Are you tempted? Desserts are hard to resist, but do you need to try fad diets? I follow science and common sense, not hype and beliefs. Here's hoping my tips will help you enjoy your food and stay in good health.
THE KEY POINTS FOR OVEREATING
REALITY CHECK! “Hello, I believe you can help me lose weight.” This is the opening line when someone called me for professional services.
The answer is “For sure I can help you lose weight, and in a way that suits your lifestyle. Once we find the main obstacle that has been preventing weight loss, we can focus on it and follow a meal plan that will be easy to follow for the rest of your life. Well, not that easily, it does take persistence.” This is my philosophy because it’s the way I live. I love food, love eating, and the only way to maintain my weight is through constant vigilance. It doesn’t mean being obsessive; but being aware of eating foods that I like, and knowing the quantities my body can handle without gaining weight. These are the principles I apply to my clients’ concerns. Weight management means achieving the best weight possible in the context of overall health, mental and physical, and for the sake of appearance.
Good nutrition is important, not only for the obvious health benefits, but also for feeling good. When you plan meals and enjoy the foods you select, you become more active, feel better about yourself and make an effort to look good. You are in control because of making choices. They are all linked. You know when overeating you feel too sluggish to work out, feel depressed about losing control and don’t care about your appearance.
Now, take time to determine what you want to change in your life. Do you want to change the types of foods you eat, food quantities, your activity level, confidence or all of the above? Keep reading. The following steps will help you implement these changes to improve your quality of life. The keys to sensible eating are simply awareness of what you are eating and moderation of food quantities you consume. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to enjoy eating with a good conscience.
WHY DO WE OVEREAT?
Are there times when you reach for a certain food and say, “I shouldn’t be eating this,” then eat it anyway? If you’re like most of us, the answer is yes. The question is: Why do you eat it? It may be because it tastes good or because you don’t want to feel deprived. Perhaps that particular food gives you comfort when you’re under stress. Whatever the reason, you feel guilty after eating it. Is it so bad to eat this way occasionally? One “bad” meal will not ruin your good intentions. Ask yourself “Did I enjoy it?” If the answer is yes, don’t berate yourself. Carry on the next day as if nothing happened to destroy your faith in your self-control.
How do you know when you’ve eaten too much? If you “feel stuffed” after a meal that’s too large or too high in fat, you’ll know you ate too much. Remember that feeling the next time you’re tempted. Say to yourself “I’ll have a smaller portion” or “This is not my favorite food. I’ll wait until something I really enjoy comes along.” It isn’t an effortless decision, but with repeated positive thoughts, it will become easier. This awareness needs to be part of your new lifestyle.
When I had my practice, I was usually the first nutrition expert my clients had met. They often have a good knowledge of nutrition, with a little confusion creeping in. They know that healthy eating, changes in eating behavior and increased activity make them feel great. They’ve tried it in the past and can still remember that feeling. They also know that it’s difficult to make changes without continuous motivation. Dietitians can guide you in the right direction with weekly check-ins. It's easy to return to bad habits. Dietitians make these changes easier with kind reminders.
THE MOST COMMON OBSTACLES AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM
The many obstacles to making healthy food choices can be categorized under three main themes - eating when you’re not hungry, eating for emotional reasons and unplanned eating. You may identify with one or all three of these complaints at different times of the day or at different stages of your life. There are solutions:
1. EATING WHEN NOT HUNGRY
“Do you eat when you’re hungry?” This is the first question I would ask clients who wanted to lose weight. Most of them would say, “I’m never hungry.” So why do they eat? There are so many reasons for eating - enjoyment, sharing a social occasion, and so on. If they only ate when they were hungry, they would reduce their chances of gaining weight.
2. EMOTIONAL EATING
Have you tried dieting (or rather, depriving yourself of food), succeeded in losing weight, then lost control and eaten everything in sight? Do you become unhappy with yourself and feel like a failure? Do you stop caring about yourself and become insecure? Disguising extra weight by wearing baggy clothes lowers self-esteem, making you unhappy and short-tempered with family, friends and colleagues.
Strict dieting is obviously not the solution to weight loss; eating sensibly is. How do you achieve this goal? Remember how good you feel when you do make healthy food choices and keep active. Decide that you want to have that good feeling every day. Ignore a bad day and aim for healthy food choices the next day. Listen to your body. Remember; don’t starve or deprive yourself - you’ll be setting yourself up for failure again.
I love food and hate getting hungry, so I’m used to having great meals and snacks every day; great in taste, not great in size. Eating in moderation makes me feel comfortable and good about myself. When you are hungry, eat; when you are not, don’t! Focus on remembering the good feelings that come with sensible and healthy food choices. Have those feelings again and again. This is the only approach to adopt for long-term weight management.
