Set the Stage for Weight Loss
You cannot take on a new project without taking the time to organize your surroundings, and weight loss is a really big project and a worthy endeavor. Let us make sure that you are ready to begin:
- Prepare your breakfast and lunch in the evening. If you wake up late or encounter another problem in the morning, you might deprioritize your healthy efforts in order to get out of the house on time. That is why it is best to pack your lunch and get what you need for a quick and nourishing breakfast ready the night before. There are many kinds of breakfasts that you can make at the beginning of the week and then eat for several days; overnight oatmeal and egg casserole are examples. You might also want to keep healthy breakfast foods at the workplace: a box of whole-grain cereal and shelf-stable milk, for example. Many people do not know that you can even find certain brands of soymilk in shelf-stable form. A loaf of whole-wheat bread and a jar of peanut butter is another example of breakfast foods that do not require refrigeration or heating. And do not forget fruit, which is a highly portable and low maintenance source of nutrients that most people do not eat enough of these days.
- Consider the crock-pot or large batch cooking if you want to exercise after work. Many women tell me that they cannot exercise in the evening because making dinner takes so long. In fact, the shopping, preparing, and clean-up after meals is a very time consuming endeavor, and although we know that it is worth the time and effort, it does make evenings a time crunch for most women. This is when the crockpot becomes a lifesaver. There are also many cookbooks based on the premise of cooking your entire week’s meals in one day.
- Go to bed on time! You might need to set a timer for half an hour before the time that you need to head for the bedroom to get adequate sleep; that last half an hour before bed is time for you to put on your pajamas, brush your teeth, and organize your thoughts. When we are tired, we tend to eat more and move less–exactly what you want to avoid when you are trying to lose weight.
- Keep everything that you need to exercise in one central location. If your shoes are upstairs, your gym bag is in the basement, and your membership card is…well, you do not know where exactly, you are likely to become discouraged and not go to the gym at all. Keeping a packed gym bag in the car also encourages many busy people to swing by the gym on the way home. Do not forget clean clothes, headphones, sneakers, and a water bottle.
- Keep track of your food and exercise. You can do this via an app or with classic paper and pen – it does not matter! What does matter is that you write it down, because study after study has proven that doing this leads to bigger weight losses. It is easy to play mind tricks on yourself if you do not do this: “it was just a bite,” “I did exercise more this morning, so it does not matter,” etc.
- Keep healthy food front and center. For example, keep your fruit on the middle shelf of your refrigerator or in a bowl on your kitchen table. Some people prefer to devote just one shelf of the refrigerator or cupboard for “their” healthy food while letting the rest of the family keep unhealthy foods in the other areas of the kitchen. This is an unsatisfactory idea for many reasons, including that you are almost certain to have moments of decreased willpower and because no one in your family should be eating those unhealthy foods.
- Prepare to be unprepared. There will come a time when you are faced with a seemingly irresistible food, when you are “chained to your desk” with work and struggle to find time to exercise, vacations, holidays, or do not have time to get to the grocery store. Think through these possible scenarios, and others that you can think of, and brainstorm ways that you could stay on track reasonably well.
- Get ready to do new things. It is important to make new habits if you are accustomed to eating while watching television or when you first walk in the door. You might want to consider a new hobby or getting back into one that you have quit doing, but used to enjoy.
- Buy some new smaller dishes and glasses. The bigger the dish, the more food you will pile onto it. Research has found that people drink less when their beverage is served in a short, wide glass; invest in some tall and narrow glasses.
- Clear the table of all distractions. This is where you are going to sit and eat as many meals as possible–just eat—not watch television, or read magazines, or text your friends while simultaneously eating; focus and chew thoroughly. Every bite counts.
References and recommended readings
Hensrud D. Is too little sleep a cause of weight gain? Mayo Clinic website. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sleep-and-weight-gain/faq-20058198. Published April 16, 2015. Accessed April 18, 2016.
Hitti M. Keeping food diary helps lose weight. WebMD website. http://www.webmd.com/diet/20080708/keeping-food-diary-helps-lose-weight. Published July 8, 2008. Accessed April 18, 2016.
Wansink B, van Ittersum K. The large plate mistake. Cornell University website. http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/discoveries/large-plate-mistake. Accessed April 18, 2016.
Contributed by Elaine Hinzey, RDN, LD/N
Review date: 4/15/16