What comes to mind when you think about losing weight?
The diet starts tomorrow
Most people think of losing weight as a drastic, depriving and unpleasant process.
To illustrate this, how many people do you know would start a diet on the day before going away on vacation? It’s just not done. But why not? Because no one wants to subject themselves to the perceived misery of a diet just as they are about to go and have some fun.
The problem is, when you think of weight loss in such terms, it becomes intimidating and something to be avoided or at least put off. That’s why so many people say: “the diet starts tomorrow”.
A different approach
But what if we thought of weight loss in a different way? What if we focused on making small, easy changes instead of drastic, unpleasant ones?
What if we just got started with small actions that only took 60 seconds or less?
If something takes less than 60 seconds, then it’s easy to take action and get started. It’s much less intimidating and hence there is much less resistance to doing it.
Am I saying 60 seconds is all it takes? No. But it’s a start which you can build on. And another way of thinking of it, is that repeating lots of 60-second things every day, will add up over time to create a massive difference to your weight.
So with that in mind, here are five 60-seconds-or-less tips that you can start doing right away to kick-start your weight loss.
1. Write down what you ate today
I’m sure if I asked you to, it would take you less than 60 seconds to write down everything you have eaten today. Try it now if you like. Just write it anywhere, on the back of an envelope, anywhere.
When you see what you’ve eaten written down like that, it feels different doesn’t it?
We can often fool ourselves into thinking we’re not eating that much, but when it’s down on paper, there is no room for misperception.
Research shows that keeping a food diary is a very important component in losing weight. The fact is that people who keep food diaries lose more weight than people who don’t (1).
For clients at my weight loss clinic, keeping a food diary is non-negotiable. I consider it an essential part of my program. If they can’t or don’t want to keep a food diary, I tell them that I can’t work with them.
What’s so good about keeping a food diary?
Firstly, as I’ve just said it helps you see what you’re actually eating. Most people find when they keep a food diary that what (and how much) they think they eat is very different to what they actually do eat.
Secondly, when you write down what you eat, you can spot patterns of eating. You’ll be surprised at how much of your eating is determined by habits. You’ll also see how much certain places, situations or even people influence your eating. Recognizing these patterns is the first step towards changing them.
Try it now #1: On your phone, computer or on a piece of paper, write down everything you have eaten today.
2. Clear your table or kitchen top of tempting foods
Look around you now. Are there any foods sitting there “looking” at you. Maybe they’re not just looking, but calling out to you… Eat me!
Or think about the layout of your workplace or home. Are there often tempting foods lying around?
It will take less than 60 seconds, but remove all the food from your line of sight.
Out of sight, out of stomach
It’s been shown that food in your line of sight makes you eat more than if it’s out of sight. Brian Wansink from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab in Chicago, showed in a study that people in an office ate more sweets if they were placed in bowls with a clear lid, than if the bowls had an opaque lid (2).
Wansink’s take on this was that when food is visible, you can’t help but have a conversation in your mind about whether to eat it or not. Even if you resist nine out of ten times, giving in to temptation one time out of ten is enough to make you eat many more sweets over the course of a day than otherwise. And if you add that up over a year, the accumulated calories from those sweets can lead to some surprising weight gain.
Try it now #2: Whether you’re at home or at work, look around you and clear out all the tempting foods from sight.
3. Eat with a smaller spoon
Are you a fast or slow eater?
If you’re eating soup or cereal, using a smaller spoon forces you to take smaller spoonful’s of food each time. When you take a smaller amount of food with each spoonful, this makes you eat slower.
This same principle works if you eat with chopsticks (presuming you are really bad at eating with chopsticks) or using a smaller fork and knife.
Smaller cutlery makes you take smaller amounts. This makes you eat slower.
What’s the benefit of eating slower?
To answer that, let’s look at the downside of eating faster.
Your ability to figure out when you’re full is related to a lot of different factors. But the main fullness signal that is sent to your brain originates in your stomach.
As food fills up the stomach, it expands, triggering a complex network of signals that finally ends up at the brain, telling you that you’re full.
The theory is that this signal can take 20 minutes to reach the brain, and hence when you eat fast, you don’t give your brain a chance to catch up with your stomach. You keep eating, even though you’re already full.
So taking smaller bites makes you eat slower. Especially if you take small pauses between each bite (3). And eating slower makes you eat less.
Try it now #3: Use smaller cutlery to take smaller bites. Remember to try and pause between bites too.
4. Savor your food
Think back to the last time you had some food that you really liked. Did you take time to enjoy every mouthful?
Most people I ask this question to, will admit that they usually eat without savoring it. Even with foods they love. It really makes no sense does it? You’re eating something you like and you’re still not taking the time to enjoy it.
It’s because most of us have got into bad habits with our eating. We tend to eat food too quickly. We are in a hurry and have got out of the habit of taking the time to enjoy our food.
