10 Easy things to do to drop weight and feel better (for the average person)
by Sue Greenwald
Everyone wants to eat better, be healthier, more full of energy, and drop a few pounds. It’s hard in our society. If we start to diet and make a poor choice, we beat ourselves up, get discouraged, and usually just throw in the towel. I’ve comprised a list of a few tweaks that you can make that won’t take a lot of will power. If you can automate these and make these part of your lifestyle, you should feel better, and lose some weight at the same time. If you deviate, just continue with these as soon as you can.
Most of these tips are designed to reduce fat, sugar and salt from your diet. There are no diet “rules”; rather, just eat a variety of smart things, only when you are hungry. In general, you should choose the freshest possible food, those with the highest fiber and grain content, and those with the least sugar, salt and fat components. Avoid processed foods, those containing preservatives and food dyes, and anything containing partially hydrogenated oils.
Take time to eat, not gulp things down while you work on the computer, drive or watch TV. Eat, savor the flavor and the texture of the food, and appreciate that you have it! Sure, it may take you 10 extra minutes to eat your lunch (I know you’re busy) but trust me, you will feel more relaxed if you have taken the time to eat a real meal that you have to chew. Make it a habit to eat 1 salad per day, which takes time as you have to chew. Afterwards, you’ll feel full but light, and proud that you’ve selected something with vitamins, fiber, and chewing satisfaction.
There are multitudes of diet books and information out there, so this is just designed to be a summary of some simple things the “average” person can do to eat a little healthier and to lose some weight.
1) Fast Food—why are we even talking about this one? OK, if you are traveling, or have some emergency where you need food in a pinch, fine, BUT get the salads and a water, no burgers or even the chicken. You already know that this stuff is loaded with fat, sugar and salt! If you are eating fast food every day, you are eating too many calories, with the wrong content, and spending a lot for what you do get. Putting together a lunch at home takes a few minutes and some planning, but think of the money you will save, and the benefit you will get from eating fresher, healthier foods.
2) Drink Water—how many times have you heard this one. Why don’t you try it? This one is free (yes, you can drink tap water) and is one of the easiest and best things you can do for yourself. Many people may drink maybe one glass of water a day, and the rest of their days are filled with coffee, soda, anything but water. It is laughable that people will worry about the content of their tap water, but never think twice about the ingredients in the sodas that they drink. Drinking water will help to flush toxins out of your system, even if it is tap water. Filtered water is even better.
NOTE: I recommend the best possible filtration system for your tap water. Drink out of a glass bottle. Your exposure to the chemicals will be minimalized and it’ll save you time and money overall. Plus, you won’t litter the planet with plastic bottles..
3) Soda: NEVER drink soda, even if it’s 0 calories! (This rule includes energy drinks, sweetened tea, all those things you can buy in a convenience store-except plain water) This is not only empty calories, it is full of chemicals, food dyes, and the artificial sweetener in diet soda tricks your body into craving sugars. A little coffee is OK, just try to lighten up on the stuff you put into it.
4) Many people need their coffee or soda for the caffeine, but it is best if you can “decaffeinate” yourself so that you aren’t a slave to caffeine. Then, you can enjoy the flavor of the beverage, rather than chug it for the caffeine To decaffeinate yourself, mix caffeinated coffee with decaffeinated coffee, so that you are not dependent upon it for energy. Start at 50/50 for a week or two, so that you can get used to it. After a couple of weeks, use more decaffeinated, and less caffeinated until you are drinking decaffeinated. If you do this too fast, you may have withdrawal headaches, so take this step slowly. It will take you about a month or more to wean yourself off of caffeine, and will not regret it. You will not be “borrowing” energy that you don’t actually have.
5) Reduce Carbs, and watch the flour you eat. We have all heard of the low/no carb diets. Rather than to eliminate all carbs from your diet, which is really hard to do, make it a rule not to eat anything with bleached or enriched flour in the labels. You will need to read labels for this one. A type of bread or rolls to buy is sprouted grain, which you will find in the freezer case in the health food section of your store. Keep these rolls or bread in the freezer till you are ready to use them, as they will spoil quickly due to lack of preservatives. These breads will count as a full serving of whole grains. Cut down on carbs, but do not eliminate them altogether, just make them whole grain and fresh when you eat them.
