Little changes can mean a big difference, not only for your waistline but also in a positive impact on your health.
If you’ve been turned off by stricter than strict diets or a list of don’ts longer than your arm, you’re not alone. Dieters who watched a “food police”-style video that bluntly told them “All sugary snacks are bad” ate 39 percent more cookies than those who saw a more positive clip. It seems a gentler approach that combines a balance of negative and positive messages about food has a better effect, researchers say.
Quickly dropping huge amounts of weight is neither healthy nor likely to be permanent. “Baby steps” may result in less drastic weight loss, but losing weight is not the only positive to be gained from adjusting your eating habits. In fact, referring to the changes you want to make as “adjustments” rather than “restrictions” or “rules” is also likely to have a better outcome. It creates a positive outlook which establishes a better foundation and an overall more favorable vibe.
“When you focus on just a couple of small changes at a time, you begin to ingrain some healthy habits that last a lifetime. Better by far than trying an all-or-nothing approach that more often than not fails because it’s too hard to follow,” says Lesley Lutes, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of psychology at East Carolina University.
Choose one or two of these strategies to begin your journey toward a lifetime of better eating habits. After a couple of weeks, incorporate another one or two.
Here are some general “don’ts” – the good kind – to get you started.
- Don’t skip breakfast. While you may think you’re “skipping” calories, research shows the opposite to be true. Breakfast eaters consume fewer calories throughout the rest of the day, a major factor in both losing weight and keeping it off.
- Don’t give up snacking! An in-between-meal snack will help you consume fewer calories at the next meal. Opt for fresh fruits and veggies or whole grains and don’t forget to include some protein.
- Don’t banish all your favorite foods. Nothing sidelines a plan to improve eating habits more than the feeling you’re being deprived of your favorites. Allow yourself to savor a small treat daily. The key word here is Aim for no more than 150 calories.
Completely painless “tricks” of the healthier eating trade
- It’s easy to make the leftovers in the fridge either MORE or LESS tempting. Hide in aluminum foil the calorie-laden options while leaving in full view, by covering with plastic wrap, the healthier selections. You’ll be more likely to reach for the ones you can see.
- Brush your teeth or rinse your mouth right after a meal or snack to quell the urge to keep nibbling. “It’s both a physical and a psychological signal to your body that you’re done eating,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Choices that make sense
- Eating in is, on average, better for your waistline. Large portions and indulgent options too tempting to pass up are two of the ways dining out sabotages a commitment to improved eating habits. If the time it takes to cook a meal is an issue, stock the freezer with frozen meals and entrees. Especially helpful for controlling portion size, these convenient meal options are available in many delicious varieties. Look for entrees with fewer than 400 calories.
- Blatner continues, “Instead of refined and processed white foods, aim to have whole-grain starches such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread and bran cereals.” Generally speaking, the browner the food, the higher the fiber, and by now, it’s common knowledge that dietary fiber creates a fuller feeling that lasts The consumption of fiber also decreases the absorption of calories from other food sources. Substitute whole-grain options whenever possible. Add fiber such as a sprinkling of high-fiber cereal on yogurt or fruit. Adopt a pro-fiber attitude.
The road to better eating habits is a journey that doesn’t require sprinting. An easy jog will get you there. So take it one “baby step” at a time.
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