When it comes to losing weight or reducing body fat, it’s generally accepted that one has to eat fewer calories than he or she burns each day. Many diets achieve this simple math equation for fat loss by applying strict rules on what types of foods to avoid. However, these diets often fail because the rigidity that characterizes these diets can make people feel deprived of their favorite foods or excluded from social events. Other diets focus on constantly measuring and counting portions, but few people have ever said their favorite part of eating or cooking was the math.
Fortunately, there is a better way to take control of your eating habits without going to extremes. Try incorporating these behavior changes into your routine one at a time to create healthy eating habits that will help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. These simple changes can help you improve your nutrition without the stress of math or constant deprivation.
1. Slow Down Your Eating
It can take 20 minutes or more for stretch receptors in your stomach and hormonal signals from your small intestines to signal to you that you are feeling full. Giving your body time to let you know that you are satisfied is an easy way to reduce how many calories you consume in a given meal.
Stop racing through meal times by incorporating strategies that slow you down. You can try:
- Putting down your utensils between bites of food
- Creating a halfway point in your meal and taking a break from eating when you get to it
- Setting a timer or stopwatch so you have some feedback on how much time you’ve taken to eat
2. Decrease Distractions
Multitasking while eating with activities such as watching television, working or scrolling social media can make it more difficult to recognize how much you’ve eaten. It can also reduce how full or satiated you feel from a meal. People who eat with distractions tend to feel hungrier and eat more later.
Turning off distractions and focusing on enjoying your meal is a helpful way to reduce your caloric intake and still feel more satisfied. Getting rid of screens and other distractions during meals is an easy way to change your environment to better support your healthy eating.
3. Avoid Eating From Large Packages
Interestingly, when people eat out of large packages it makes it much more difficult to realize how much is actually being consumed. Instead of eating foods directly from large containers, try eating only from bowls and plates. This requires you to choose your portion size before you start eating. You can also prep your serving sizes in advance by portioning foods into single-serving containers immediately when you get home from purchasing them. These simple behavior changes make it much easier to avoid overeating certain types of foods.
4. Drink More Water
Drinking plenty of water not only improves our health and fitness, it can also be a useful tool for reducing the amount of calories consumed. Being thirsty can easily be confused with feelings of hunger. Drinking a glass of water before eating snacks or meals may help you realize that you aren’t as hungry as you may have thought. Additionally, drinking water with meals can also help slow down meals and stimulate the stretch receptors in the stomach, which help to signal that you are feeling full. Finally, if you are accustomed to drinking beverages with calories, swapping some or all of them with water can help decrease caloric intake.
5. Sleep More
Getting enough sleep doesn’t just improve recovery for workouts. It also helps regulate the hormones responsible for feelings of hunger and satiety. Leptin and ghrelin are both disrupted when you don’t get enough sleep, which may result in increased hunger and decreased feelings of satiety.
You can improve your sleep habits by adopting specific times to go to bed and wake consistently each day. In the evening, create a specific routine to follow, including dimming the lights and turning off screens to help you wind down. Reducing caffeine consumption after noon can also help you get to sleep easier.
Focusing on behavior changes that help you sleep better can help you make better food decisions and feel more satisfied with your healthy eating each day.
Improving nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight doesn’t have to exclusively be about planning meals and counting calories. The most sustainable behavior changes help you to consistently control your intake and feel satisfied without creating additional stress or deprivation. Try practicing one of these habits at a time to start improving your eating without constant calorie counting.
It's never too late to learn and to expand your client offerings! Check out other ACE Certifications or ACE Specialist programs, such as the Behavior Change Specialist or the Fitness Nutrition Specialist programs.