Most of us approach the new year with a resolve to lose weight—but it gets difficult when popular diets undermine and contradict each other. We should go meatless but eat like a caveman? We should avoid sugar yet indulge on fruit? We shouldn’t eat between meals, but we should subsist on frequent snacks?
And so our weight loss gets stalled before it begins. How can we possibly decide whether to embrace or avoid fats, carbs, sugar, dairy, gluten, wheat, grazing, and snacks?
In a recent article, Greatist.com counsels to “think of dieting like dating.”
“You wouldn’t choose to be in a relationship with someone you despise from day one, so why would you do that with the foods you eat. Every. Single. Day. You will quit the plan, you will learn to hate healthy eating, and you’ll probably end up more frustrated and confused than when you started.”
So if you love bread and pasta, don’t attempt to restrict your carbs. If you love dessert, avoid restricted sugar eating plans. If you enjoy waking up to a hearty breakfast or ending the day with a late-night snack, don’t buy into diets that prescribe huge lunches.
At the end of the day, “diet” is the wrong approach. But enjoying your food, honoring your hunger, and observing portion size – day in and day out – will all help you lose weight without finding it again, without the drama and heartbreak of a toxic relationship. To that end, remember these general guidelines:
Drink water, eat fiber. Both water and fiber-rich foods can battle bloat and better sync your gut and your brain so you stop eating when you’ve had your fill. Try crunching on zucchini and cucumber (not chips), popping frozen grapes as a late-night snack, and warming up with peppermint tea instead of soda.
Beware the “health halo.” That’s the blinding light surrounding certain foods that beguile us into eating badly when we think we’re making a healthy choice. For example: granola bars, protein shakes, veggie chips, fruit juice, and frozen yogurt. There’s nothing wrong with having these in moderation – just watch your portion size; otherwise sugar levels can approach that of a king-size candy bar.
Keep it real. Consoled with fat-free or sugar-free versions of your favorite food? The health halo strikes again. When food makers take out fat, they replace the lost flavor with sugar and salt. When they take out sugar, they replace the lost flavor with fat. All experts say to eat the regular version of anything, from cheddar to chocolate, in moderation. You’ll be far more satisfied.
Savor and socialize. No need to shy away from dinner with family or friends! When you enjoy every bite, and every conversational bit, you will feel fuller much faster.
Don’t skip meals! It messes with your metabolism and sets you up for more overeating. If you over-indulged at lunch or dinner, it’s okay. Make the next meal “green and clean”: lean protein, fish, vegetables, fruits, to keep your energy up and your willpower strong.
Get enough sleep. Besides suppressing hormones that fuel hunger, eight hours of shut-eye means less incentive to nosh late at night, sharper focus in the morning, and more energy to jump into activities you enjoy.