The starting point to losing body fat is quite simple, you have to expend more energy than you put in.
It sounds quite simple and relatively easy, but if that is so, why is keeping it going long term such an effort for most of us? Perhaps one of the reasons is because when we first decide we need to lose some weight, we jump right in with both feet and cut out everything we eat that makes us feel happy and full, and on top of that we try to do every class going in the gym, every day, and we burn out quickly.
There is a lot that goes on outside of the calories in versus calories out equation.
The average person may think they make around 15 decisions about food each day, whereas studies* have shown that we actually make around 200 decisions, and 90% of these are made without any conscious thought.
No-one goes to bed skinny and wakes up fat the next morning. Weight gain creeps up slowly, and it’s only when the little black dress (ladies only, gents maybe you need to loosen another notch on your belt at this point), which fitted perfectly last Christmas, feels a little snug this year that we can ‘feel’ the gain.
It’s at this point that we decide we need to eat less, and maybe this thought happens every year. Why then do we continue to still eat that little bit more instead? Is it because we are blissfully unaware of the things around us that influence how much we eat? Restaurants, supermarkets, food manufacturers and fast food chains don’t want us to eat less of their food, it would eventually send them out of business. They spend millions each year on market research to find out what keeps us going back for more.
You buy a supersize bucket of popcorn at the cinema because the advert says it is better value for us than buying the regular. You will sit and watch the film while mindlessly eating from the supersize bucket until it is all gone. You might not think you would, but your probably will.
Take a family size tub of Pringles (other crisp snacks are available), does the portion size become the whole tub? Before you eat have a look on the packet to define the portion size, then separate out each portion and bag them individually. Once you’ve eaten one portion and the bag is empty you’re done, and you know how much you’ve eaten.
My parrot (anyone who knows me knows I like to talk about my parrot) loves pistachio nuts. They are his favourite treat, but too many are not good for him. I buy shelled pistachios so that the empty shells provide me with a visual clue when he’s had his share.
If you want some chocolate, buy individually wrapped ones and use the empty wrappers as an indication to know when you ought to stop!
All you need to do is just eat 100-200 calories less per day. This is a do-able calorie cut and you will feel fine and your body won’t notice the difference. You don’t have to cut out your favourite foods, you don’t have to choose the low fat chicken over the juicy steak, just have a smaller steak. Dessert? Why not share it, the first two mouthfuls are always the best anyway.
Ok, so you won’t get a 6 pack in 6 weeks, or be shredded in 12 weeks, but by eating in the moment, and being more mindful of what goes in, you can find a long term and sustainable way to keep your waistband from gradual expansion.
*Brian Wansink & Jeffrey Sobal ‘Hidden Persuaders and 200 Daily Decisions’. Environment & Behaviour (2007).