Many of my athletes are trying to lose weight - whether it is for overall health improvement or sport performance, such as wrestling, MMA, cycling, etc. Some have struggled with following the countless fad diets, encouraging severe caloric restriction. While this works in the short-term, these diets are not sustainable (not to mention even close to enjoyable), typically resulting in weight gain beyond what was lost.
So what is a solution? I like to call it "mindlessly eating in your favor". Many of you may have heard of mindless eating as a negative thing. This is when we are talking about situations such as mindlessly eating an entire bag of chips and salsa in front of the TV as you watch the Tour de France in the evening after work (okay or maybe the evening news of MLB...whatever strikes your fancy). Or perhaps it's snacking constantly throughout the day at work. This type of eating is often not based on hunger, but merely boredom or the need to have something to do with your hands.
How does one "mindlessly eat in his/her favor"? The idea is cutting out 100-200 Calories here and there in ways that you are not likely to notice. This results in successful and sustainable weight loss over time. Here are 5 (of many) ways to do this....all based on research that proves that each does in fact work....
1. See it before you eat it.
Studies shows that when people pre-plate their food, they eat about 14% less than when they first take a smaller amount and then go back for seconds or thirds. Therefore, put everything you intend to eat on a plate before you actually start eating (this goes for all snacks and meals). That means you should avoid eating out of a package or box. Put what you want on a plate, put the package/box away, and exit the kitchen.
2. Replace the "jumbo" size with minis
The bigger the package you pour from, the more you will eat (studies show as much as 20-30% more!). Because buying that jumbo-sized box of cereal or spaghetti may sometimes save you money, just re-package the jumbo size into smaller Ziplock bags or Tupperware containers. Serve spaghetti in smaller dishes. The smaller the box, the less you make and the less you eat. The smaller the serving dish, the less you take, and the less you eat. With foods such as veggie & fruit salads, use this in the opposite way - serve these in large serving dishes to encourage mindlessly taking and eating more. One intriguing study asked people to watch a videotape while eating M&Ms. Those who were given a half-pound bag of M&Ms ate an average of 71 candies, while those given a one-pound bag ate an average of 137 - almost twice as many!
3. Make eating tempting foods in-convenient.
Find it hard to control your portion when faced with cookies, ice cream, jelly beans, or a multitude of other potential sweets and treats? Don't buy them! Or if you do, place these tempting foods in a remote corner of the basement or a hard-to-reach cupboard (think high or out-of-reach without a step-stool). Reseal packages and/or wrap those tempting leftovers in aluminum foil and put them in the back of the refrigerator or freezer. Oftentimes, having to put in the extra work to get to those leftovers gives you enough time to ponder whether you really want them or if eating them is just something to do. Plus, think of it as "out of sight, out of mind". If you constantly see that tempting food, that means you are constantly having a internal mind struggle with whether or not you should eat it. This typically results in your eating more when/if you do give in to that desire.
4. Re-write your comfort foods.
When asked to list comfort foods, many of you might say macaroni and cheese, cookies, ice cream, cake, chips, etc. Comfort foods often gain that status because we associate them with positive events. Contrary to popular belief, these associations are not hard-wired during childhood; it is never too late to form new associations to food. Start pairing healthier foods with positive events. Typically have cake and ice cream at birthday parties or other celebrations? Try to instead have ice cream with fresh fruit on top. Do this enough and you will have a new association - a new comfort food.
5. Develop healthy food policies.
One of the reasons fad or detox diets tend to work so well is because they create a situation in which individuals no longer have choice - only rules. One example for a low-carb diet might be, "Eat meat and vegetables, but nothing else." There is no need for decision-making - it's a rule with no exceptions. While this particular example rule is certainly not healthy long-term, food policies when healthfully created can be a great way to forward you toward your overall goals. Here are a few ideas:
-Always eat breakfast.
-Never eat at my desk.
-Only eat snacks that don't come in wrappers.
-Only drink 1 sugary beverages per day.
Create or pick food policies that work for your current struggles and goals. Remember - these should not be huge sacrifices, but small habits that are altered over time.
Source: Wansink, Brian. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think