As January approaches its end, I wonder how well people have kept their New Year’s resolutions so far, or if they even made any. Part of me applauds the realist who says he doesn’t make resolutions he can’t keep, but the rest of me finds this a cop-out. This is especially true when it comes to nutrition; we can all improve something in our diets, whether to prevent disease, have more energy, or lose weight. Research shows we are most successful when we set small, realistic goals, so join me now in setting one goal per week for the next 4 weeks!
1. Own your dietary choices.
I cannot eat a brownie and blame it on my daughter for baking. Instead, I have to choose to eat better in order to achieve my desire to be healthy. It doesn’t mean giving up all my favorite foods; it just means I want to feel good more than I want that brownie. For you, it may mean you decide you want to lose 5 pounds more than you want chips before dinner. By making it a choice, you avoid feeling sorry for yourself about having to have willpower or go on a diet.
2. Eat less.
Americans are eating an average of 400 calories more every day than we were 30 years ago. Next time you sit down to eat, leave a little food on your plate. The time after, put less on your plate to begin with. You can still have your steak or macaroni-and-cheese, but try a portion the size of your palm. Then skip your evening snack, then your afternoon soda; if you find yourself missing them, chewing gum and drinking water are helpful alternatives. What you do every day is significantly more important than a sporadic splurge, so make a habit of smaller meals and snacks every day, choosing extra helpings only occasionally.
3. Eat only when you are hungry.
Now that you are eating less, you may be feeling hungry between meals, and that’s a good thing. Pay attention to real hunger vs. habit, impulse, or emotions. Many people believe they should graze all day to keep from feeling hungry, but they end up taking in hundreds of unnecessary calories. Instead, embrace hunger as a sign that you are physically, not emotionally, in need of food. Goal #4 is critical for this to work…
4. Plan ahead.
If you wait until you are overly hungry, there is a good chance you will overeat. I know if I go more than 5 hours without eating, I am likely to grab whatever is available, and too much of it. Start paying attention to when you are hungry each day. 3:00? Have a healthy snack on hand to avoid vending machines and drive-through lanes. 5:00? Have a plate of vegetable slices ready to eat when you get home to avoid binging on pretzels while making dinner.
There you go: the first 4 secrets to eating and feeling better without sweeping changes or a special diet. Better get started; the next 4 suggestions will be here soon.
As seen in the Fort Collins Coloradoan
Melissa Wdowik, PhD, RDN, LDN, FAND
is a nutrition educator with over 20 years experience as a college professor, nutrition coach, presenter and writer, as well as a nutrition consultant and founding director of the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center.