Our relationship with food is driven by various factors – from our ancient body’s need to preserve fat and survive to being an emotional support to sometimes being a way to drive away boredom. Over time we form habits that slowly turn into a daily routine. For example, do you have tea and biscuits when you come back home from office? Does it seem weird how after lunch or dinner you need to have something sweet? Movie in a theatre seems incomplete without popcorn, nachos or coke? In bringing your diet back on track you have to identify habits that cause you to eat mindlessly.
‘Diet’ is that word which disrupts these habits momentarily but subconsciously you cannot wait to get back to them. This is why ‘diet’ becomes a dreaded word. We have discussed in our previous article on how your diet is destined for failure unless you explore a healthier, more sustainable way of ‘dieting’:
1. Find out what healthy eating means and stick to it as much as you can – Try to eat as many meals as you can at home. Home cooked food has no hidden calories – you know and can control how much oil is being used and what all goes in your sauce. Read more about healthy tips and tricks to lose weight here.
If your work or lifestyle dictates that you eat out often, then check all the places that have healthy and delicious options.
2. Eat that cake/ ice-cream: Having dessert once in a while is not going to set you off track. Indulge but remember to eat well the rest of the time. I am not talking about taking only a scoop and nibbling away at the cake -take the whole piece – buy the sundae. AND then move on. Do this once every few days or weeks if you can. If you get a craving just indulge yourself.
The only thing I suggest is- really taste your food. Enjoy as it melts in your mouth and tingles your senses.
Think back to the time when you were crazy hungry and your favourite food was served. You would probably remember how you enjoyed the first few bites and towards the end you would not even want to talk about food. Your body signals to your brain that it is full, the brain then releases a chemical that makes food seem less appetising as your stomach fills up. In some people this signal is broken (in less than 4% of the population and it is likely that you are not in that 4% so keep reading.. 🙂 ), while in others they are just too engrossed in their environment that this signal gets ignored.
For example when you are watching tv or are busy on your mobile or reading. This ‘mindless’ eating makes you consume more calories than you really need. So even when you are eating your cake, enjoy it till you have had your fill. Eat slowly and listen to your body’s signals. You will not have the deprived feeling again and hopefully you will also remember to eat healthy the rest of the day.
3. Educate yourself about calories and then forget about them. Even though now that you have a free reign on eating what you like, you still have to make the right calls when it comes to eating. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ right? 😀
But jokes aside, if you want to lose weight then you need to know how much your body can take in without gaining weight. No one can tell you this as everyone’s body is unique. There is no one who knows your habits, impulses, likes and dislikes better. Use them to guide you to create a diet that works for you. Remember, there is no good or bad food. There are foods that will give you nutrients and those which are empty calories. There are foods that might give you digestive distress and those that will make it working smoothly. There is no universal list of foods that can be universally applied to everyone. So experiment and get to know yourself better.
Here is how you can start: People generally underestimate what they eat and overestimate how much they exercise. I suggest you log everything you eat for a week (use a smart-app like myfitnessPal or similar). Take note of how many calories you are consuming – how much is coming from carbs, how much from protein and how much from fats (the app will automatically provide this breakup). In the first week, don’t make any changes to your food habits, just be aware and note it down.
At the end of the week, do this math on calories. Where do you stand? Make changes through the following week to correct yourself not just in terms of calories but also understand your hunger levels and adjust meals accordingly. For some people eating 5-6 meals a day works well while for some 3 meals is also too much.
Listen to your body and find out what it needs within your nutritional requirements. If you are hungry around evening, you should consider including a small snack before dinner time or try increasing your protein intake during lunch.
All this might seem tiresome, but slowly you will find your stride. In knowing that most of the time you are eating healthy, you will find you have enough calories leftover to even indulge yourself everyday. In a week or two, you can stop logging everything because then you would know what all you need to stay within your calorie range while not depriving yourself.
I have done everything from tracking my diet in excel to logging for days on myfitnessPal, etc. I think I have a good handle on how much and what all I should eat to gain/ maintain my weight. I still log my diet once in a while to make sure my protein is not slipping or my carbs are not going out of control. Sometimes I need to do course correction and change a few things around. But this system works on autopilot most days. This is what you should aim for too. When your relationship with food becomes healthy and indulging yourself doesn’t seem like a sin, is when you will never need to ‘diet’ again in your life. Ever. 🙂