Our tendency this time of year is to jump on the diet bandwagon. After the holiday season of excess we decide it’s time to get serious again and drastically restrict what we are eating. Going from one end of the spectrum to the other. Unfortunately for most of us this very drastic approach is short lived and by February 1st – if we make it that long – we are back to not so healthy eating habits on top of feeling guilty and like we’ve failed once again at our attempt to take the weight off.
What we don’t realize though is that it is almost a built in certainty that we will not succeed because our approach is too drastic, not sustainable, and impossible to stick with long term. We are basically setting ourselves up to fail over and over again. Yet we repeat the process year after year. Realizing and becoming aware that we do this comes first. Stopping this ineffective, frustrating approach and doing something productive instead comes next.
Doesn’t it make more sense, if you want to lose weight, to follow the lead of over thousands of people who have done so and been able to keep it off? You might have heard of a study called the National Weight Control Registry. The registry has been following over 10,000 successful weight losers since 1994. Registry members have lost an average of 66 pounds and kept it off for 5 1/2 years. Some of the habits they report include:
- Eating breakfast everyday
- Weighing themselves once a week
- Being physically active, on average, about 1 hour per day
Another group you might want to model your behaviors after are the participants of Cornell University’s Global Healthy Weight Registry. This ongoing registry was created to survey adults who have successfully maintained a healthy body weight throughout their lives. You probably have a friend or coworker that seems to never worry about their weight and stays effortlessly slim, that is exactly who the Registry is tracking. That person, and others like them might unknowingly possess secrets to helping those who struggle with their weight. An analysis of Registry participants unveiled some common routine behaviors of those who stay healthy and slim.
- Eating high-quality foods (losing and maintaining weight loss is about quality of your food as well as quantity or calories)
- Cooking at home
- Listening to inner cues for hunger and fullness
- Being wise at restaurants. Things like scouting out the buffet offerings before picking up a plate, avoiding sauces at restaurants, having coffee for dessert, or choosing just their favorite food (not everything) at dinner parties.
- Eating soups and stews, hard-boiled eggs, salmon or tuna, and Greek yogurt to feel full.
- One-third eat salad at lunch every day and most eat vegetables at dinner every night.
- Dont feel as guilty about overeating. (Everyone overheats from time to time. Beating yourself up over it only fuels the cycle of overeating)
- 96% report eating breakfast
- 42% exercised 5+ times a week
- 50% weighed themselves at least weekly.
- 74% never or rarely dieted, but 92% reported being conscious of what they ate.
- 44% reported at least one non-restrictive strategy (such as listening to inner hunger and fullness cues, cooking at home, and eating high-quality, non-processed foods).
According to the study’s co-author, Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Food and Brand Lab and author of the book Slim by Design, what stood out most in these findings was that: “Most slim people don’t employ restrictive diets or intense health regimes to stay at a healthy weight. Instead, they practice easy habits like not skipping breakfast, and listening to inner cues.”
It’s all about lifestyle and everyday habits, not diets, fads, and temporary restriction that is bound to end in a failed attempt. Strict diets don’t work. Waging war on those unhealthy habits, just one or two at a time versus all at once, is a more productive, achievable way of getting and staying healthy. Do you have healthy daily habits, say 80% of the time? If not, what could you do to gradually change those daily habits? If you struggle with your weight, try adding these simple practices to your routine a few at a time. Make a list and commit to working on one or two a week. You may be surprised how easy it can be to be healthy.