TIPS FOR KEEPING ON TRACK
by Dr Clare Bailey
As I tell my patients, losing weight is tough, keeping it off is tougher. But it can be done. The following are tips that my patients say they have found useful:
Sit down at the kitchen table for most meals. If you eat on the run or in front of the TV, you will eat badly and go on eating well beyond the point when you would normally feel full.
Try to eat slowly. It takes time for the food you eat to reach the parts of your small intestine where cells release a hormone, PYY, that tells your brain, “I’m full”. That’s why if you eat slowly, you will eat less. Try to put down your knife and fork down for a while and try to wait 30 seconds or so before picking them up again. Leave food on your plate when you are no longer hungry. This probably goes against everything you were taught when growing up. The alternative is to take smaller portions in the first place, leaving yourself the option to go back for more. What Mcdonalds and other fast food outlets discovered long ago is that people tend not to go back for more (thus, “Supersize Me”)
Try to avoid “diet” products as they are highly processed and often contain sugar and/or sweeteners (which may not switch off hunger signals).
Drink soup a lot. It is satiating, cheap and practical. We make big quantities, often out of left-over veg, and keep the unused stuff in the freezer.
Don’t drink lots of alcohol. Alcohol contains plenty of calories and makes you disinhibited, so you are more likely to snack.
Keep tempting foods out of the house or out of sight. In a fascinating study, Cornell University researchers visited houses in New York, taking photos of people’s kitchens. They found they could predict a family’s weight by the foods left out on the surface. If breakfast cereals, for example, were visible, the inhabitants were, on average, 10kg heavier than people in households where the cereals were put away. Breakfast cereals have a reputation for being healthy. They aren’t. Don’t keep your cupboards empty. If there’s no food in the house you will probably order a takeaway. Make sure there’s plenty of food around like nuts, yoghurt and eggs. Keep the fridge stocked with vegetable crudites, such as sticks of carrots, green peppers or tomatoes, perhaps with some salsa or hummus, for moments when you just have to snack.
Weigh yourself several times a week. There is a widely held belief that you shouldn’t weigh yourself more than once a week. Yet a recent study suggests more is better. In this particular trial they followed 40 people attending a health promotion programme. Some weighed themselves daily, others weekly, monthly or hardly at all. The more often people weighed themselves, the more weight they lost.
Wear a belt. One of the surest ways of telling that you are putting on unhealthy fat is noticing when your belt starts to feel tight again.
When you go out for a meal, ask the waiters to take the bread basket away. Try to stick to one course, with lots of vegetables instead of rice or potatoes. If you have a dessert, then share it with someone else. Research shows that a small amount of something sticky and tasty is just as satisfying as eating a large portion.
When you can, take the stairs and occasionally try to run up them. It is sad how many people stand on escalators when they could be burning a few extra calories walking up them.
We have a dog, Tari, and she barks loudly if we don’t take her for a walk at least once a day. Walk the dog, though this is not the most practical tip if you prefer cats.
I acknowledge “three good things”. This is based on an idea devised by American psychologist Professor Martin Seligman. All you do, at the end of the day, is think of and/ or write down three things that went well that day and why they went well. It doesn’t have to be anything major; perhaps someone complimented you, or you watched a beautiful sunset. The point is that it focuses your attention on the positive. It is a good way to lift your mood and bolster resilience.