Most of us would be happy to bid farewell to that pesky muffin top. But who likes the idea of “dieting”? Not me, that’s for sure. Still, truth be told, if we want to get slimmer, we have to knuckle down—somehow—and cut our intake. But here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to be painful.
Turns out there are some very sneaky ways to curb your consumption, and you will hardly even feel the pain. Here’s a roundup of some ideas:
1. Eat with your left hand.
It’s true. A recent study showed that when people were instructed to eat popcorn with their non-dominant hand they ate slower, and ate less. Why does this work? Because a lot of overeating happens when we’re munching mindlessly. Eating with your left hand (or your right, if you’re a leftie) sharpens your awareness of what you’re shovelling into your mouth.
2. Shrink your dishes.
Most of us are conditioned to eat until our plates are clean. So an easy way to eat less? Use a smaller plate. Filling up a smaller plate is like a jedi-mind trick on your brain. You feel like you're eating a full meal, not depriving yourself. Studies back this up, too. More portion control magic tricks? Read my article: 7 Secrets to Portion Control.
3. Turn off the TV.
The distraction of TV stops you from being aware how much you’re eating. While watching Dancing With The Stars we can easily plow through an entire pint of Haagen Dazs dulce de leche ice cream, hardly tasting more than the first few spoonfuls. Eat meals at the table, and pay attention to every bite.
4. Leave the lasagne dish in the kitchen.
Keep serving dishes off the dining table. Studies have shown if there’s a family-sized serving of food sitting in front of your face, you're more likely to help yourself to seconds (and thirds, and fourths...). Unless those dishes contain only grilled veggies...plate your food in the kitchen, then leave the rest out of reach.
5. Deal with cravings.
Most cravings will pass in 15 minutes. When you get blindsided by an irresistible need for a Skor bar or All-Dressed Ruffles, set a clock and distract yourself through it. Take a shower, or read a deliciously trashy book. Or paint your nails. Ruining a shiny mani is a good deterrent to gobbling. Or, if you want to get scientific about it: go for a walk (yes, a study showed that a short walk can cut a chocolate craving more effectively than just trying to muscle through).
6. Beware large containers.
The bigger the package of food, the more you'll eat. Research has shown that people eat twice as many M&Ms if given a 1-pound bag versus a half-pound bag. Without even realizing it. The lesson? Nevaah eat straight out of the bag or the box. If you buy in bulk, pre-divide those snacks into baggies as soon as you get home.
7. Learn the Pistachio Principle.
Our stomachs are bad at math, so says Brian Wansink in his book Mindless Eating. And it’s true: once the food has been gulped down, we often have no idea how much we’ve eaten. Was that ten French fries...or thirty? The pistachio principle is not about the nuts, but about the shells. A growing pile of shells serves as evidence of just how much we’ve scarfed down. You’ll eat less if you have a visible reminder to cool it.
8. Chew more.
Yes, I know I’m going to sound like your mother here. But really: chew your food. Several studies have found that eating faster and chewing less are associated with obesity. Chew every mouthful throroughly and your upper arms will thank you.
9. Watch your liquid calorie intake.
Most of us know that soda contains horrendous amounts of sugar and empty calories. But juice can be just as bad. Fruit juice feels like a healthy choice, and it’s true, there are vitamins to be gained. But if you’re trying to lose weight, cutting juice and punch (and, um, venti gingerbread lattes) can make a huge-ola impact on your total calorie intake.
Voila. Now, with our new, leaner silhouettes, I think we all need a new outfit. Yes, perhaps some shopping is in order...
So, I’m curious: anybody out there perfect? Show of hands?
Yeah, me neither.
When it comes to healthy living, we all have a pretty good idea what we’re supposed to be doing. Yet, oh-so-curiously, we don’t live that way 24/7. Here are a few of my confessions: I love French fries. I need brie. Life is not worth living if I can’t have coffee.
So the question is, can a person enjoy those things and still be healthy?
My professional opinion: you betcha.
In fact, I believe you can be healthier in the long run if you allow a few indulgences. You need to work hard to make healthy choices, yes, but it’s important to grant yourself treats from time to time. A no-salt, no-fat, no-carb lifestyle is, let’s face it, no fun. Most of us, if we attempted to contort ourselves into “perfect”, would fail. And perhaps give up altogether. But if we cut ourselves a little slack, allow a vice or two without being consumed by guilt, a healthy lifestyle is way more sustainable in the long run. And then you’re really winning. Then you’re Wicked Healthy.
In my view this is especially important for moms. I mean, honestly. Do we really have to give up chocolate? Alcohol? Movie popcorn? As mothers, don’t we already suffer enough? (Kidding.)
Somewhere there’s a sweet spot. A middle ground between making healthy choices and indulging yourself in this one life you’ve been given.
There are ways to do it, though. And that’s what I’m here to guide you through. Moms are a time-starved group. We need straight-up information and we need it fast. We need to know which health maneuvers are worthwhile (like…getting enough sleep—even if you have to beg, borrow or steal it) and what we can ignore (excessive housecleaning? Skip. And that’s my official prescription.)
Another thing I like to write about, and something you’ll see frequently on this blog, is the hidden health benefits of things commonly regarded as sinful. And I’m going to start by giving you permission to do something you probably consider a vice.
Oh yes, it’s true. In a recent study, seniors who shopped every day had mortality rates 27 percent lower than their peers who rarely or never shopped.
You read that right. Shopping. Every. Day. Now that’s retail therapy, people.
So what’s up with that? Well, this particular study didn’t unearth the reasons for the association between shopping and longer life, but there are a few theories. It could be that daily shopping is simply an activity that healthy seniors already do, of course. But it may be more than that. Shopping may actually be good for us. Daily shoppers may do a better job hitting the market to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Perhaps the benefit comes from the social factor, from being an active member of the community.
Or maybe there’s an emotional/cognitive benefit. Shopping feels good, right? Other research has suggested that shopping may increase dopamine levels in the brain. And dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and satisfaction.
I suspect a key factor is exercise. Truth is, there’s a lot of walking that happens when you’re shopping. British researchers tracked this, in fact, and found that women take an average of 7,300 steps per shopping trip, close to the oft-recommended 10,000 steps per day.
Whatever the reason, while we’re waiting on further research to fully explain the health benefits of shopping…I am already out there. VISA card in hand. Forward this link to my husband if he’s looking for me.