People don’t believe that, mostly because those who profit from food anxiety bombard us with messages designed to send money their way. People have trouble with weight control because they make it more complicated than it is.
I say, weight control, instead of weight loss. “Weight loss” is one of the complications the diet industry burdens us with. Finding a “diet” to reach your “goal weight” has no benefit to actual weight control. No one has ever proven diets make one healthier or thinner.
Basically, the reality of weight control is that if you take in more calories than you burn, you gain weight. Regardless of what diet you’re on or what you eat, if you take in fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight.
This doesn’t mean you should measure your caloric intake and exercise and attempt to balance them carefully. You could, but that’s the hard way. The diet industry would have you believe that, left unchecked, you’ll pack on hundreds of pounds of unnecessary fat. In reality, your body “wants” to find a healthy weight. It does that in two ways:
- Metabolism – The body slows down or speeds up burning calories based on whether you need more or less fat.
- Appetite – The body sends messages to your brain telling you whether to eat based on how much fat it wants to bring on or eliminate.
By harnessing these powerful mechanisms, you can maintain a healthy weight without major effort or sacrifice.
Here are my tips for enlisting your own body as a weight control ally!
1. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry.
Although this seems obvious, the main cause of weight gain is eating food the body doesn’t need. Eliminate that, and you won’t gain weight, period. The body uses hunger as a signal for when you need food. Heed your body’s message, don’t ignore it.
- Listen to your body! – It’s easy to tell when you’re hungry. If you’re not sure how, try going without food for most of a day. (Do this only once. Don’t make a habit of it!) Tune in to how your body feels uncomfortable. Once you are aware of what hunger feels like, learn to listen for it. If you notice hunger, eat. If it isn’t there, DON’T EAT. It’s that simple.
- Use food only as nourishment – Be aware of the ways you use food. Do you use it to celebrate? As a reward? To make social interaction easier? Do you eat from boredom? Loneliness? Disappointment? Using food for purposes other than nourishment makes tuning into your body’s hunger harder, since you’re hearing other messages tell you to eat.
- Be honest with yourself! – This is an absolute must. If you allow yourself to believe you’re hungry when you’re not, you will be taking in calories you don’t need. You can’t afford to lie to yourself about the reason you are eating or whether you are actually hungry.
2. Don’t let yourself get too hungry
This is the flipside of tip #1 above. When you are hungry to the point of distraction, it’s much harder to control your eating. You’re more likely to make food choices you know aren’t the best.
Eat healthy snacks
I recommend having a snack with you if possible wherever you go. 100-150 calories is a good size. I usually carry a small jar of peanuts in my purse for moments of intense hunger. In contrast to less healthy snacking opportunities I’ll come across, I know their impact on my health and caloric intake. Find something you like and can bring with you to keep from getting too hungry.
I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Diets make you hungry and give you a restriction mentality. “It’s only until I reach my goal weight.” This mindset causes many people’s weight to yoyo and puts them in the habit of ignoring their appetite. Restricting food makes weight control harder, not easier, a fact the diet industry would prefer you didn’t know. Adopting a lifelong lifestyle of healthy eating makes weight control far more effective.
3. Avoid the “Big Three”
There are almost no foods that are “bad” for you in moderation. However, several categories of food pack such dense caloric loads, that you can take in too many calories without realizing. These are foods you don’t need, either for nourishment or enjoyment. (Trust me. I’m the worlds’ worst junk food junkie and sweet tooth, but I’ve found ways thoroughly to enjoy healthy eating.)
High Fat Foods
Fat is the densest source of calories. It is so easily absorbed or included in certain foods that people eat small amounts, not realizing how many calories are taken in. A tablespoon of vegetable oil, for example, has the calories of two slices of bread. Foods in this category include doughnuts, cookies, french fries, anything deep fat fried, cake, corn chips, potato chips, or tortilla chips, and whole milk or cheese.
Alcohol is second only to fat as the densest source of calories. An 8-ounce glass of wine can have the calories of three slices of bread. We generally don’t see drinking alcohol as “eating”, but we take in the calories of a whole meal.
Because the sugar here is dissolved, it is more concentrated than when simply added to food. It has been said that if Americans cut out sweetened beverages, our weight problems would mostly disappear. Note that I place fruit juices in this category. They concentrate calories far more densely than in the fruit themselves, while much of the fiber and vitamins don’t survive. Healthwise they are only marginally better than sweetened soft drinks.
4. Enjoy lifelong guilt-free eating
An unappreciated component of weight control is the ability to enjoy our food. This is easier than it sounds.
Find healthy foods you enjoy! There are countless delicious foods that comprise healthy eating, many of them inexpensive and easy to prepare. Find these.
Plan sensible meals using healthy foods you like.
Guilt-free eating comes from knowing your food is not just delicious, but a gift to your body that will keep it healthy. Aim for eating habits you can sustain for a lifetime. Finding yourself saying “It’s only until…”, is a sign you need more sustainable habits.
5. Find the exercise you enjoy
There are hundreds of ways of keeping yourself fit. People have trouble when they pick exercises they don’t enjoy. Find something you like doing. Learn whether you prefer your exercise solitary, partnered, or as part of a class, team, or league. Learn whether you like it strenuous or light, outdoor or indoor, with equipment or freestyle. Most important, if you find yourself not exercising, you haven’t found the right type of activity. Try something else. Science has shown us that exercise plays a key role in helping your metabolism control your weight.
6. Accept yourself as beautiful at the weight your body chooses
Once you’ve adopted guilt-free healthy eating and exercise habits, your weight will stabilize. You may not weigh or look the way you want. At this point you could go back on the yoyo diet merry-go-round (obviously I don’t recommend this), but far easier is to accept the weight your body has chosen. If you have trouble liking yourself at this weight, there are many ways to get in touch with how wonderful a human being you are. Try listing your good points, the reasons why you would want you as a best friend. Try bringing joy to others. Try figuring out ways you can give back to the world. Give yourself gifts, try things that stretch your abilities, or broaden your horizons. But don’t use your body as a way to be admired.
7. Make healthy living a priority
I’ve told the people in my life I will exercise a certain number of times a week. Those exercise sessions are my top priority. I will move them around for family, friends, or work commitments, but I will not cancel them. It happens frequently that I’m down to the last available time to exercise. Nothing, I mean nothing, will push it aside. Likewise, when I eat out or at someone else’s table, I still follow the tips for healthy eating. If I’m not hungry, I politely tell my hostess. My health is important and I live accordingly!