EATING UNDER STRESS OR WHEN ANXIOUS
Do you have a high stress job? When tense, do you look for food, then gobble any food you can find without really tasting or enjoying it? Muffins, cookies, burgers, fries and chocolate bars are always nearby. These are empty calorie foods (high in calories with negligible essential nutrients).
High calorie foods makes you feel good for those few minutes, but then you get very angry for overindulging. You thinks you're the only person who is weak. You can be so disciplined at work but lose control with food intake.
The solution is to have no unhealthy food nearby, pause for thirty seconds each time you're stressed and breathe deeply, take a thirty- minute walk, make a cup of tea, have a bubble bath and slow down. Then eat three apples before you can binge on fatty food. That will be difficult. You need to plan ahead.
EATING FOR COMFORT
Food is a comfort. It was given to us as children whenever we hurt ourselves or when we cried. It’s only natural that we should turn to food when under stress.
Certain foods are “trigger” foods, they trigger a binging reaction; once we start on this item of food, we can’t stop. Be sure to keep trigger foods out of your reach - none in the home or office drawer. Have healthy foods nearby. Never, never spend your own money on foods that will sabotage your healthy habits.
If you’re feeling desperate, do something else that will make you feel better immediately - walk or run around the block.
ALCOHOL TO SOLVE PROBLEMS
Drinking does not make problems disappear; it only makes the person feel bad and tired emotionally and physically, which exacerbates their existing problem.
One rule - drink only with family or friends. Slowly decrease to four ounces a night until it isn’t necessary to drink for stress reasons. Bad habits are formed by continuously practicing them; they can be stopped by continuously developing new, better habits.
If you eat high fat and/or high sugar foods on the sly and feel ashamed to admit it, you have a problem. To solve that, only eat these foods in front of someone, anyone, never on your own. This way, you won't feel deprived, because everything is available to you. Of course, healthy foods you can eat anytime or anywhere.
GUILT AND FOOD
Do you sit in your a job, all day long? On your breaks, do you buy donuts and cookies? Do you know these are not the right foods and feels guilty.
Now, don’t relate “guilt” to food. It brings your mood down. If you overeat, you feel stuffed and uncomfortable. This is a physical feeling of discomfort; not an emotional feeling. Take away the fear and guilt you associate with different foods. You must learn to enjoy the taste and pleasure of healthy eating. Be sure to have nutritious foods nearby, even if you overeat on them, the harm is minimal.
DIET AND DEPRIVATION
Is your “diet,” too strict ? Must you be perfect? Are you stressed and panicky at a party because the food might be “wrong?”
This attitude must change! If you’re going to an event where the food choices are not necessarily “healthy,” choose half of what you would normally have and enjoy every mouthful. Make sure the food item is well prepared, tasty and fresh. If it’s not fabulous, leave it.
I was at a meeting and there was a large assortment of cookies. I knew I couldn’t resist them so I chose the most decadent looking one, with chocolate and nuts. After one bite, I found it had no flavor. I hid the rest of the cookie under my napkin. It just wasn’t worth eating - very disappointing. Cookies are my weak spot, but they have to be fantastic. Cookies are not to be found in my home because I would eat them when I didn’t feel like them (if that’s possible). When out I allow myself one if my weight is under control. You need to discriminate, too. Save your appetite for your favorite foods in moderation, such as chips (10), nuts (2 tbsp) or chocolate-covered almonds (5).
WOMEN’S MONTHLY CRAVINGS
When her periods are coming, do you crave chocolate and starchy foods, then become cranky and irritable? Also bloated and uncomfortable?
Periods are part of a woman’s life cycle and the changes every month have to be accepted, however, we can handle them better if we understand what is going on with our bodies.
The premenstrual craving for starchy foods is not unusual. The theory is that fluctuations in estrogen levels cause an increased desire for carbohydrates. This in turn leads to an increase in fat intake as many high-carbohydrate foods are high in fat. Don’t resist your craving. At times like these choose one starchy food or one sweet item per day until the craving disappears. If you resist too much, you may binge at a later stage.
The distention you feel is caused by the increase in starch or sugar in your diet. When these foods are digested and stored in the body, they need water in order to be stored. That leads to water retention and bloating. You’ll know because the rings on your fingers will be tight. You’ll also find you don’t urinate much during these days. Once the craving has disappeared, you urinate frequently because your body will want to rid itself of the stored water. Your bloated feeling goes away and you feel slimmer. Accept these symptoms and don’t worry about them.
During the premenstrual phase, you experience a decrease in endorphins, which precipitate happy moods. Do you want to improve your mood? Of course. The way to achieve that goal is with increased activity. Many women have noticed that when they eat better and are in a fixed workout routine, their mood swings and bloated feelings are decreased considerably. So keep up your activity, even if you’re feeling blah.
