The commercial weight loss industry is big business. There’s a reason Weight Watchers® hired Oprah to pitch their service – although it’s sort of funny that they used the idea of “eating bread” as a lure. Bread has been chastised as a “belly fat maker” for the past decade. The popularity of high protein diets such as Atkins, South Beach, and Paleo, all encouraged much less bread eating. Yet it seems that a lot of us really like bread. And after a while the idea of avoiding it gets stale (pun intended).
What if I told you that weight management doesn’t just have to do with food? What if you could do five things instead, that would lead to weight loss, a better mood, and a healthier lifestyle?
According to the National Weight Control Registry, most people who maintain a weight loss:
- Eat breakfast
- Weigh themselves once a week
- Exercise about an hour a day
- Limit their screen time (ie, sitting at television or computer)
If you are tired of counting calories, or obsessing over every food choice, reframe some of your goals. Consider that 75-90% of those who are successful at maintaining the weight they lose, follow the above four behaviors. Are they also consuming the right amount of calories? Yes. But they are focusing on other behaviors that naturally help modify their caloric intake (or opportunities to eat or drink mindlessly).
To get your exercise in, and help you limit your screen time, try implementing these five tips this week, and see how they change your overall eating habits, food choices, exercise minutes, and most importantly – your mood.
- Sign up for an evening exercise class. Exercising right after work can help with two things – by getting to class as soon as you leave work, you have less distractions (therefore, exercise happens without interference), and aerobic exercise may suppress your appetite, so when you get home, you’ll eat less. Joining a class also offers the benefit of social time and accountability.
- Pack a lunch and walk outside. Okay, so this does have to do with food, but I’m talking about the “planning”, not the food. This may sound simple enough, but by planning out a nice lunch in the morning, you will have a healthy choice when your lunch hour hits. You have more control over balance and calories if you pack, versus eating out too often. Even if you work from home, or are a stay at home mom – get into the habit of packing your lunch in the morning. This way, if the afternoon is hectic, you are prepared with a healthy, balanced lunch. In addition, get outside during your lunch break. If you go outside, you’ll do something active – take a short walk around the block, shovel or sweep the sidewalk, or run an errand – all add movement.
- Reorganize your kitchen counter, fridge and pantry. Take a look at your counter this weekend. What’s on it? Is fresh fruit ready to grab? Is there easy access to the blender or juicer so you can whip up a healthy smoothie? When you open the refrigerator what is the first thing you see? Yogurt? Fresh fruit? Low fat cottage cheese? Baby carrots? Is your pantry filled with packaged snacks, cookies, or chips, or does it include nuts, whole grains, fruit and nut bars, canned beans and tuna? By making the healthier choices easy choices you can help yourself eat better. Keep healthy and appealing foods in eyesight, and you’ll be surprised how much more often you’ll grab them.
- Drink more water. Sometimes you may “feel hungry” when you are actually thirsty or mildly dehydrated. Think about sipping water through the day, or enjoy a cup of unsweetened herbal tea or decaf coffee (caffeine is fine in moderation – but after 2-3 cups a day of caffeinated coffee or tea, switch to decaf). Enjoying a glass of flavored water or herbal tea can also help displace caloric beverages such as soda or alcohol.
- Spring clean. Go though your pantry and get rid of expired foods, or foods/ingredients you aren’t using. By March, it’s time to get rid of the leftover Christmas candy or caramel corn. This is a good time of year to spring clean the house or take on other organizational projects too – instead of thinking of these as chores, think of them as calorie-burners toward that one hour of activity daily!
If you find these tips doable, that likely will mean you can sustain them, and voila! In about 2 months, you’ll probably see a few pounds disappear. Focus on your goals – making healthier food choices, getting more exercise (consistently), and not just the weight loss. The changes in behavior will result in better health, and eventually some weight loss. Finally, be patient and kind to yourself along the way.