Most people see the new year as a time to buckle down and improve their health. Often times, losing weight is a part of the resolution and the first plan that comes to mind is to “just eat less food”. It is true that the majority of us eat portions that are too large and eat when we are not hungry which leads to eating too much. However, just eating a smaller quantity of food may not be the best strategy (especially on its own) to lose weight.
This is true for 2 reasons:
1. Our body and mind get used to a certain amount and timing of food. So, if we eat less at a meal or skip a habitual snack, we tend to be hungry, regardless of if we actually ate an adequate amount of calories that day.
2. If we cut down on certain satiating foods (foods that help us to feel full and stay full) such as protein or fiber, we will truly be hungry at which point the temptation to return to our old habits is hard to resist.
So, whats the right strategy?
Firstly, take a look at the timing of your meals and snacks. How are you expected to cut down on portions of fatty meat or heaps of starchy side dishes if you come to the dinner table famished? It is important that you feed your brain and body every few hours- even if you are looking to lose weight. By eating every 3-4 hours, you will never be too hungry (or too full) and regulating portion sizes at meals becomes less of a battle. So, if you are someone who eats a small breakfast, a quick lunch then aim to have a mere salad at supper (and feel full and satisfied) you are asking for trouble. Usually, evening snacking ensues when we finally breakdown to the hunger and binge on unhealthy snacks. All the determination you had at the beginning of the day is forgotten and you feel guilty. If only you added a healthy mid-afternoon snack and made sure your lunch was balanced (a source of carbs/starchy food/grain products, a lean protein choice and veggies) you would likely avoid being too hungry before and after supper.
Secondly, the point is to decrease the calories you eat on a daily basis, not necessarily less bulk. Replacing high calorie foods with healthier options usually does not mean cutting down on the volume you eat. For example, you can eat a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast OR a bowl of cereal with milk, a yogurt with 1 cup of berries and glass of juice all for the same amount of calories. The second example contains more fiber (about 18 grams versus 3g!!), more protein and less fat (5g versus 12g). More fiber and more protein means that the breakfast will last you longer into the morning with less munching and more portion control over lunchtime portions.
The same idea can be applied to your choice of snacks. The point is not to eliminate snacks, but to make wise choices that will not add up to a ton of calories at the end of the day. Instead of a few cookies, go for a granola bar and a yogurt or instead of chips grab a personalized-size bag of popcorn.
And remember, setting REALISTIC goals is always No.1!! See earlier posts to learn how to set your own realistic goals for weight loss.