PSYCHOLOGY of a SMART DIET

As you know, I am always trying to find the newest info on all things having to do with fitness and nutrition. It is harder than you think. I end up reading many articles that say the same thing and discuss the same concepts that have been written about for over a decade. Blah, blah, blah.

However, I recently read an article on FitClick. This is one of my “go to” sites. It is also a great site if you want to participate in an interactive type online fitness system.

Here is the gist of the article:

The article talks about eating habits. We all have them. Some are good. Some are bad. One of the most important things you can do to ensure success when it come to weight loss is maintain good eating habits.

Are you the type of person to shovel snacks into your mouth while at the computer or t.v., barely noticing the taste or amount of the food you’re eating? Do you still believe it’s a crime not to finish everything on your plate? I call this the starving kids in China syndrome. My dad used to say this quite often. Then as we got older, he changed it to “waste not want not”. I heard this all my life… actually as recently as last Sunday. Some eating habits make it impossible to take off those extra pounds because they are so ingrained you aren’t even conscious of them.

The good news: You can absolutely learn to break these old patterns and substitute better ones, which is a key ingredient to a successful diet. Even better news: In time, these healthy routines will become such a part of your life, they will be second nature. That means not only can you lose the weight but you can keep it off, too.

The article includes nine tips that I think are very compelling …. and these tips are “new to the scene”!

1) Less is more.”If you eat less often, it will become a smaller issue in your life,” says James Rosen, Ph.D., professor of psychology and director of University of Vermont’s Weight Control Program. “Contrary to popular belief, ‘grazing,’ or eating several small meals and snacks throughout the day, isn’t a good way to lose weight for people with self-control issues. The more often you eat, the more you expect food is going to be available, and the more you think that it’s okay to eat whenever and wherever you feel like it.”

I have gotten caught up in this trap, and it is very easy to end up eating way more calories than you realize. So, if you know you are one of those people with self-control issues, decide on your eating times—not more than three or four times a day—and don’t eat in between, no matter the size of the snack.


2) Declare a No-Food Zone. Decide on the eating places in your house—just your dining room table, for example—and declare other places No Food Zones. If you have a habit of eating in your car, in front of the television, or while you’re at the computer, make those No Food Zones—even for healthy snacks. If you train yourself to eat only in very specific situations, you will learn to control food cravings outside of normal meal times.

3) Remember: Location, Location, Location.”Make sure that you eat your meals in one certain place,” recommends Robert Jamison, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and an associate professor at Harvard Medical school. “When you have a craving, tell yourself you can have whatever you want, but you have to eat it in an unusual place—like the bathroom or garage—that doesn’t have familiar environmental cues like the couch in the TV room.” So, if you really want that hot fudge sundae go ahead and eat it, but eat it in the garage,” says Jamison. It won’t be as much fun, so you might stop and think about whether you’re eating it because you’re hungry, because of a craving, because you had a long day and you think you deserve it, or because you’re watching your favorite show. The more conscious you are of what you are doing, the more chance that you’ll make changes.”

This tip sounds a little crazy, but so crazy that it just might be the thing to change a bad eating habit. Definitely worth a try.

4) Make rules and stick to them.”To avoid calories, you can simply establish a rule for yourself: Never eat anything unless you bought it or asked for it,” explains Jamison. “That way, you won’t have to torture yourself every time someone brings cupcakes to work.” Not to mention birthday parties, goodbye parties, Valentine’s Day, Girl Scout cookie season, Halloween…

I love this one. In our house we are rule makers and rule followers, and very rarely do we deviate from the rules. This is probably because we have a 5 and 6 year old in the house. But really, I am a “slippery slope” type person. If I deviate today, what’s to say I won’t deviate next time, and the time after that… slippery slope. So I just stick to the rules, and make everyone else in the house stick to them as well.