Pre-menstrual you need to:
• Be pleased your periods are regular.
• Keep active.
• Satisfy cravings with one high-fiber starch.
• Ignore bloating.
• Plan events that elevate your mood.
THE LOVE AFFAIR WITH FOOD
If you really love certain foods, and they make you feel good while you eat them, as well as afterwards, then that's fine. But if these foods are high in fat, and you feel terrible afterwards, you need to replace them with low-fat foods such as salads, breads and fruits, that you also love.
Are you a perfectionist who checks your weight three times a day? That is very depressing.
Continuous weighing has to stop! For many people, their weight often decides whether they’re going to have a good or bad day. Unfortunately, weight fluctuates from day to day without reason, so you can create many bad days for yourself. Stop now! You may need to weigh yourself once a week only.
When you are maintaining your weight and feel confident, you can weigh yourself every day. This will keep you in check.
3. NO TIME TO PLAN MEALS
EATING ON THE RUN
If you know you're going to be very busy, plan ahead. It takes only five minutes to pack food and prepare the night before.
LACK OF ENERGY
After a large, fatty lunch, you will lose energy in the afternoon and have difficulty staying awake.
Tips: change lunch choices to lower-fat dishes; or eat half with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Researchers have found that people over forty years of age tend to feel tired after a high-carbohydrate lunch. Just as women become sleepy, men become calm. This leads to decreased mental alertness. It would help to include protein foods in your lunch bag such as a sandwich containing tuna, cheese, egg, chicken, low-fat cold cuts or peanut butter.
In the evening, carbohydrate-rich dinners can enhance your calmness, preparing you for a restful night’s sleep. If you’re eating a high-protein supper, eat before 7 p.m. If you’re eating later, choose a pasta, rice, potato or bread dish. Even a small dessert would make you feel dozy.
Avoid alcohol at lunch to keep your energy up.
EATING WHEN TIRED
Working long, exhausting days? Looking for any food that is quick and easy to “inhale,” like chips, chocolates or cookies. The problem is, you're eating when not hungry. This will make you feel full, tired, then angry with yourself.
The most common time to be tired is after lunch. Maybe that’s why many southern Europeans enjoy a relaxing lunch and a rest afterwards. Unfortunately, this doesn’t suit the American lifestyle of go, go, go. If you aren't hungry, you may be thirsty and dehydrated. Choose fresh fruit and drink water for instant energy.
EATING WHEN BORED
When you have time on your hands, you'll go to the fridge and cupboard, looking for something to eat. On weekends, you may snack all day.
Boredom is such a common reason for overeating. Many of my clients have problems on the weekend, away from their busy schedules. This is when they say: "Well, what should I do now?" Then look for anything and finds stale cookies. Afterwards, they say, "Why did I eat them? I feel disappointed because I didn't even enjoy what I ate."
A solution: get out your low-fat cookbooks from former good intentions, find a delicious recipe with plenty of vegetables, write down the ingredients and walk briskly to the store. Come back, prepare the vegetables and enjoy a wonderful meal. Keep some cleaned sliced veggies in the fridge to snack on. You’ll be doing something positive for yourself and the end result will be a feeling of accomplishment. Remember to watch the portion sizes, and keep leftovers for the freezer.
Learn from my experience: “I have a tendency to gain weight easily, so limit myself to eating when hungry, not bored. In actual fact, I never allow myself to get bored. My days are well planned to fit in everything I want to do, even if it’s only taking it easy and reading/writing a book.”
“I skip meals to lose weight but I don’t succeed” - Angela, a bank manager.
Angela doesn’t eat breakfast or lunch because she isn’t hungry and wants to lose weight. But once she gets home, she eats continuously from 5:00 p.m. until bedtime. She figures that if she doesn’t eat all day, she can eat a large amount in the evening and still lose weight. Instead, she isn’t losing weight and finds it hard to sleep because she’s so full.
The following are four reasons not to skip meals:
1. Food is needed for energy during the day.
2. Your body reacts when meals are skipped by lowering your metabolic rate so that it uses whatever food you give it more efficiently. It actually thinks it’s being starved, and refuses to use up any stored fat quickly. This is the direct opposite of what you want to happen for weight loss.
3. When you overeat in the evening (to make up for the rest of the day), your total calorie intake could be much higher than if you had eaten sensibly during the day.
4. If you starve yourself by skipping a meal, you can develop bad breath. The reason is that the body is burning up energy improperly and forming toxins (ketones) that are released through the lungs. These toxins produce a recognizable and unpleasant smell of acetone.
