Sunday, April 1, 2007
3 Secrets of Dieting ... if I followed them.
No one in my family is particularly overweight but we talk a lot about food and dieting. When a friend is on a new diet, I question them quite closely about the short term and long term success. Over the years I have gleaned three secrets of dieting.
Secret #1: We eat more than we should for emotional reasons.
Let's face it. Food is comforting. (Some more than others, of course. For example, I don't find humus to be a very comforting food, nor tofu or brussel sprouts. I am thankful for potato chips, chocolate, and ice cream). It's natural that when we are emotionally hurting to use food to try and fill that hole or to comfort that hurt. I notice that I eat when I feel lonely. Since life can be difficult, there are many opportunities to learn this unhealthy response. And, of course, it ultimately is a false way to meet this need. The key here is to address the underlying issues. That's not easy but it's the key to not eating for emotional reasons.
Secret #2: We eat more than we should out of habit.
How many of you were told growing up to eat everything on your plate? I think we get used to eating a certain amount of food without thinking and thus we unconsciously eat more than we should. Restaurant portions don't help. The first time my wife and I ate at Claim Jumpers we shared one Senior dinner plus one side dish. It was plenty for the two of us! I think we even brought some home. Perhaps when we eat out we feel compelled to get our money's worth. For these reasons and others, we zoom right past that "full" point and, out of habit, eat more than we should. In this case, the key is to be more conscious of our eating, to notice when we are really full or when we are not. In my family we have a new saying that helps us here: "It's OK to waste". One habit many of us have is to not waste anything. When survival is on the line that's a good policy but nowadays we eat way to much (at least in the US) and so it's actually a good thing to waste. Leave food on your plate. (Actually, I now do worm composting so the worms get the extra!)
Secret #3: It is easier to add exercise than to cut calories.
This is probably the most controversial statement of my three secrets and there is quite a bit of disagreement about it. Cutting calories and increasing exercise are both effective and take discipline but in my experience resisting calories is the greater challenge, at least in the long term. A fascinating study reported in Health Magazine confirmed as much. Three groups of people who wanted to loose weight were given three different strategies: Diet only, Exercise only, and a combination of diet and exercise. All were fairly successful for one year but only the Exercise only folks kept off the weight for two years. The other groups, the calorie cutters, all eventually gained the weight back.
Knowing these there secrets doesn't mean it's easy to loose weight. I've known them for some time and yet I have not lost much weight. Still, they are a great starting point and I'd be working on them right now but this has been a difficult time for me and so if you'll excuse me, I need to go pig out.