How to get back that loving feeling
To bring back savoring your food into your life, I suggest starting very slowly, but building into the habit.
Your first step is for one meal today, take a bite and savor it for as long as you can. For instance if you’re having a sandwich for lunch that you particularly like, take a bite, close your eyes and really connect with the flavors and textures. Spend as long as you can.
Think about all the things you enjoy about this food. Because what’s the point eating food that you love, if you can’t even spend the time to enjoy it?
Enjoying food makes you feel fuller
I said earlier (in point #3) how important stomach distension is in confirming fullness. Another factor that also has an impact on fullness is “orosensory” exposure. The sensations associated with eating contribute to you feeling full. When you take time to taste food more, you feel fuller (4). Also, solid food tends to satisfy more than liquid food. You feel more substantially satisfied (5).
When you take the time to savor food, you get more “sensory satiation”. In other words, you feel fuller because you’ve experienced the meal more. When you do this, it makes you feel fuller sooner, so you eat less.
Imagine that? Enjoy more. Eat less. It’s a miracle!
Try it now #4: Just for one meal today, take one bite and try and savor it. It will show you how little you take the time to actually enjoy your food.
5. Serve yourself 5% less
If you feel like you’re in a hurry to lose weight to it can be tempting to think that cutting back what you eat drastically is the way to get faster results.
After all, if you’re eating a certain amount of food today, surely the best way to lose weight fast is to cut it back by as much as you can?
Of course anyone who has ever been on a diet before knows that while this might sound good in theory, it doesn’t work very well in practice.
The downsides of cutting back too much
Firstly, cutting back too much is extremely unpleasant. If it’s unpleasant, it makes you want to get it over with as quickly as possible, which doesn’t work if you need to lose large amounts of weight.
Secondly, when you cut back so much, it sends the wrong signal to the body. If our ancestors ever cut back what they were eating by 80%, it wasn’t because they were trying to look good for their upcoming beach vacation. It was because there was a shortage of food. And our body reacts to a shortage of food, by holding on to fat stores, slowing our metabolism and making us feel hungry, and obsessed with food.
In other words, rather than helping us to lose weight, rapid decreases in the amounts you’re eating turn the body against you.
Thirdly, it’s not really a sustainable strategy. After a starvation diet, as soon as you go back to the old ways, your weight will go back up. This is the underlying cause of yoyo dieting: doing something unsustainable to lose weight. It leads to short-lived victories followed by bouncing back to the old weight.
So rather than cutting back a lot, try a more gentle approach.
Take whatever you’re eating today, and think of what a normal portion size is and then reduce it by a little bit. 5%.
It won’t seem like much. But it’s a start. And that’s all you need to begin with.
See how the meal goes. Were you satisfied with 5% less? Did you even really notice the difference?
Most people will find that their portion sizes have increased over time, and they haven’t really put any conscious thought into what’s going on. It’s just slowly happened.
It’s easier to cut back than you realized
When you start to consciously make adjustments to what you’re eating, you’ll realize that how much you were eating bore little connection to satisfaction levels and feelings of satiety (fullness).
After you have reduced it by 5% and over the next few days are feeling comfortable about the new amounts, cut it back again. Again, see if it makes any difference. Ultimately, you will arrive at a point where cutting it back further makes the portion size too small. But most people find that, they can cut back portions quite a bit before they reach that point.
Try it now #5: For dinner tonight, cut back your portion size by 5%.
60 Seconds at a Time.
When it comes to losing weight, most people take the all-or-nothing approach. But this approach is setting yourself up for failure. It makes you do things that are too difficult to stick to. And it makes losing weight intimidating and unpleasant. It becomes something to be feared and put off.
When you break down losing weight down to small things you can start immediately, you make it more likely that you will take action, and makes the entire experience gentler and easier to stick to.
Ultimately the key to losing weight and keeping it off, is doing things that you are able to stick to for life. When you take things slowly, then you are able to adjust your approach so that it becomes something that is sustainable and lasts for life.
If you’re a woman over 40 and want to know exactly how you can lose weight and keep it off using a behavioral approach,…
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(2) Wansink, B, Painter, JE, and Lee, YK. The office candy dish: Proximities influence on estimated and actual consumption. Int Journal of Obes 2006; 30: 871– 875. [PubMed]
(3) Andrade AM, Greene GW, Melanson KJ. Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women. J Am Diet Assoc 2008;108:1186–91. [PubMed]
(4) Cecil JE, Francis J,Read NW. Relative contributions of intestinal, gastric, oro-sensory influences and information to changes in appetite induced by the same liquid meal. Appetite 1998;31:377–90. [PubMed]
(5) Haber GB, Heaton KW, Murphy D, Burroughs LF. Depletion and disruption of dietary fibre. Effects on satiety, plasma-glucose, and serum-insulin. Lancet 1977;2:679–82. [PubMed]