Not many people look forward to an Atkins diet or running 6 miles each day. So the good news is that there are other ways to cut down body fat without hardcore dieting. That’s exciting, right?
Serving sizes are something that our society is great at overlooking. Whether we go out to eat or have dinner at home, portion sizes are easy to ignore. ½ cup of rice is a serving? Nah, just cover the plate! ½ cup of cereal is a portion? Who cares, just fill up the bowl! Eating second servings is a bad habit, too, that will undoubtedly pack on the pounds!
Teaching yourself to eat less is just that – it is something that needs to be learned. Cutting back on portions sizes is not something your stomach, mouth, or brain is going to want to do. You must teach your body to be satisfied with less.
Exercise is another key factor. Anything that gets your heart rate up or makes you breathe heavy is a great start. The key to losing weight, in general, is negative input. Say I eat a banana and ingest 105 calories. If I ran a mile, I would burn about 113 calories. So I worked off 8 more calories than I ate. Any time there is a negative number (I burned off more than I ingested), weight is being lost. This is how exercising and eating should work.
Here are a few tips, and good habits to get into, to keep your body fit and healthy without running 10 miles a day or dieting constantly.
- Eat less. Eat one serving and then wait a little while to see how you feel. It is better and healthier to eat a little less than you want/need than too much.
- Use a smaller plate or bowl. Our eyes play optical illusions with our brains when it comes to portion sizes and plate or bowl sizes. Instead of using a large bowl for your oatmeal, get a size smaller and fill it to the same place. To your eyes, it looks like the bowl is full, and while it may be, it is still less oatmeal than if the larger bowl was full. The same goes for dinner; if you use a small dessert plate instead of a larger dinner plate and fill it full, it will still look like you are eating a plate full, but in reality, it is only half the amount of the larger plate-full. This trick is great in helping to manage portion sizes.
- Do not go back for seconds. Again, you must train your body to eat less and be satisfied with less. Second portions are usually access, more food that you don’t need. Any food that your body does not need for energy will be stored as fat.
- Get a take-out container. Save leftovers and avoid stuffing yourself. Restaurants are notorious for ignoring serving sizes. Many places give a person up to twice or three times the average portion size. Ask for a take-out box instead of trying to eat everything on your plate. In fact, if you seperate the meal in half right away, you will not be tempted to over-eat. Then, eat those delicious leftovers in the take-out for lunch the next day.
- Eat slower. If you eat slower, you will feel fuller faster. Have you ever been at a buffet where you eat as much as you can as quickly as you can? It’s usually not until about 15 minutes after you feel “full” that you realize you are, in fact, stuffed! Whereas, if you are at a fancy dinner where you take your time and enjoy each bite, you are content sooner. Teach yourself to eat slower and it will prevent you from over-eating.
- Eat less, more often. It is better to eat 4-5 smaller meals each day than 3 large ones because it keeps your metabolism up and running at a consistent rate. Eat a small amount of healthy food every 3 hours.
- Drink 2 cups of water 15 minutes before you eat a meal. This will fill up your stomach so you eat less. Again, it will make you fuller faster. It is a physician recommended tactic for tricking your body into thinking it is full without eating as much food. It also keeps you well-hydrated…which brings me to my 7th point.
- Drink lots of water throughout the day – and only water. No juice, soda, etc. Water will keep you feeling satisfied without eating food. Water has 0 calories so you are replacing calorie-stuffed food with healthy, 0-calorie water. Water is also proven to aid in weight loss because it dilutes calories and flushes out impurities in your body. It’s a win-win! (If you drink from a straw, it is far easier, and more fun, to drink so much water.) Add lemon juice or other flavors to your water, or boil some fresh mint to add a refreshing taste to your water and make it more enticing.
- Eat healthy food. Pizza, nachos, and pasta do not count. Eat salads, casseroles with meats and veggies, vegetable soups, etc. Try to cut out carbs like spagetti, noodles, and potatoes.
- Snack on healthy foods. Instead of grabbing a bag of potato chips, eat apple slices. Instead of cake, eat a handful of carrots and broccoli. Even nuts are a great, healthy snack as they contain protein and other nutritious elements. Also, another cool hack for healthy snacking is, if you always feel the need to snack between meals, chew a stick of gum. It does wonders for curbing the impulse to snack.
- Cut out sugars. Sugar is one of the worst things for your body: from your teeth to your metabolism, sugar is unhealthy. Instead of ice cream, make a fruit smoothie with no sugar except that which is in the fruit. (If you add vanilla extract, it will taste like ice-cream!) Instead of soda, make Kool-Aid and only add a fraction of the sugar – it will give you something other than water but without much sugar. Instead of hot chocolate, make tea and add a small amount of honey. The less pre-made desserts and sugary snacks (cakes, cookies, etc.) you have lying around the house, the less tempting it will be. We very rarely ever buy desserts. If we do eat dessert, I have to find the time to make it myself.
- Do not add all that sugar. If you do make sweets: cake for a party, desserts for friends, or the occasional family treat, add less sugar. When I bake, I never add the entire amount of sugar the recipe suggests. If it calls for 1 cup of sugar in my loaf of banana bread, I add only 1/2 cup. The difference is barely noticeable, but I am still eating less sugar. When I drink juice, which is very rarely, I add water to it to dilute the sugar. I mix the concoction to contain about 1/2 – 1/3 water. It’s not much, but it’s less sugar and more water.
- Exercise when you can. If you are on your lunch break at the office, instead of remaining sitting at your desk, finish your lunch and go walk the remaining 20 minutes. Getting your heart-rate up does not have to be dreary or irritating. Walk the dog outside, or watch a movie while you do crunches and other exercises on the living room floor – your favorite show will distract you from the fact that you are “working out.” Any bit of exercise you get is a good start. Maybe it’s not the recommended 30-60 minutes a day, but if you can walk the stairs instead of taking the elevator to the third floor, or park near the end of Wal-Mart’s parking lot and walk instead of parking right outside, is a step in the right direction (pun intended.)