6) Sugar-Unused sugar will be stored as fat on your body. EVERYTHING now seems to have sugar in it: peanut butter, ketchup, yogurt, salad dressing. We buy things that claim to be low fat, but look at their sugar content! If you read labels, you can find brands without sugar that will save you these calories, and you will not notice the taste difference. Find a brand of yogurt that is lower in sugars, but that doesn’t contain artificial ingredients. Review the wrappers of your granola bars to do the same, they’re usually loaded with sugars, but we think of them as a healthy choice.
7) Read labels—Do not eat anything that includes high fructose corn syrup, sugar, enriched or bleached flour as part of the first 5 ingredients. Look at the bread that you’re eating—even though it may say “whole grains” on the wrapper, you should read the label to ensure that it is made completely with whole grains.
8) Don’t eat anything that is wrapped in cellophane. This includes foods from Vending Machines (how fresh are they?) like Twinkies. They are convenience food that are expensive, laden with sugar, chemicals, and fats. Try an apple or a banana as a snack, you can carry it with you easily, it has vitamins and fiber in it, and it will give you chewing satisfaction, as it you’ve eaten “real” food.
9) Eat a minimum of 5 Fruits and Veggies a day. Fresh fruits and veggies have natural vitamins and fiber, taste good, and take time for you to chew, so you will feel like you have eaten something substantial. They will fill you up and you will feel full but light when you’ve eaten them. They will help to regulate your system in a natural way.
10) Grains: we all know we’re supposed to eat whole grains, but what exactly are they? They are not processed, pre-packaged oatmeal, which is filled with sugar, or pre-packaged rice, which is filled with salt. Try whole grain brown rice, or for oatmeal, try oat groats (the whole grain oat) or steel cut oats. You can get these in the bulk food section of the health food part of your store, and they are inexpensive.
Cook 1 cup of rice or whole grain oats with 2 ½ cups of water, and you can even throw a little dried fruit into the oatmeal towards the end of cooking it. Make a large batch of it to save time during the rest of the week. When you start eating more fibers, you will notice the difference. It take a few days for your body to clean itself out, so I might suggest that you initially start the high fiber routine on the weekend or when you are home. Once you are used to it, the grains and fiber will keep you regular and feeling lighter.
11) Exercise. This strikes fear into many people hearts. Rather than train for a marathon, why don’t you just start doing something each day? Start by walking for 20 minutes each day, and increase it to 30 minutes after a week or two. It is most helpful to have a “workout buddy” who is waiting for you, so that you won’t be tempted to cancel this very important activity. If you don’t keep the moving parts moving, it will be harder and harder for you to start in the future. Light, regular exercise will help use the calories that you consume, and will help your circulatory, respiratory and muscular-skeletal systems function better. From the energetic perspective, exercise will keep the energy moving so it doesn’t become congested, leading to health problems.
Other quick tips and tidbits:
- Don’t eat at night, as your body will not have a chance to burn or process the calories that you have eaten. Also, if you overeat at night, you normally do not get a good nights rest.
- Eat controlled portions. If you are eating something out of a bigger container, put a specific amount into a bowl, and put the larger container away. That way, you will not be tempted to eat way more than you have planned on. Also, a portion is about the size of your palm, so if you eat smaller or more appropriate portion sizes, you will not overeat.
- Space your meals and snacks throughout the day. If you eat smaller meals and snacks throughout the day, your body will have an easier time processing the food, you will feel fuller throughout the day, and your blood sugar levels will stay more even, giving you more energy.
- If you are eating meat, make sure it is low fat meat, like chicken, fish, turkey. Meats like burgers, bacon, and sausage have a high fat content. Consider cutting down on meat altogether.
- Automate things as much as possible. Have the food supplies stocked and ready for when you are hungry, so you won’t be tempted to eat something that will not serve you.
- Sometimes we just want to chew something. Normally, this is due to an emotional issue: we are nervous or worried, so if you much eat something now, make it a healthier choice—carrot sticks, celery with peanut butter, even unbuttered popcorn. We need the feeling of chewing to feel like we have eaten a “real” meal.
Incorporating these into your lifestyle will save you money, increase your feeling of well being, and you should more easily drop weight by making these changes. You will not be relying on sheer willpower, or starving yourself to lose weight.