I recently dropped a few long overdue pounds and I’ve been deluged with that age old question, “How did you do it?!” Truth be told, we all basically know the answer: eat less, choose better, exercise more! So what exactly is it that we’re looking for when we ask that question, and why does sustaining a healthy weight seem like such an endless battle for so many of us? I decided to take a closer look at “how I did it” to see if I could pinpoint what behavioral changes might have helped tip the scale in my favor.
Interestingly, I discovered my “secret” one day while filling the gas tank of my cute little Lexus. My Lexus, you see, takes premium gasoline. I admit I tried to sneak in a tank or two of regular gas now and then, as gas prices hit $3 plus per gallon. But, lo and behold, my Lexus just didn’t perform properly on that lower grade fuel. So I returned to premium…and voila! Better performance, fewer problems, happier car and driver! And then it hit me: I’m willing to invest in high quality fuel to enhance the performance of my car…what about my body?! So a while back, I decided to start concentrating on how I FEEL when I eat different foods, rather than on how I think I look, or what the scale tells me. I got tired (no pun intended!) of hearing myself complain about feeling sluggish and fatigued. I was boring myself to death whining about seemingly endless aches and pains. I decided it was about time I treated my body with the same respect I treat my car! So I started choosing premium fuel! What I remembered along the way is how easy it actually is to change the way you think about something just by changing the way you talk to yourself and others about it. I started by focusing on the taste of fresh healthy foods and on how my body felt after eating them. I focused on how different I felt when I was satisfied rather that stuffed. And then I focused on the feeling of being well fueled rather than on the lure of one more bite!
Sound hokey? Try experimenting with this slightly different version of “cognitive rebooting” and see if it works for you as well as it has worked for me. Years ago my gal pals and I coined the phrase “bonus” for big hills or wind blowing in our faces during our walks. Over time I consciously began to say “bonus” every time I had to go out of my way for something…forgetting something upstairs, having to park far away at the mall, unloading loads and loads of laundry or groceries or garbage. And then one day something amazing happened. Those extra steps and lifts and bends actually started to feel like a bonus! And somewhere along the line, feeling “well fueled” became the reward I was seeking!Â Also along the way I discovered a few essential tweaks and eye openers that helped me reach a healthy, sustainable weight. Regardless of your approach to modifying your diet, these eating habits may come in handy:
Make a point of learning what healthy portions are for various foods (see www.mayoclinic.com/health/portion-control/NU00267 ). Then for at least 1 full week, measure or weigh your food…all of it! I’ve always been a healthy eater, but I quickly discovered that I wasn’t conscious of just how much of a good thing I was consuming. Portion sizes for most foods are surprisingly small. Retrain your brain to think in terms of healthier portions.
WRITE DOWN EVERY MORSEL!
Again, for at least 1 week keep a journal of every bite you take…literally, every bite. Talk about eye openers!!
WORK TO DEVELOP AN INTERNAL GAUGE
Whether you use Weight Watchers point system, a rough calorie estimate, or another program of your choice, having a way to plan or to size up a meal is important for long term maintenance of healthy weight.
SKIP THE SAUCES, DRESSINGS, AND DIPS
Not only are these add-ons usually calorie dense, they also conceal the true flavor of your food! At least for a while allow yourself to actually taste your lettuce, veggies, fish, and chicken. Enliven your food with citrus, spices, and herbs if you choose. These add depth of flavor as well as a nutritional boost to our food.
MAKE WORK FOR YOURSELF
Put the “bonus” concept to work by consciously choosing to walk as many extra steps in a day as you can create! While you do that, focus on how powerful you feel!
LEARN HOW TO EAT OUT
Big problem. Most restaurant meals (in the U.S. at least) are big enough to feed a family and often even healthy choices are loaded with hidden fats and calories. But how we hate to see good food go to waste! Whenever possible, I split a meal, order and appetizer portion, or ask for a carry out container before I even take a single bite. Better yet, ask t o see the nutritional breakdown for your favorite restaurant meals or check out www.dietfacts.com , www.dwlz.com/restaurants.html , or your favorite similar website. What we don’t know really can hurt us!
LEARN HOW TO EAT IN!
Family style dining can be a challenge if you’re a grazer like me! Instead of putting the food out on the table in serving dishes, try pre-portioning each plate, up the visual interest with a garnish or two, then serve each person a healthy, well balanced meal. Leftovers? Store them in the fridge before you even get started. Everyone will be less tempted to overindulge! Remember, resetting your internal portion gauge is a big part of successful long term healthy weight management.
WORK ON APPRECIATING THE ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE MACHINE…YOUR BODY!!
Okay, I have short kind of stocky legs. Like many women I know, I’ve spent a lot of years enviously eyeing the legs (or breasts, or bellies, or fill in your blanks) of my dreams. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s watching beautiful women I know struggle with health issues, but now I look at my legs and I see “powerful”! And every time I say that word to myself, it becomes a little more true!