough versus too much? How can you make this work if you’re always on the run? Contact me and I can help. Or consider joining the GF2 Fitness and Contest Prep Forum on Facebook, a private community designed to help people just like you.