I am a firm believer that diets are not the answer for the majority. Diets can help jump-start weight loss and / or fat loss in the shorter term. To have long-term success with weight / fat loss or maintenance, however, we need a nutritional plan that we are both willing AND able to stick to. Let me therefore state upfront that “diet” here is referring to the way that we eat, and what we eat – our nutritional plan and lifestyle, so to speak – not a special or “fad” weight loss diet.
I got a great article from Hungry Girl today about habits that can cause us to miss the mark – not only when we are trying to lose weight (which the article is focused on) but also if we are trying to maintain it (which goes hand-in-hand, in my opinion.) I often find myself nodding in agreement with some points in any given article, but disagreeing with others. In the case of this one – 6 Habits Ruining Your Diet – I agree with them all.
A few of my previous articles on the topic:
- Healthy Lifestyle – The Way To Achieve A Healthy Weight…Without The Failure Of “Diets”
- Nutrition Humor – “Diet” Woes
- 10 Tips To Feel Full – Yes, Really! (Because Hangry Is Horrible!)
- (Our) Healthy Weight Really Is Made In The Kitchen
The “habits” in question are incredibly common, and things most of us do without thinking…sometimes on a daily basis. The great news? With a little attention, they are relatively easy to catch…and correct!
- Snacking While Watching TV
- Boredom and Avoidance Eating
- Finishing Off Leftovers Even Though You’re Full
- Snacking Instead of Sipping
- Meal Skipping
My personal thoughts on Hungry Girl’s sneaky traps:
Snacking While Watching TV (or Movie Theater)
Growing up, we often had dinner while watching tv – between school, homework, and sports, there wasn’t much downtime. Back then it wasn’t such a big deal because we were not only growing, but incredibly active. Enter adulthood, however, when the metabolism takes a nosedive and we are doing less activity (generally.) Pair that with the ability to purchase our own food (and we don’t always make the best decisions when we have free choice!), and it becomes easier to slip.
It’s easy to sit down to watch something and nibble as we do…but it’s a dangerous habit because we WILL lose track of how much we are munching, often eating more than our body needs (watching a show steals the attention, leaving the satiety signals to hoot and holler to no avail.) If quitting cold-turkey is painful, try portioning a smaller amount of your favorite snack to avoid going overboard (HG agrees on this point too.) A cup of tea, for example, could be another idea – we have to sip the toasty stuff slowly (meaning –> we are occupied longer!)
Boredom and Avoidance Eating
This is one of THE sneakiest pitfalls of all! Eating because we are bored is the kind of habit that can easily weasel its way into your daily routine. When there’s downtime, snacking seems like and easy and harmless option. It ISN’T! And it adds up. Munching mindlessly is never a good thing and it can creep up when we are trying to avoid something, not just when life is humdrum – maybe it’s laundry, or cleaning the house…whatever “it” is that you are trying to get out of, you might grab a snack to aid in your efforts to procrastinate. Bad idea!
How to address it? MOVE! Do an activity of some kind, keep your hands busy (beyond grabbing food!), and distract those false signals that you need to eat to get through the boredom.
Finishing Off Leftovers Even Though You’re Full
I don’t know about you but I grew up hearing that other children were (legitimately) starving in other countries and that I therefore had to finish my meal. The reality is…my leftovers probably could have been leftover a little longer (meaning I didn’t HAVE to pig out whether I was full or not, I could nibble the rest later.) But, it was the way it was back then – there was always a focus, even in school, on finishing everything on my plate at every meal. Is that really the best way?
The better idea is to listen to our bodies. If we are feeling full, that means a few areas of our body are registering that we have had what it needs to function optimally – we don’t NEED more. When the satiety signals sound, it’s it ideal to listen to them – we can always have more later if we find we are still (truly) hungry. Stuffing ourselves not only allows needless calories to build up, but it also confuses our bodies (which are desperately trying to say “I’m FULL! I don’t need more.”) When we keep eating, we get used to blocking those signals and, worse, we start to not really “hear” them.
This one needs to be defined a bit. When I generally say I “graze” I mean that I consciously eat mini meals many, MANY times a day. Grazing in the case of Hungry Girl’s article appears to refer to snacking all the time, and doing so mindlessly. It’s the snagging a few bites of the kids’ food (which, let’s be honest, isn’t always a healthy item), or grabbing office “snacks” here and there during the day (also not usually the “healthy” stuff.) It could be that you are cooking and eating as you go, or even just going to the pantry frequently on a day that you are home.
Eating more meals with smaller portions throughout the day often helps folks stay satiated longer (than, for example, three larger meals per day.) That doesn’t mean EVERYone, mind you, but generally when people eat smaller meals more frequently, they find that they don’t overindulge as much.
Snacking Instead of Sipping
Being in tune with our bodies means listening closely to the signals it sends us – some of them “sound” so similar that we might actually make a mistake. For example, thirst may “sound” like hunger to us – we may reach for a snack, having felt that we needed to, only to find out that we translated the urge incorrectly. A great way to ensure that we ARE on the right track – and to avoid eating excess calories (that we probably don’t need!) – is to have a solid drink of water before reaching for food.
If we are dehydrated, water will do the trick right then and there. Having a nice glass of water will also fill us up a bit so if we happen to be thinking about food – but our body doesn’t necessarily need it at that moment – the drink will satisfy us longer. It’s also a great trick when going out to dinner – having a full glass of water can save you from over-ordering (it’s the grocery-shopping-while-hungry scenario – not a good idea!)
This is a HUGE non-no, especially if you’re skipping breakfast! Don’t. Do. It! I do know a few folks who can’t eat immediately when they wake up – that’s okay. Depending on the day, I may eat an hour or two after getting out of bed. The idea is that you are providing your body with the proper fuel to get rolling, and your stomach something to work with. When you skip a meal, you are a great deal more likely to go overboard later. I’m sure you know the feeling… Don’t want breakfast, too busy to get a good lunch…dinner comes around and you basically inhale your whole fridge and pantry! Try to give yourself a fighting chance, and be kind to your body – have SOMEthing healthy at mealtimes to keep yourself from going from zero to ravenous. Getting to the point of “I can eat a horse” will leave you to sabotage all of your other efforts.
So those are my personal thoughts about Hungry Girl’s habits – they aren’t at all far-fetched (there are of course others, but these are common culprits in our society!), and they are possible to fix (good news!)
If you are serious about weight / fat loss or maintenance it will take attention, patience, and consistency – but it isn’t as hard as you think. Once you eradicate a few of these saboteurs, you’ll find yourself dropping weight without altering anything else. Nutrition accounts for probably 80% or more of how we are doing weight-wise (don’t kid yourself!) The wonderful news there is that we CAN do something about that.