LAST WEEK! Week 15! Even if you haven’t lost weight, measurements are still worth doing! Take a moment and think back on all the healthy choices you've made. Which ones will you continue?
This final week in this weight loss challenge will be about finding your big why. Making sure you have a concrete reason for being healthy will help you continue along your health journey far beyond this 15 week challenge.
Determine Your BIG WHY: Your BIG WHY is the why behind why you are forgoing that second helping of mashed potatoes or skipping dessert. It is the reason behind you going to the gym and being mindful of what you put on your plate. It may be because you want to lose weight, but it may also be much deeper. Getting to that deeper meaning and reason for why you are striving toward your goals will help you stick to them! Envision your goals – what does it sound like, smell like, feel like to have achieved your big why? Where are you and who are you with? What are you thinking at that moment? Maybe the weight loss is really a goal to be healthier by preventing chronic disease. If so what are other measurements of success? Wouldn’t improvements in measurements, blood pressure, blood sugar, or energy all be a sign of success. Or maybe it is to get in shape to go on that backpacking trip with your spouse.
It’s easy to place excessive value on immediate rewards (that molten chocolate cake or pastry in the office) while discounting long-term goals (losing weight). Our busy, stressful lives can make wise decision-making that much more difficult. This type of visualization helps make your goals that much more real and tangible. They also help us set realistic goals for ourselves and measure our successes in different ways. If you connect to your BIG WHY during moments of temptation, you’ll be more likely to stick to your plan.
Here are a few ways to do that:
1. Put your BIG WHY into writing: Put your BIG WHY into a contract with yourself. EX: “I will run a 10K by May of next year” or “I will lower my heart disease risk factors by my next medical appointment.” It is important to be as specific as you can, making sure your action step is achievable. If your action step is too big, try breaking it down into several mini goals. EX: If your goal is to run a marathon, start by having the goal to run a 5k, then a 10k, etc.
2. Create a BIG WHY amulet. Create a visual that will remind you to stay on tract. This is something that you can look on in times of weakness. Some examples would be a bracelet, watch, picture or notecard on your bathroom mirror, or anything that reminds you of your BIG WHY and helps you stick to your goals.
Come up with your IF/THEN plans:
When trying to make positive changes in lifestyle, the things that most often trips people up are the unanticipated stressors or challenges: “I would be doing just fine if X hadn’t happened.” Chances are that you are going to encounter some obstacles if you haven’t already. Planning ahead of time what you will do in these situations can be extremely helpful. They key is to develop an if/then plan for every tricky scenario you expect to encounter, then practice, practice, practice until it becomes second nature. For example, because of my dietary restrictions, I always bring a dish I can eat to a party or gathering so that I know that there will be at least one thing I can eat.
Here is an example for a person who used to eat out most nights, but now would like to cook dinner every night:
1.) Which new habit do you want to establish? I want to cook dinner at least 5 nights per week
2.) When, where, and how will you do it? Monday through Friday, at 6pm. In my Kitchen. By knowing in advance what I’m going to cook.
3.) What could hinder you from doing it (could be a barrier) and how can you overcome it? I might get busy at the end of the day and think “It’s too late to cook,” so I’ll just pick up takeout on the way home. Solution: I can stop at the precut veggies section in the grocery store and get fresh food that will be easier and faster to cook than my planned dinner. If I get delayed from work, then I will stop by the grocery store to pick up precut veggies, so the meal will be easier and faster to prepare. Or I will keep precut veggies in my fridge for quick access anytime I need them.
Make sure your solutions are feasible and practical and most importantly, that you are likely to do them! If not, take some time to figure out a solution that seems as easy as the takeout option, but helps you fulfill your weight loss goals. Once you have a number of if/then plans, you may want to write them out on index cards and carry them with you to review every day. That mental practice will help ensure that when the situation arises, you’ll know exactly what to do.
Week 14! We are down to 2 more weigh-ins!
Eating out can be a huge weight-sabotager!! Your average restaurant serving -- just an entree, no drinks, no appetizers, no desserts -- is virtually a whole day's calories on one plate!
A study published in JAMA by Tuft University researchers found that most typically ordered restaurant meals contain more than half the calories the person would need per day. For the study, Roberts' team analyzed 157 full meals from 33 restaurants in the Boston area. They found 73% of the meals ordered had over half of the 2,000 daily calories recommended for adults by the FDA, and 12 meals contained more than the full daily recommendation. Meals with the highest average number of calories included those from restaurants specializing in Italian (1,755 calories), American (1,494 calories) and Chinese (1,474 calories) fare. Meals with the fewest average number of calories were from Vietnamese (922 calories) and Japanese (1,027 calories) restaurants.
In another study, Canadian researchers analyzed 685 meals and 156 desserts from 19 sit-down, chain restaurants. They found the average breakfast, lunch and dinner contained 1,128 calories. In addition, the meals typically contained 151% of the daily amount of salt a person should have daily, 89% of the fat recommended per day, and 83% of daily recommended saturated and trans fats.
