ARTICLE AT A GLANCE
It’s true what they say — dieting generally doesn’t work. Most diets aren’t sustainable, restrict you from enjoying your favorite meals, and can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and body image. This blog reveals six changes you can make to get off the dieting rollercoaster once and for all:
Feelings of guilt. Obsession about your next meal. Bingeing because you’re starving. Starving because you’re bingeing. Sound familiar? You must be on a diet.
Dieting is a vicious cycle and generally a waste of time. They last for 8, maybe 12 weeks, and then what? Do you know what to do to maintain the weight you’ve lost? What happens if you put it back on? The process starts all over again.
It’s time to untangle this mess. Established patterns can be hard to break, but you can make small changes to the way you approach food that will help you keep off excess pounds without ever having to go on a diet again:
1. Stay hydrated.
The suggested amount of water to consume every day is half of your body weight in ounces. Often when we think we are hungry, we’re actually just thirsty. Water is a natural appetite suppressant. It takes up space in the stomach, triggering feelings of fullness and reduced hunger. A glass of water before or alongside a meal can help you eat less.
Your body is composed of about 60% water, and it plays an important part in biological functions within the body including digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, and maintaining body temperature. It also helps transport nutrients and aids in the removal of waste. Water is an essential part of lipolysis – the process of metabolizing stored fat – and it helps in the biochemical breakdown of proteins, lipids and carbs. There’s also research indicating water can help burn calories by causing temporary increases in metabolism.
To stay hydrated, drink high-quality water such as bottled spring or mineral water. If you’d rather avoid bottled water, add more electrolytes to your tap water with a dash of sea salt. Electrolytes are lost during workouts and sweating, so be sure hydrate appropriately afterward. The best sports drinks are designed to contain the optimal concentration of sodium and potassium and sea salt contains 84 minerals and nutrients. Our bodies need and crave these minerals and nutrients on a daily basis. Just a pinch of sea salt will do the trick.
2. Establish a routine.
Try eating small, regular meals and snacks, like breakfast, lunch, dinner and one or two healthy snacks in between. Research suggests that eating a larger number of small meals may be associated with improved diet quality and lower BMI. Having meals at regular times also helps to curb episodes of binge eating because your hunger pangs are better controlled. The hungrier we are, the harder it is to make healthy choices. Don’t starve yourself. When you do, the body panics and goes into starvation mode. It begins retaining every calorie it can, storing them in the form of fat cells. Energy levels drop, and the body can become resistant to insulin. Think of food as an opportunity to nourish your body with energy and nutrients that can prevent chronic disease.
However, it’s important to listen to your body. Our appetites are all different, and yours will vary from everyone else’s. For example, some people who fast might be satisfied eating only once or twice a day, while others feel energized eating four meals per day. You should eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Consider your metabolic rate, activity level, and exercise regimen. Prioritize the quality of your food over quantity.
3. Give yourself permission to eat.
Many dieters think that if they just had enough self control, they could reach their target weight. In a 2011 survey, 27% of respondents reported a lack of willpower as the greatest obstacle to achieving their goals. A diet that’s too restrictive can make you feel deprived of your favorite foods, and those feelings of deprivation can chip away at your willpower leaving you open to unhealthy food choices.
To avoid cravings stemming from feelings of deprivation, eat what you want instead of what you think you should. In theory, telling yourself you can’t have something gives it undeniable power and allure. But if you give yourself permission to have pizza whenever you want, you’re less likely to eat too much of it.
Avoid cravings with BBQ Chicken Pizza from Metabolic Meals: gluten-free & 450 calories
By removing the forbidden food’s “restricted” status, you’re taking away its power of temptation.
4. Eat mindfully.
Tune out the world and tune into your food. That means switching off the TV, putting away your phone, and focusing on the taste, texture, sight, and aroma of each bite. It’s too easy to get distracted during mealtimes and miss out on fully experiencing the food before your body even has a chance to enjoy it. Generally, it takes your stomach about 10 minutes to signal to your brain that you’re full. Slowing down gives your body a chance to communicate with your brain that you’ve had enough.
Distracted eating can lead to overeating when you don’t allow yourself the opportunity to experience a meal to satisfaction. If you’re not satisfied, you’re much more likely to continue eating past the point of satiety. Since mindful eating slows you down and lets you truly taste the food, you prolong your eating experience.
5. Watch portion sizes.
An easy way to watch portions: 400 calorie meal from Metabolic Meals
Portion sizes are getting larger in the U.S. Studies show that the rise in obesity rates over the past 30 years are paralleled by increases in portion sizes, especially in restaurants. Anyone who’s eaten in a restaurant knows that large portions are the norm; in fact, restaurant serving sizes are at least twice the size of a standard portion and can be up to eight times larger. You can prevent overeating away from home by asking for a half portion, ordering an appetizer instead of a main course, and staying away from buffets.
When you’re eating at home, using smaller dishes is an easy way to cut back on the amount of food you eat, and you’ll probably feel just as satisfied. Eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’ve had enough (remember, it takes your stomach at least 10 minutes to tell your brain that you’re full).
6. Avoid sugar and alcohol.
Kicking a sugar addiction is a real challenge because the addiction isn’t emotional – it’s biological. Hormonal changes brought on by a high-sugar diet create the perfect environment for adding body fat. What’s more, sugar drives up insulin levels, and when insulin is elevated often enough, our cells become resistant to it over time, forcing the body to produce ever higher levels to drive blood sugar back down. This is called “insulin resistance,” and if left unchecked, the result is Type 2 diabetes. Finally, sugar triggers inflammation, and research shows that inflammation and obesity go hand in hand.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than nine teaspoons of added sugar a day for men and only six teaspoons a day for women, but many people consume more than they realize. Look on food labels for corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, honey, invert sugar maltose, and lactose – all of these are code words for sugar. Eat fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products from the grocery store or from a healthy meal delivery service.
It’s OK to save a little room for a sweet treat, but it’s also important to limit yourself. The less sugar you eat, the less you’ll crave it.
Drinking alcohol affects your hormones as well. Alcohol increases cortisol and modifies steroid metabolism in the liver, which changes androgen levels in both sexes. Women with high levels of androgens and men with lower levels are equally at risk for gaining belly fat, and for men, lower androgen levels mean less testosterone is produced.
Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not converted to fat; it’s a fat-burning suppressor. Not only does it provide “empty calories” that are devoid of nutrition yet still need to be stored or burned, alcohol also turns off the fat burning process while you’re metabolizing it. We also tend to crave more junk food when we drink alcohol or when we’re hungover – and that’s a bad combination that leads to metabolic damage.
Here are three tips to remember when drinking alcohol:
- Avoid mixed drinks. Think vodka or tequila and club soda with a lime. If you must sweeten, use a natural sweetener like monk fruit or Stevia.
- Drink in moderation. One or two drinks will not significantly affect athletic performance the next day.
- Drink water in between drinks. Add lemon or lime to help your liver keep up with the influx of toxins. The juice provides minerals and bioflavonoids which can improve elimination from the body.
Dieting is mentally and physically exhausting. That’s why you should never do it again. By adopting these simple lifestyle tweaks, it’s possible to lose weight and keep it off while fostering a healthy relationship with food.
Kelley Baker is a Nutrition Health Coach with 15 years of experience of personal training and holistic lifestyle coaching. Her certifications include NASM, C.H.E.K, ICANS, and Poliquin.