I am frequently asked questions involving weight loss and how to accomplish that goal in a safe, effective and permanent fashion. Aside from fatigue and pain, weight loss is probably the most common complaint my new patients have, and when you look at the statistics, it’s not surprising. Recent data suggest that 68% of the adult American population is “overweight” or “obese.” These statistics are quite frightening, especially because being overweight not only affects your self-esteem, but it has profound effects on all areas of your health. From diabetes to heart disease to a shorter lifespan, being too heavy is not good for you. The good news? There really is something you can do about it. There are practical solutions to get control of your weight and start feeling great. Here are three simple steps you can start using today:
Portion Control is the Name of the Game
Previous weight loss wisdom led us to believe that all you had to do was be calorie deficient to lose weight. In other words, if you burn more calories in a day than your body consumes and needs, you will lose weight. It’s actually a little more complicated than that, and understanding exactly how many total calories your body needs in a day is quite helpful in determining how many calories you need to eliminate everyday to achieve your weight loss goal. There are a few ways to determine this number, which is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR), we can conduct a complete test here at Integrative Health, or there are online calculators like the one you’ll find at www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/ and www.health.discovery.com/centers/heart/basal/basal.html.
Unfortunately, experts agree that increased food portions are the culprit. But once again there are steps you can take to get portions under control. Once you’ve determined your BMR, limiting your portions needs to be the first step you take to losing weight. I recommended the following three specific steps to easily get portions back to healthy levels.
1. Pack up your leftovers before you sit down to eat.
This rule applies whether you are at home or at a restaurant. For most of us, when presented with a healthy portion of food on our plates, it is relatively easy to finish that meal. The trouble, however, starts when your plate is empty and there is more easily accessible food sitting right in front of you (or in the kitchen). If you fill your plate with a healthy portion then store the leftovers before you sit down to eat, getting seconds becomes more difficult. By causing you to make an extra effort to get that second helping, you’re consciously reminded to “second-think” your desire for potentially unnecessary calories. Along these same lines is avoiding the idea that you have to “clean your plate” at each meal. Studies show that 25% of Americans eat everything they are served, no matter the portion. You’ll be more successful if you eat a healthy portion and save the rest for another meal than if you overload your body.
2. Make “small” your default.
This rule also applies whether you’re at home or a restaurant, but is particularly important when eating out. I highly encourage folks to always order the smallest size of any item (except salads and veggies). So, order a 6” sandwich instead of the 12”; the single breast instead of half-a-chicken; or the smallest cut of meat on the menu as opposed to the 8+ounce size. Also, share the main meal with your companion, but make sure that each of you have your own side of vegetables, broth based soup or salad. You want to eat lots of non-starchy veggies; on average they contain much more fiber than other foods. Fiber acts as a natural “filler” within the stomach and can more quickly signal the brain that you’re full. We’ve mentioned the free e-book, The Full Plate Diet, before; it is a great reference resource and can be downloaded at www.fullplatediet.org/access-free-book/. So, in general, “small” is the rule. Remember, calories that you have not yet purchased cannot end up being measured on your bathroom scale. When eating at home, use a salad plate as your dinner plate. With less real estate on your plate, you have built in portion control.
3. If you’re still hungry, give it time.
There are times when you clean your plate and you still feel a little hungry, but hold off, don’t head back for seconds just yet. It takes about 10 minutes after eating “enough” food for the molecules released from the stomach to signal the brain that you’re full. Obviously this 10 minute-lag means you may still “think” you’re hungry, when in fact your stomach is satisfied. I recommend that once you’ve eaten your correct portion size, you take a break from eating and have a lively conversation, let your brain have some time to catch up to your stomach’s signals.
Need some help getting the conversation going? I find great discussion topics from odd news stories around the world (www.reuters.com/news/oddlyEnough) and from a wonderful game called Table Topics, which are cards that present great conversation starters whether sitting down with the family or at a dinner party (www.tabletopics.com). Questions like, “What trip would you like to take most in your lifetime?” or, “If you could be a superhero, which super power would you choose to have?” These open-ended questions can not only keep you from going for seconds too early, but can also bring you closer together as a family or group. When dining alone, take a break from eating and read your favorite book or go for a short walk for 10-15 minutes before heading for seconds. If after this time you are still hungry, go for more veggies or treat yourself to a bowl of berries for dessert (more fiber!).
These three simple steps are a great way to kick-start your diet.