We all pretty much know that in order to weigh less, we need to eat less. It seems like I have known this forever, and yet I have to work as hard as anyone to be successful. I would never claim it is easy, but here are a few tips.
The advice to just eat less if you want to weigh less seems smooth and simple on its surface, but in the reality of everyday life, it can be impossible to put into practice. People eat too much for many different reasons, but most of us eat simply because we are hungry. Eating less than our brains tell us to eat is a very difficult thing to do. If it was even possible for most people, we would do it. After all, there are not too many things with more proven benefits to motivate us than not being overweight. If the health benefits were not enough, most of us think we look better when not overweight, even by just a few pounds. That alone should be a big motivator. There is also the research, now done many times over, that shows rats starved half to death live twice as long as normal rats. Twice the lifespan! If that can’t get a person to cut calories, what will?
Well, our brain’s survival mechanisms are are very strong. In fact there is a lot of evidence that drastically cutting calories will not work in the long term and is one of the main reasons for the yo-yo weight patterns many people struggle with. So please don’t read this as the only advice you should follow. In fact, when you are done with this article, I recommend you take a look at “The No Diet Blog”. The author and nutritionist who writes at that site has been very successful in helping people change their eating patterns. This is what has worked for me, but I eat a very healthy diet and do not need to change what I eat, only occasionally, how much I eat. Healthy food has calories too!
I have been fortunate to never have a serious weight problem, but I love food, have a big appetite, and have spent most of my life weighing 10 – 15 pounds above what I probably should. I am sure that I could easily weigh much more if I ate as much as my love of food and appetite wants me to. I know it is easy to find lots of different web sites and experts suggesting lots of different ways to control your weight or lose weight. I am not as much of an expert as most of these people, but here is what I think of their two main pieces of advice.
Expert advice #1, eat healthy, not like the guy over to the left. Well as you can see from this site, I am a huge proponent of healthy food and pretty much eat healthy with ease almost all the time. My diet is very high in vegetables and whole grains and low in saturated fat. I do eat meat and cheese, but not very much. I pretty much never eat white bread or rice and very seldom white pasta. I eat almost no pre-processed, pre-packaged food. I do not drink soda. I often have a glass or two of wine or beer with dinner, but that is all. I do sometimes eat desert, but I even make my oatmeal raisin cookies with organic whole wheat flour. The thing is… even healthy, organic food has calories and even healthy calories can put on the pounds. So yes, eating healthy is critical to good health, and is the first thing you should do to improve your diet. By itself however, it might not allow you to reach your weight loss goals.
Expert advice #2, exercise more. There have been periods in my life when I was getting large amounts of exercise almost every day. There have been other times when I got much less than average. Mostly, these days, I get my exercise by trying to play ice hockey once a week, getting out on a 6 to 12 mile hike once or twice a week, and then working in my garden a little each day. But, like most of us, I don’t always play hockey, hike, or work outside as often as I should. Don’t get me wrong, regular exercise has been shown to be very important to good health. If you are a person who can run, ride your bike, or go to the gym every day, you will certainly be better off for it. But, unless your exercise is fairly extreme, I am not sure you will have less fat on your bones. Maybe this is because it takes so much exercise on a regular basis to offset a large amount of calories. Maybe you, like me, often have a bigger appetite after a day spent hiking outdoors. I know the amount of exercise I get has never affected how much excess weight I have. When I was going to a gym and lifting weights 3 times per week, I had more muscle, but underneath I had the same amount of fat.
So for me the only thing that has ever, ever, ever, allowed me to control my weight is eating less over a period of time.
How do I eat less? With a lot of difficulty. If it was easy, I would weigh what I think is my ideal weight, and not 10 or 15 pounds more. But 10 or 15 is better than 25 or 30 and certainly better than 35 or 40! Here is what I do.
I don’t skip breakfast, but I do eat healthy things like fruit, granola, whole grain bread, organic cottage cheese, organic peanut butter, sometimes organic eggs, etc. I do not eat sausage, bacon, ham, pop tarts, donuts, processed cereal or the like. This is not because I don’t like sausage, bacon, ham, pop tarts, (well I guess I don’t like pop tarts), and donuts; it is because I know how bad this type of food is for me.
Lunch or snacks make up my eating though the day. I may have a healthy sandwich, nuts, dates, or homemade organic trail mix. And then a piece of dark chocolate! If I eat something like chips with organic salsa the chips are brands like organic, sunflower seeded chips, not commercially processed brands like, well you know. So my lunch and snacks are always healthy.
Dinner is usually my biggest meal. This may be a mistake, but what can you do? Dinner is also my most varied meal of the day. It is often a huge salad with all kinds of things, sometimes even chicken, fish, or beef, in it. Often dinner is Asian style, cooked in a wok. I try not to go out for dinner too frequently as I find it easy to over-eat and eat food I would not normally prepare at home. Another thing that really seems to work for me is to not to eat dinner within 3 hours of going to sleep. If it has become late in the evening and I have not had dinner, I sometimes just go to bed without worrying about it. Yes I am hungry, but when I fall asleep, the hunger turns off. Dinner is also the only meal I ever miss. If I skip food earlier in the day, I find I just make it up, and then some, later in the day.
Now I have made myself hungry and must to go cook dinner! So, I’ll ask, what do you all do? Are there any success stories out there? Any people who have had success controlling their healthy appetites? If so, please post a comment and let us know your methods.