In order to lose weight and maintain your ideal weight once you reach it, you are going to have to change your eating habits. I’m talking about a lifetime change, not just a change for a few weeks. In order to maintain your ideal weight after you achieve your goal, you will have to make better choices about what and how you eat. If you don’t, you may lose the weight then go back to your old eating habits and gain it back. I don’t want that to happen to you. I want you to be able to make good choices for the rest of your life and not constantly struggle to keep excess weight off. I also don’t want you to feel denied of foods you love. Eating is a wonderful activity and one you should enjoy, not dread. Food definitely adds a pleasure to life that most of us are not willing to give up, and I want you to have that pleasure every day!
I think some of the best information on healthy eating is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on their website www.mypyramid.gov. They provide nutritional recommendations, sample menus for specific calorie intakes, and overall weight loss, weight management, and healthy living tips.
Do you know what your eating habits are? Do you eat every time you sit in front of the television or as you cook dinner? How much protein do you eat every day? Do you eat late at night or snack a lot during the day? In order to evaluate your eating habits, keep a food journal for a week or more. Make sure you write down everything you put in your mouth. This means even writing down the one potato chip you ate when you gave your kids a special snack. Be honest about how much you eat. Take a good look at what you have eaten over the past week to see where you need to change your eating habits. Better yet, have someone else look at your journal to help point a few things out to you that you may have missed. You may be surprised that you are eating several portions of food above the recommended servings.
One of the biggest habits we usually need to adjust in order to lose weight is our portion sizes. Today’s super sizing of food servings has really hindered many peoples weight loss efforts. Below are a few guidelines to help you get started managing your portion size and losing that excess weight.
- meat, fish, chicken 3 oz. (the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand)
- cheese 1 oz. (the size of 4 dice or your thumb)
- milk, yogurt, vegetables 1 cup (tennis ball)
- bread 1 slice
- rice or cooked pasta 1/2 cup
- nuts 1/3 cup
In general, you should be getting 1/2 of your calories from carbohydrates, 1/5 of your calories from protein, and less than 1/3 of your calories from fat.
You should not severely restrict your calories in order to lose weight. You should simply burn off more calories than you eat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service has invaluable information on daily caloric intake for individuals. If your net caloric intake is less than the recommended levels, you risk nutritional deficiencies that could greatly lower your physical and mental performance, as well as compromise your immune system and other body systems. You need to eat healthy and watch your portion sizes. You have to eat to lose weight. Period.
Other eating habits to change might include not eating the bulk of your calories at night, but eating most of your calories during the day. This means not skipping breakfast, or any other meal, and eating smaller meals and snacks every 2 to 3 hours. Daytime calories have a better chance than nighttime calories of fueling your activities and not being converted to fat.
Soda consumption is a big habit that many of us need to look at carefully. Regular soda has a lot of empty calories that you don’t need. Diet soda is better but not as good as water. Some of the artificial sweeteners used in diet drinks disrupt the body’s ability to regulate caloric intake thus leading to overeating. (International Journal of Obesity, 2004, Vol. 28, no. 7) Diet sodas also contain a great deal of sodium which can cause your body to retain water thus leading to bloating and extra pounds.
When your eating habits have made a change for the better, make sure you treat yourself once a week to something you love to eat. Maybe you want a hamburger or a cookie. It is important to treat yourself in the manner because it helps convince your body that it’s not starving. If your body thinks it’s starving, it will hold on to your fat stores, and the weight will be harder to get off.
Change your eating habits a little at a time, breaking your goals down into smaller, easily achieved subgoals. For example, don’t just say “I’m not going to eat anymore sweets.” because your are setting yourself up for failure. Instead try a goal of 3 days a week not having any sweets. Once this becomes a habit (it takes 30 days to establish a new habit) then add another day. Smaller goals such as this are easier to achieve, and you won’t get discouraged as much as you would if you failed at the much larger goal.
Celebrate your victories over changing your eating habits. It’s a large task and may take quite a while. Keep in mind your long term goal of a healthy lifestyle and a more beautiful fit you, and keep breaking down your goals. You will get to where you want to be. I believe in you!