Last week, we talked about creating a plan for success for post-summer weight management or weight loss. Having a plan is the necessary foundation, and diet comes next. In fact, healthy eating will get you further than intense exercises in the long run, according to some recent studies.
Eat like you mean it.
Food is meant to be enjoyed – and for long-term weight management, you should focus on savoring your meals instead of restricting yourself. Aim for satisfaction: if you’re not satisfied, your body will eventually rebel. Along with plenty of planning and positive thinking, taking the time to truly enjoy your food will help you manage or lose weight without even thinking about it.
- Revamp your freezer, pantry, and liquor cabinet. Toss or give away those lingering crackers, ice cream, and margarita mixes. Stock your fridge and pantry with healthy, easy-to-grab snacks and foods. Even if you’re not a habitual snacker, you’ll be glad for healthy options when the occasional craving does strike.
- Portable, not-too-messy fruit makes an easy on-the-go snack.
- Cut-up veggies (carrots, celery, etc.) are great with peanut butter, hummus, or a bit of cheese. They’ll tide you over until your next meal.
- Forget the low-cal, low-fat packages. “Low calorie” and “low fat” translate, roughly, to “low nutrition” and “low satisfaction”. Most processed foods that are geared toward weight loss are actually full of ingredients that can contribute to weight gain – namely, sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. You’re better off sticking with minimally processed foods that are high in good fats and useful calories – nut butter, olive oil, and avocado all give you more bang for your nutritional buck than a 100-calorie pack of cookies.
- Don’t drink your calories. Starbucks, we’re looking at you: those pumpkin spice and salted caramel drinks taste wonderful on a chilly day, but they’ll quickly add up to more than a meal’s worth of calories (and mostly in sugar). Treat yourself every once in a while, but stick to coffee or espresso with cinnamon and hot herbal tea with honey. You’ll skip the sugar crash – and the impending bloat. (Plus, it’s cheaper. Score!)
- Swap heavy sauces for savory spices. Cold-weather comfort foods often take the form of cream sauces and gravy - but of course those additions add more than they’re worth. You can maximize flavor and cut serious calories by using spices like cinnamon, cayenne, and nutmeg and condiments like Dijon mustard, vinegar, pickles, garlic, onion, and olive oil (bonus: cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves taste sweet but aren’t sugary).
- Eat seasonally. Nature knows what it’s doing: winter fruits and veggies are hearty and more dense than their summer counterparts. Opt for brightly colored produce like squash, apples, carrots, clementines, and dark leafy greens like chard and kale. Don’t want to mess with complicated recipes? Throw it into a hearty stew. Done and done.
- Try mindful eating. Mindfulness has become popular with the meditation lovers and gourmands alike. And mindful eating is all about appreciating and savoring your food. If you want a piece of pie, for example, allow yourself to have it – but only if you really have time to enjoy it. There’s no lasting satisfaction gleaned from a gone-in-one-bite treat.
- Track your food intake. Even if you’re not counting calories or macronutrients, tracking your daily food intake can help you see the bigger picture. Having trouble sleeping? Maybe that cup of coffee at 3 pm is cutting into your ZZZs. Better yet, take a picture of your meals and snacks so that you’ll have a better memory of what you’ve eaten. A food journal will keep you accountable, and you’ll probably learn something from it.
Mindful eating also means listening to your body: if a very low-carb diet makes you cranky and tired, have a sweet potato or some brown rice. If you feel refreshed and energetic after just 6 hours of sleep, that’s fine. Allow yourself a week or two to adjust to new, healthy habits – but if something feels off after the adjustment period, experiment until you find a good solution.
Your body will tell you what’s working and what’s not – you just have to listen to it. When you give yourself healthy, satisfying options and enjoy your meals, you’ll find that you want to keep making good-for-you choices.
Want more tips for weight management? Read the rest of this series:
Part 3: Move Every Day
Part 4: Invest in Your Self-Image