If you've tried a diet and failed, consider yourself successful. Diets don't work. Losing weight is half the battle, maintaining the loss is the other half. Nutritionist KATHLEEN ALLEAUME reveals seven successful habits of people who have lost weight and kept it off.
They pump up the volume. We eat a fairly consistent amount of food daily, regardless of how many kilojoules we take in, so including foods with a lower energy density can fill you up without making you fat. Low-energy-dense foods, such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, generally have a high water or fibre content, providing less kilojoules per gram. So you end up eating the same volume of food but without loading kilojoules. Salty snacks, fried foods and pastries have a higher energy density even if they are fat-free and portions need to be controlled. By modifying meals to include more low-energy-dense ingredients, you don’t have to cut portions to lose weight and keep it off.
They don't bite off more than they can chew (literally!). If you’re a fast and furious eater, it’s time to change gears. That’s because the slower you eat, the less you eat. Wolfing down your food in record time doesn’t give your brain enough time to catch up with your stomach, which can impact the effectiveness of a gut hormone responsible for signalling the brain that you have had enough. One sure-fire way to slow down the pace is to chew food thoroughly (at least 10 times before swallowing) or enough chews to really grind your food into mush. Another is to master the art of mindful eating, which aims to reconnect us more deeply with the experience of eating. To eat mindfully, focus solely on eating, avoid multitasking while eating (TV, phones, computers), take the time to present your meals so that they are more visually appealing, and use cutlery and put them down between mouthfuls.
They eat breakfast. Even if you’re not particularly hungry in the morning, eat something. Research confirms that consuming breakfast regularly is associated with lower levels of overweight and obesity. Breakfast fills you up, staves off hunger and reduces impulsive or excessive eating later in the day. But it’s not as simple as just popping any convenience food into your mouth. Eating refined carbohydrates such as sugary cereals, muffins, pastries or white bread will likely begin an overeating cycle. Instead, opt for slow-releasing carbs such as fruit and wholegrains (rolled oats, muesli) and lean protein (yoghurt, milk, ricotta, eggs), along with good fats (avocado, nut spreads). Can’t stomach breakfast? Start small and slowly build up. Consider reducing portions the night before or not eating too close to bedtime in order to build an appetite in the morning.
They don't moralise food. Placing a moral tag on food only creates destructive eating behaviours. If you love potato chips and chocolate but have an eating pattern that restricts you from eating them, chances are you're going to feel pretty darned deprived. That's never a good thing (and typically backfires). Appreciate food as neutral (not good or bad), learn to handle controlled indulgences and bounce back from less healthful choices quickly.
They always have a plan B. This is essential, especially for the majority of us who are busy juggling work and family and don’t always have time to squeeze in exercise and prepare nourishing food. The key is to always make contingent (alternative) plans and know when and how to modify goals to fit your situation. This means acknowledging that you have a busy life and sometimes things crop up which you don’t foresee. Get realistic with yourself and say: “If it doesn’t work, what else can I do? If you skip your morning workout altogether, schedule a 20-minute walk at lunch or after work. Cook in big batches and freeze leftovers for those nights when you don’t have time to cook and are tempted to dial for a takeaway. The trick is to make “good-for-you” choices also easy choices.
They get the right amount of sleep. There's an abundance of evidence showing that when we don't get enough shut eye, we rely on more food to energise our days. And, unfortunately, our sleep-deprived choices are not usually for the most nutritious ones. Why? A lack of sleep has a direct link to hunger by disrupting appetite-controlling hormones, such as ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is involved in sending hunger signals and leptin helps to tell you that you are full. So, when you’re short on sleep, ghrelin levels go up, stimulating your appetite and leptin levels rise, meaning you don’t feel satisfied and want to keep eating. This can lead to overeating and, ultimately, weight gain. What’s more, with too little sleep, the body is more likely to produce the stress hormone cortisol which prompts the body to store more fat. Although research cannot pinpoint an exact amount of sleep needed by people at different ages, most recommend between seven to eight hours for adults and more for infants and adolescents. Nevertheless, it's important to pay attention to your own individual needs.
They had an attitude adjustment. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can also reside in your head. Having the right attitude is important because what you think affects how you feel and, in turn, the actions you take. If you find that you are constantly berating yourself every time you eat the wrong foods and approaching your exercise regimen with dread, these negative thought patterns can sabotage any effort to manage your weight. A better approach is to focus on the positive aspects of undertaking lifestyle changes that can lead to better weight management. Start by focusing on your potential, not your failures, such as improved health, more energy, vitality or improved relationships.