Small Changes = Big Benefits

We are bombarded this time of year by offers of discounted gym memberships and quick-fix weight loss “solutions”. These offers prey on our desires to do something differently at the start of a new year.

It’s a great thing to be motivated to assess your health and habits at the beginning of a new year.  The key, though, if you want to make permanent changes to improve your health is to do it in manageable & practical small ways that can add up to major benefits long-term.

Did you know that if you cut out just 100 calories per day you could lose nearly 10 pounds in a year? When you cut around 100 calories per day, your body barely notices the difference, and you end up losing weight over a period of time without even trying hard.

In his book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, Brian Wansink, a food psychologist and researcher, calls this slight drop in daily calories the Mindless Margin. The Mindless Margin, is the margin or zone, in which we can either slightly overeat, or slightly under eat, without being aware of it. Most of us can trim, or add to our food intake by 20%, without noticing it, either way.

Wansink makes the point that most dieters are trying to lose weight as fast as possible and therefore use food deprivation as a technique for weight loss. Unfortunately though, when you suddenly and drastically deprive your body of say 500 “ 1,000 fewer calories per day , your body is continually looking for those lost calories. And slowly but surely it finds a way to get those calories back. Most of us gain weight over time by just slightly overeating.

Small changes in what and how much you eat can really have a huge impact over time. Don’t know where to begin?  Here is a list to help you get started.

  • Start each day with breakfast.
  • Eat three regular, planned meals.
  • Plan week of meals in advance and have healthy choices on hand.
  • Have planned snacks on hand.
  • Eat lunch daily.
  • Think before eating. Predict/plan eating out choices.
  • Measure portions.
  • Leave some food on your plate.
  • Take 20 minutes to eat a meal.
  • Enjoy one portion; skip seconds.
  • Use smaller dishes and utensils.
  • Sit down while eating.
  • Put utensils down between bites.
  • Let someone else scrape dishes.
  • Put leftovers away immediately.
  • Brush teeth after dinner to signal you are finished eating.
  • Share servings–particularly an entrée, dessert, appetizer or richer food–with a friend.
  • Keep tempting foods out of sight.
  • Take healthy, low-cal snacks and portable food with you.
  • Tell fellow peers not to offer you food.
  • Eat a low-cal snack before eating.
  • Drink an 8 oz. glass of water before each meal.
  • Make special requests in restaurants.
  • Shop when not hungry.
  • Shop from a list.
  • Don’t buy “problem foods.”
  • Avoid tempting aisles.

Pick just 1 or 2 to work on each week and you will be well on your way to making some serious progress in improving your health and whittling your waistline.

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