SHORT ON VEGETABLES
“I know I don’t get enough vegetables, but they’re such a nuisance to prepare” — Derek, an accountant.
Derek knows he should be eating plenty of vegetables but doesn’t know how to prepare them. He loves cooking but needs ideas.
Most people don’t eat enough vegetables. I told Derek to be creative and save recipes from magazines and newspapers until he has time to cook something new. Everyone loves cooked vegetables, stir-fried vegetables, vegetable soups and salads - we just don’t get around to preparing them. Canned vegetables are a great standby as they contain most of their original nutrients. When we do have the time to shop, we don’t think buying vegetables is a priority. It is. What I love to make is a large soup, including lentils and canned or soaked dried beans, and all my leftover vegetables from the week. I freeze the soup in one-portion containers for a quick lunch or late-afternoon snack. For interesting salads, use fresh lettuce, tomato and celery, then add canned peas, corn and tuna with a boiled egg for a quick lunch. (My daughter’s favorite meal). It won’t take you longer than six minutes. If you like stir-fries, use leftover meat or chicken and add frozen or canned vegetables. Quick foods can be healthy. For the office, pack a tasty sandwich with bean sprouts, lettuce and tomato or choose carefully from the fast food-outlets or deli.
MORE NUTRITIOUS VEGETABLES AND FRUITS
All vegetables are good for you. However, some are higher in the antioxidants, vitamin C and beta-carotene, than others. As you need to include —five to ten fruits and vegetables per day, choose from the following list first. Add other vegetables for variety, taste and texture. Note: Beta-carotene gives some of the following produce its orange color; in others it is masked by chlorophyll, a green color. So brightly colored vegetables give a good clue to good choices.
Juices from these fruits are also high in antioxidants but lower in fiber.
TREATS FOR THE KIDS - I DON’T THINK SO
“I buy treats for the kids but end up eating them myself” - Kay, a nurse.
I’ve done this in the past, especially when I’m hungry, so I know what Kay means. These treats could be fresh breads, cookies, cake, chocolate or chips. Kay finds that she usually buys the kind that she likes, not the kind the kids like.
The way to overcome this is to plan ahead. Don’t go near a shop if hungry. Grab a banana or eat a small container of yogurt so that by the time you get to the shop, the ravenous feeling is gone and you can think rationally before buying anything. Buy a treat that the kids like, not one you like. In order to encourage and maintain healthy food habits in the home, you should buy a single cookie at a time for each child. That way, they don’t learn to snack on fatty foods all the time.
SABOTAGED WITH “TRIGGER” FOODS
“My friends and family sabotage my efforts” - Dawn, a lab technician.
Dawn has been making healthy choices, increasing her activity and feeling good. But when her family and friends come to visit her, they bring her a chocolate or pastry as a reward for losing weight. This upsets Dawn because the food is too tempting to resist; she eats the treat, which triggers her to continue eating all day. She feels miserable afterwards and wants to give up her healthy goals. How could she be so weak?
Very easily. I told Dawn to relax about it and not to make a big fuss. She can tell these well-intentioned people: “Thanks, I’m just not hungry.” That way, they cannot force her to eat anything. At a later stage, she’ll become more confident with her attitude towards healthy eating and will be able to handle a small piece of pastry without letting it trigger a binge reaction.
HIDDEN CALORIES = WEIGHT GAIN
“I eat healthily all the time. Why am I gaining weight?” - Frank, a computer consultant.
I took Frank’s dietary history and he was right. He was eating very well and exercising regularly. He made good food choices most of the time, ate a wide variety of foods and his serving sizes were right for his size and activity. As he was leaving the office, he told me, “I forgot to mention I drink fruit juice.” I asked him how much. He said five to six glasses a day!
What Frank didn’t know is that one-cup of orange juice equals two whole oranges in calorie value. I’m sure he would never be able to eat twelve oranges a day. He just wouldn’t have the time to peel them. Fruit juice is a quick way to get in calories without realizing it. If you are thirsty, drink water. If you want to drink fruit juice, remember that to lose weight, you should limit yourself to four fruit portions per day, equivalent to two cups of orange juice a day. In that case, rather eat the whole fruit to feel more satisfied.
Although many women and men have the nibbling habit, they are unaware of how much they eat. One thing they have in common, they’d like to break the habit and here's how you do it.
Write down everything you eat everyday, and in this case focus on the nibbling. When you have to write down three chips, four crackers with dip, 1 Tbs. mashed potato, 1 oz. chicken, and so on, you can see that it adds up. A planned snack will take away the immediate hunger in the right way. You won’t have to nibble. You will also end up enjoying the meal much more. When clearing the dishes, do not nibble leftovers, no matter how small. It is best and more economical to pack away extra food for another meal or snack.