I recently read an article on the famous website “Psychology Today” about weight loss psychology. As I expected, they were highly critical of most diets. They said that sticking to a diet will result in some weight loss although it is likely to be long-term. And guess what? I agree! That is why here at Granite Fitness we always anchor our starting point as Psychology rather than nutrition or exercise.
According to the article, diets are based on willpower more than anything else. The reality is that most people don’t have enough willpower to resist their favourite foods when confronted with it. The article even quoted some studies to support this finding. Once again, Granite Fitness agrees! That is why the tone of our articles is that you should never forgo your favourite foods completely!
Whether we like it or not, genetics is a determinant of how much weight we can carry. There is actually a limit to how much we can gain or lose and still remain healthy. In my case, I can’t go below 65kg without looking skeletal. Even at 78kg, I would still look skinny despite being only 177cm tall! It’s a mystery, but oh well. So what I am trying to say is that you need to manage your environment rather than contain your cravings. Without sounding too religious, the Bible does tell people to “flee” from temptation. See, it makes sense!
Anyway, here are nine strategies that can help you lose weight if you do try the diet model:
1. Vegetables first.
Start every meal with a vegetable, such as a salad or some crudités. Make sure you have only a vegetable in front of you. If your salad is sitting alongside a bread basket, that’s not a fair fight. Mann puts it this way: “Be alone with a vegetable.”
2. Make healthy foods accessible.
Make your healthy foods easy to notice and grab and eat. For example, put them in the front of your refrigerator. Get some produce that requires no slicing, dicing, or cooking, such as grapes. For the good stuff that is higher-maintenance, like many vegetables are, get them all sliced and diced and ready to be cooked as soon as you get them home. Or buy them already peeled and chopped.
3. Make unhealthy foods inconvenient.
Make foods that are not so healthy harder to notice and grab and eat. Stick them in the back of the refrigerator or pantry. Put them in containers that are not see-through. (Have you heard of the great experiment at Google? When M&M’s were switched from clear containers to opaque ones, the company’s 2,000 employees consumed 3 million fewer calories from the candies in the 7 weeks after the switch than they had during the 7 weeks before!
4. Make yourself work for your food.
Take small amounts from the container and put them in a small dish. Then, close the container and put it away. If you want more, you’ll have to repeat the whole process. This works in part because we are kind of lazy and even the smallest obstacle placed between us and our food can reduce the amount we eat. (For example, if you have to reach in farther to grab something from a salad bar, you will eat less of it than what’s right in front of you.) When you use a smaller plate and fill it up, you think you are eating more food, which tricks you into feeling fuller sooner. That trick is a compassionate one—it works even when you know about it.
5. Give healthy foods new adjectives.
Don’t think of healthy foods as healthy! That will just make you eat less of them. Think about them in other ways that you find appealing—such as how cold and refreshing a fresh fruit salad tastes straight from the refrigerator on a hot summer day; how tart and crispy an apple is; how fulfilling it is to eat tomatoes you planted yourself; or how discerning you were to have found the very best-looking broccoli from all of the different offerings at the farmers’ market.
6. Think in the abstract.
You can’t always control what’s in front of you. When confronted with something tempting, try to think about it abstractly rather than focusing on how good it looks or the fresh-baked scent wafting through the air. You know that famous study in which the kids could get two marshmallows if they could just wait a while to eat the one in front of them? The children did better if they thought of the marshmallow as, for example, “a puffy white cloud” rather than a yummy treat.
7. Plan realistic coping mechanisms.
If you know in advance that you are going to be walking into a place of temptation (such as a party with delicious finger foods), have a plan—but not one based on deprivation! Do not say to yourself, “If they pass around several different kinds of hors d’oeuvres, I just won’t have any.” Remember, willpower isnot part of the program. Instead, tell yourself you can have one of each.
8. Know your weaknesses
… and create a plan to get around them. Do you always pick up a candy bar when you are in the check-out line of the supermarket? Seek out an aisle without any candy—or order your groceries online. Turn these avoidance strategies into habits that you do all the time without even thinking.
9. Savor your food.
Whatever you are eating, pay attention to how wonderful it is. Don’t be distracted by what’s on your laptop or your phone. “Not only does savoring lead to more enjoyment of the food you eat, but there is some evidence that if you savor your food, you may be satisfied with a smaller portion of it.”
Granite Fitness would like to thank Psychology Today for the contents of the checklist in this blog post. The original article can be found here.
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