To illustrate this point, I often do the following exercise: I give people menus from popular restaurants such as (Bertuccis, Cheesecake Factory, Not Your Average Joes’ etc) and ask people to choose what they would like for dinner. I have seen calorie counts as high as 3,000-4,000! Then I ask people to do the same exercise again, except this time be mindful about choosing healthier options. Calories go down tremendously, but they are still much higher than recommended per meal (like 1500-2000 calories). Why is this? Restaurants add extra fat, sugar, and salt to make food taste good in addition to providing portions suitable for 2-3 people!
Thus, I recommend limiting the time you go out to eat and to cook at home as much as possible. However, this is not always reasonable as restaurant eating has become a huge part of our culture. So when you do go out, here are some tips to help you stay on track with your weight loss goals:
Tricks for Healthier Restaurant Eating:
1. Plan on it-- look at the menu in advance online or through the Myfitnesspal app. Pick out something healthy to eat or choose another restaurant entirely if eating healthy becomes a challenge.
2. Be prepared— eat a piece of fruit, some veggie sticks, or drink a glass of water before going out to eat.
3. Get those steps— walk to the restaurant, if possible, or at least park further away.
4. Be smart— refuse the bread or chips before they are set on the table.
5. Go clean--do not order dessert, alcohol, soda or appetizers in addition to your meal. If you must drink opt instead for a glass of wine, a light beer, a vodka and tonic or a simple martini (without the chocolate liquor, sour green apple schnapps, or triple sec). Seltzer with a lime is a good mocktail.
6. Read between the lines--Any menu description that uses the words creamy, breaded, crisp, sauced, or stuffed is likely loaded with hidden fats—much of which are unhealthy fats. Other “beware of” words include: buttery, sautéed, pan-fried, au gratin, Thermidor, Newburg, Parmesan, cheese sauce, scalloped, and au lait, à la mode, or au fromage (with milk, ice cream, or cheese).
7. Ask how the food was prepared and don’t necessarily go by the menu. For instance, “low carb” or “lite” doesn’t necessarily meal light in calories.
8. Ask for it your way. You need to be an assertive customer by asking for changes on the menu. For instance, if an item is fried, ask for it grilled. If it comes with fries, ask for a side of veggies instead. Ask for a larger portion of the salad, for a salad instead of coleslaw, baked sweet potato instead of fried. Etc. Just assume you can have the food prepared the way you want it. I’ve have had a restaurant not cooperate.
9. Think satisfying-- order a meal with more protein and vegetables. Ask them to triple your veggies. Often a side of vegetables in a restaurant is really more like a garnish. When ordering, ask for 3-4 times the normal serving of veggies. This way you get full, not fat.
10. Order fish--Just make sure its not fried or breaded. You can order it baked, broiled, sautéed, blackened, or grilled.
11. Pack up half-- have the waiter bring a box with the meal. Better yet, ask your waiter to box up half your entrée before it even gets to the table.
12. Share it-- order one meal and share it with a friend.
13. Try double appetizers. Consider skipping the entrée and having 1-2 appetizers for your meal.
14. Go small-- serve your food onto your salad plate.
15. Order a salad before ordering anything else on the menu. BUT avoid creamy sauces/dressings, potato salad, pasta salad, bacon, or fried noodles.
16. Be slick-- get salad dressing on the side and dip your empty fork into the dressing, then skewer a forkful of salad. You’ll be surprised at how this tastes just right, and how little dressing you’ll use. Plus, your lettuce won’t wilt and drown in a sea of oil.
17. Drink water throughout the meal-- It will slow you down, help you enjoy the food more and help you recognize your satiety cues.
18. Skip the dessert--If the whole table is getting dessert, ask for a fruit cup or bowel of berries even if it’s not on the menu.
This is a combined post for week 12 and 13 given the holiday. We are down to 3 more weeks! Time to really buckle down. If the scale hasn’t been encouraging to you these last few weeks, remember the scale doesn’t show everything. I will be taking measurements again in 3 weeks and even if you don’t lose weight on the scale, it often shows in the measurements! If you have fallen off the bandwagon, you can always get back on…. A lot of positive change can happen in 3 weeks! Just start anew and pick any past challenge you particularly enjoyed (preferably one you did really well on) and go from there! Remember your goals to be healthier and it’s not all about the money =). I’m proud of everyone for sticking through this far!
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU TASTED YOUR FOOD? I mean REALLY tasted your food. How many times have you looked down at an empty plate and wondered where all the food had gone? How often do you eat for reasons other than physical hunger? Because you are sad or anxious, happy or bored? How many times do you eat while watching TV, driving, or studying, or at your desk?
The average person makes 200 decisions about food each and every day. What to eat, how much to eat? Should I eat a second cookie? You get the picture. And we know now that willpower is an exhaustible resource (remember the willpower gap I talked about in week 4). This means that the more decisions you make, the lower your willpower is to make good decisions.
