How to Make Every Bite Count
Everybody Must Eat
From my perspective, what makes correcting fattening eating habits different from changing any other bad habit (e.g., nail biting, swearing, drinking, smoking, or gambling), is that you can’t just STOP eating. With the other examples, you can turn off the tap entirely and just go on with your life. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find just stopping a behavior less complicated than trying to adjust or modify a habit. It’s clean, it’s neat, and there are no halfway measures.
Eating is different. Everybody must eat to live. Sure, you can starve yourself for a short period of time, but there are health risks associated with that. With most people, if you wish to lose weight, you must find a way to reduce your calorie intake while simultaneously increasing your activity level. We will save the “increased activity” for another time. Let’s just talk about the food.
When you first look at “healthy” diet choices, you read things like eat more fresh vegetables, or cook without fat, and stay hydrated. So your new diet looks like raw celery sticks and boiled eggs, with a gallon of water to wash it all down. But that’s no way to live.
If you want to sustain a new way of eating, it needs to be pleasant in some way, so you will keep doing it until the unwanted weight is gone. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some guidelines for making better choices. What I’m going to talk about is keeping yourself satisfied, without giving up all the things you love. Because, believe it or not, the truth of the matter is that you can eat anything you want and still lose weight. Just not all at once!
Why Aren't You Thin?
People who are “naturally” slender have a secret. They only eat when they are hungry, or they are just disciplined. They do not eat because they are bored, depressed, happy, or restless. Sure, they eat at regular intervals, but they don’t stuff themselves. Also, they routinely get enough exercise to regulate their metabolism.
If you are carrying extra weight, you probably do one of these two things, or both:
- Eat for emotional reasons, and/or
- Lead a sedentary life.
Before you put any food in your mouth, ask yourself, “am I truly hungry, or am I just feeling an unwanted emotion?” If it’s not hunger, consider going for a quick walk instead, rearrange your closet, or just stand up and stretch. A little activity will kill two birds with one stone. But I promised not to talk about activity, so enough of that.
Frailty, Thy Name is Sugar
I will freely admit this: I have a sweet tooth. I love German Chocolate Cake, Dutch Apple Pie, Butterfinger Candy Bars, Jelly-Filled Glazed Donuts, Oatmeal Raison Cookies, and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream. I could go on, but you get my point (and you’re probably hungry right now). What I have learned is that sugar is like a drug. It will give you an instant surge of energy, followed by a crash. You will then promptly go out in search of more sugar to feel that “high” again. Adding insult to injury, sugar not only packs on the pounds, it also causes inflammation in the body.
Still, it’s important to enjoy something sweet now and again. Just save it for those special occasions, and not as a routine pick-me-up. Also, make your sugar treat a “topper” for the rest of your meal, rather than the main event. Yes, I have heard the expression, “life is short, eat dessert first.” But that person probably wasn’t on a diet.
Avoid Cravings, Plan Ahead
Have you ever craved a food, looked forward all day to eating it, downed it in 30 seconds flat, and immediately regretted it? You’re not alone. This is the perfect example of when a special food is not worth it. The beginning of a new way of eating is to be mindful of what you put in your mouth. Start by eating when you are just getting hungry, and have a plan for what you are going to eat before you begin.
Planning ahead not only includes what you eat at home, it also includes parties and dining out at restaurants. Restaurants are a lot easier than they used to be, now that so many of them have online menus to help with your pre-planning. Eating at a party or at a friend’s house is somewhat more complicated. Remember this one tip: don’t arrive hungry. Have a healthy snack before you go, and you’ll be less likely to suck up all the hors d’oeuvres at first sight.
Also, don’t feel obligated to eat something just because it’s there, or because you’re afraid you might hurt your host’s feelings. Have a bite if you must, but then walk away or redirect the conversation. Nobody is “counting” what you put in your mouth, with the possible exception of your Mother. But that’s a topic for another article.
Save Up for Special Occasions
Do you have that “one food” that you just can’t get off your mind? Figure out a way to indulge yourself from time to time. This will usually mean eating “light” earlier in the day, so that you can splurge later. It might also mean eating just “part” of that food you crave, like splitting a hot fudge sundae. In a restaurant, you and several friends might order just two desserts, and pass then around for just one bite each. Sometimes that’s all it takes to satisfy an urge.
Eating “smarter” is important if you want to make every bite count. Follow these guidelines to stave off hunger:
- Drink a full glass of water BEFORE your meal.
- Have a cup of hot coffee or tea (zero calories). Make it decaffeinated if you tend to get the jitters.
- Regularly eat good quality protein, like eggs, Greek yogurt, or white meat poultry. Also eat protein earlier in the day, rather than saving it for dinner.
- Include more fiber in your diet, like a piece of fresh fruit rather than juice, whole grain versions of bread, or hummus rather than mayonnaise-based dip.
- Eat more slowly, and pay attention to what you are eating rather than trying to do two or three other things at the same time.
These are some of the basic ideas you need to know to stay full longer.
Good luck with your weight loss program!