5) Eat dessert first.This is for the dessert lovers.. You know who you are. Do you always vow to skip dessert but end up ordering it anyway once the waiter brings the dessert menu? Judith S. Stern, Sc.D., professor of nutrition and internal medicine at University of California says, “If you are going to eat dessert, eat it first.” Why? “Because of what is called the Thanksgiving Dinner Effect. You’re stuffed and can’t eat another bite—but then dessert comes, and you seem to all of a sudden be able to find room for a piece of pumpkin pie. So don’t try to avoid the inevitable. Eat dessert, but know that you must order less for the rest of your meal. You might get some stares, but so what?”

I love dessert, but I am not a dessert person because of calories and nutrition. Desserts are a once and a while special treat. If you are not generally a dessert person, this tip is not a free pass to start eating desserts.

6) Exercise before dinner.”Exercising temporarily decreases your appetite, so if you want to avoid overeating, work out before a meal,” says James O. Prochaska Ph.D., a clinical and health psychologist. “One of the reasons weight loss is so tough is that it’s not dependent on a single behavior, it’s about how much we eat and how many calories we burn up. The most common mistake people make is trying to simply reduce calories without exercising.”

This tip is also very compelling. It is not always practical to exercise before dinner, but what if you went for a short walk, jumped rope 100 times, did 100 sit-ups or 100 jumping jacks… just some short burst of exercise. Worth a try!

7) You’ve got your whole meal in your hand.”If you want to lose weight, the most important element is not what you eat—it’s how much you eat,” says George L. Blackburn, M.D., Ph.D., associate director of the Division of Nutrition at Harvard Medical School. “People don’t realize the volume of food they’re eating and the speed at which they’re eating it. To figure out how much you should be eating, put your hand over your plate and see how many palm- or fistfuls of food you have on it. A serving size of meat, fish, or poultry is about the size of the palm of your hand; your closed fist is the volume of one cup of pasta or rice. Don’t forget that you have your measuring device with you everywhere you go. Also make sure at least twenty minutes passes between the start and end of a meal—even if you have to get up and leave the table somewhere in between first and last bite.”

This is the “no excuses” tip. There is no excuse to not be aware of the serving size of every single thing you eat.

8) Eat mindfully.”Another source of people overeating is the hectic pace of life that afflicts virtually everyone,” says Michael Lowe, Ph.D., professor of clinical and health psychology at University in Philadelphia. “We get geared up, and eating becomes an afterthought; we simply grab things to eat along the way. So set aside half an hour of calm, relaxed, focused eating for each meal. Mindful eating—when you’re aware of what you’re choosing to eat and how much you are eating and when you are starting to feel full—is difficult when you’re grabbing what you can find and gobbling it in front of the television before running out the door to a meeting.”

If you are thinking that a calm, free, focused 1/2 hour is hard to come by several times a day, I call bull sh** (as my husband would say). You are not making a healthy diet your priority. If you really want to, you can set aside a 1/2 hour or even 20 minutes for each meal to ensure you are eating mindfully all day long.

9) Stay positive.”Analyze how you’re eating and exercising, but take a benevolent and accepting attitude,” says Dan Kirschenbaum, Ph.D., director of the Center for Behavioral Medicine in Chicago. “Don’t be moralistic. When you eat a piece of chocolate cake, don’t think of it as ‘cheating or failure’.’ Instead, focus on staying positive, and see your overeating as a problem to be solved, not as a moral transgression. Eating is your normal response to stimuli; it is tough to break established patterns and keep resisting it all the time. Keep fighting the good fight, don’t give up, be proud of any progress you’ve made.”

Consider these tips and start to incorporate them into your routine. Before you know it your good eating habits will far outweigh the bad.

Back to the starving kids for a minute… Have you ever heard of left overs? Instead of cleaning your plate until you are completely and painfully stuffed, save a little from each meal. At the end of the week you can have left over day. We do this every week. By Friday, we have a nice variety of food. A pork chop here, a hamburger patty there, some left over chicken, extra noodles. It is kind of fun because each person gets their favorite, or we all have a few bites of everything – a true smorgasbord. Think of the money you will save because you don’t have to buy food for an extra dinner…. you can send that money to your favorite country with starving kids.

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