Decision fatigue = low willpower
How many of these decisions do you actually remember? Most likely not all 200 of them. When I gave a talk on this topic a while back, I strategically placed colored M&Ms in front of each person and I asked them: Who could tell me exactly how many pieces of candy they ate? I also asked if the variety or different colors make them eat more or the fact that it was right in front of them?
Science shows that it does.
What if I told you that your plate has more control over your food than you do? Many studies by Dr. Wansink from Cornell University have shown that people are relying on environmental cues to signal fullness instead of listening to their bodies. For instance, many people use visual cues from an empty plate to signify satiety. If given a larger plate, most people subconsciously put about 30% more on their plate. Depending on the food, this can be a 150 calories difference per serving! Over the course of the year, 150 calories more per day is a 15-pound weight gain (all else being equal). And this is just one meal a day using a larger plate.
However, the biggest culprit causing mindless eating is not the plate, but rather the TV. On average, Americans view over 151 hours of TV per month, or about 5 hours every day. In other words, the typical American spends more than one full day each week, or 1/7th of his life in front of the television and this isn’t counting other screen time!
In an experiment in 1969, Herbert Krugman found that in less than one minute of television viewing, the person's brainwaves switched from Beta waves– brainwaves associated with active, logical thought– to primarily Alpha waves –brainwave associated with a hypnotic state of deep relaxation and meditation.
When viewing TV, there is a continual release of natural, relaxing opiates called endorphins. These feel-good brain chemicals flow during almost any addictive, habit-forming behavior. Endorphins trigger a state of relaxation. Heart rate and breathing becomes calm, and, as time passes, neurological activity shifts lower and lower into what scientists sometimes call the “reptilian brain.” Basically, when you watch TV, you’re in a purely reactive state. You’re brain isn’t really analyzing or picking apart the data it’s receiving. It’s just absorbing. The television is just washing over you and your brain is marinating in the changes of sensory stimuli. Research indicates that most parts of the brain, including parts responsible for logical thought, tune out during television viewing.
Advertisers have known about this for a long time and they know how to take advantage of this passive, suggestible, brain state of the TV viewer. There is no need for an advertiser to use subliminal messages. The brain is already in a receptive state, ready to absorb suggestions, within just a few seconds of the television being turned on. All advertisers have to do is flash a brand across the screen, and then attempt to make the viewer associate the product with something positive.
Therefore, this TV viewing has two effects on your eating habits: (1) you crave food and (2) you’re brain does not fully register what you are eating. The result?
You end up eating far more calories than you need without fully enjoying your food. A study by Robinson found eating while distracted increased calorie consumption as much as 25% throughout the day! This is a classic form of mindless eating.
The solution to this problem is to practice mindfulness while eating. Mindfulness, or awareness of food, is the foundation that many people have been missing for overcoming food cravings, addictive eating, binge eating, emotional eating, and stress eating. During the past 20 years, studies have found that mindful eating can help you to 1) distinguish between physical and emotional hunger 2) reduce overeating and binge eating 3) lose weight and reduce your body mass index (BMI) 4) cope with chronic eating problems such as anorexia and bulimia by reduce anxious thoughts about food and your Body and 5) improve the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes.
For many people, eating fast means eating more. Mindful eating is meant to nudge us beyond what we’re craving so that we wake up to why we’re craving it and what factors might be stoking the habit of belly-stuffing.
Mindfulness is simply the moment-by-moment awareness of life. But it’s not always so simple. We so easily get caught up in our own thoughts and self-talk that we are scarcely aware of life as it passes us by. When we pay attention to our food -- really pay attention -- we begin to notice all sorts of wonderful aspects of food, and we become aware of how much we’re putting into our bodies. My challenge to you this week is to be more mindful!
My favorite rule for mindfulness is the Table-Plate-Chair rule.
Research has found you’ll naturally eat less AND you enjoy your food more with this strategy: Eat from a plate while seated at a table. Here’s what that looks like…
Yes! Let’s eat:
– Table + Plate + Chair
Nope! Not time to eat:
– lounging on the couch
– standing in the fridge
– clearing plates from the table
– working at the computer
– hovering in the breakroom
– passing by a candy or nut dish at a party or office
– driving in a car
Only eating meals & snacks with a table-plate-chair is powerful. Give it a try.
Other Ways to be Mindful with Food
· Turn off all electronics (TV, cell phones, iPads, smartphone, computers)
· Make meal last 30 minutes
· Use smaller utensils (baby forks/spoons)
· Use smaller plates (change from 10-12 inch to 8 inch plates)
· Use smaller bowls and glasses
· Eat with less dominant hand
· Eat with chopsticks
· Take 3 deep breaths prior to eating (eyes closed or open), improves digestion by 30%
· Take smaller bites (should be the size of the tip of pinkie finger or a dime)
· Chew your food, each bite 10-15 times
· Pay attention to hunger/fullness (use Hunger Scale)
· Keep a food log of your food choices
Homework: Choose 3 ways you will eat mindfully this week.