Written by Diane Krieger
By now, everyone knows the pitfalls of dieting. They seldom work, and sometimes
they do actual harm.
Cycles of weight loss and gain—the so-called yo-yo effect—can
produce a sense of shame, leading to low self-esteem and an unhealthy
preoccupation with eating and body image.
So here’s a novel idea: put the bathroom scale in a dark closet.
Forget about weight. Focus instead on wellness. You’ll feel better
and actually be healthier.
As a bonus, you may start shedding pounds.
“Addressing old or implementing new behaviors takes effort,”
says Kristen Hung, MPH, RD, a clinical dietitian at Torrance Memorial.
“But if we practice new behaviors until they become subconscious
habits, we unlock one of the most significant keys to truly impacting
our health and wellness.”
Here are some everyday habits that will improve your health and wellness
and lower your body mass.
You know the rules. Don’t skip breakfast. Fill half your plate with
fruits and veggies. Drink more water. Cut back on sugary beverages, wine
and beer. Stay away from unhealthy snacks and desserts.
If your stomach growls at the austerity measures, Hung offers this practical
tip: “befriend the bean.”
“Beans and lentils are rich in fiber and protein, boosting feelings
of fullness,” she says. “They also help reduce ‘bad
cholesterol,’ and their slow rate of digestion means fewer spikes
in blood sugar, which can wreak havoc on your appetite.”
Above all, when—not if, but when, because it’s bound to happen—you
have a lapse, don’t throw in the towel. Get back in the game. Dieting
is temporary, but eating well is a lifelong project.
One of the biggest mistakes people who want to lose weight make is setting
the wrong type of goal. “They form outcome-based goals like ‘Look
good in my swimsuit,” says Torrance Memorial Clinical Dietitian
Christian Torres, RD. “What’s more important are the behavior-based
goals needed to get there, for example ‘Exercise 30 minutes four
times a week.’”
The key to permanent change is consistency. Change your routine, and your
body will change too.
Being overweight can make it harder to be active, so start small. Make
a resolution to walk a short distance every other day. And really do it.
As you get stronger, up your game plan. Walk every day. Walk farther.
Resolve to always take the stairs instead of the elevator. Accelerate
your walking speed, try jogging, cycling, swimming laps. Choose achievable
goals, and let your measure of success be consistency, not the arbitrary
number on your bathroom scale. If you crave numerical data, consider wearing
a fitness tracker like the Apple Watch or Fitbit to count your steps,
measure your heart rate and calculate the calories you burn.
Don’t Skimp on Sleep
Change your sleep hygiene, and you’ll probably change your pant size.
Studies show people short on sleep consume more calories and skip exercising.
Skimping on sleep sets your brain up for bad decision-making. It dulls
activity in the frontal lobe leading to poor impulse control, and revs
up the reward centers sending you searching for something that feels good—say
ice cream or potato chips.
At a behavioral level, research shows people starved for sleep are prone
to late-night snacking and more likely to choose high-carb or high-fat
snacks. They eat bigger portions of all foods. And lack of sleep leads
to fatigue which usually results in less physical activity.
At the metabolic level, sleep deprivation limits your body’s ability
to process insulin, a hormone needed to change sugar and starch into energy.
It also affects production of the appetite-controlling hormones, leptin
“These hormones contribute to feelings of hunger and regulation of
fat storage,” Hung says. “Lack of sleep creates imbalance
and can lead to increased feelings of hunger and higher caloric intake.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of
adults don’t get enough sleep (at least 7 hours a night).
If you don’t already do it, add meditation or yoga to your weekly
routine. Not only will it lower your blood pressure, it will probably
improve your nutrition and help control your weight. Research shows regular
mindful practice reduces binge eating and emotional eating.
Try mindfulness at the table too. Add a dash of gratitude to every meal,
whether saying grace out loud or just taking a moment to appreciate the
food in front of you.
“A mindful tip for quick eaters, like me, is to set a timer for 12
to 15 minutes,” Torres says. “Spend the extra time analyzing
the different textures, flavors and aromas.”
Chew slowly. Put down the fork between bites. Take a deep breath after
Rein In Your Appetite
Listen to your body and eat only when you’re hungry. If there’s
a bad taste in your mouth, try brushing your teeth instead of reaching
for gum, mints or a snack. If you tend to overeat, ask yourself why. Is
it emotional or stress-related? If so, investigate and address those feelings.
Other common causes of overeating involve boredom, distraction and poor
planning. You can break the cycle by introducing good table habits, like
putting down the cellphone at mealtimes.
Cooking as an activity can be an antidote to overeating. “Eat anything
you want, just cook it yourself,” recommends national food trend
analyst Harry Balzer.
Have a craving for French fries? Then go peel and slice the spuds yourself
and fry them in a hot, spattering pan.
“Preparing food ourselves helps us understand what we are eating,
and often leads to consuming simpler and healthier meals,” Hung
says. After you finish cleaning the greasy stove, dumping the hot oil
and washing the dishes, you might reconsider how often you “enjoy” fries.
When dining out, you can pre-empt overeating by introducing these two routines
— decide ahead of time to split an entree with your companion or
ask for a to-go box in advance and set aside half your portion at the
beginning of the meal.
Looking for a Weight Management Support Group?
Weight Loss Program
CORE4 is a 12-week adult weight management program offered through Torrance
Memorial. Based on evidence and guidelines from the Academy of Nutrition
and Dietetics, the weekly group sessions cover nutrition (portions, meal
planning, dining out, macro and micronutrients); behavior modification
(hunger, appetite awareness, relationship to food); and how physical activity
relates to weight reduction and management. Offered virtually, the next
session begins Thursday, September 2, 5-6 pm. Cost: $200. Call 310-891-6707.
Torrance Memorial provides private coaching through its Nutrition Education
and Wellness Program. Clients partner with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
(RDN) to develop a personal plan of action for meal planning, grocery
shopping, food journaling, mindful eating and any special needs such as
food allergies, veganism and nutrition during pregnancy or lactation.
The service is available without referral. Call 310-891-6707.
Between Starving and Stuffed is a bi-monthly online interactive program
teaching mindful eating skills to live a healthy lifestyle for a healthy
weight and other life goals. Meets on Zoom every 2nd Thursday and 3rd
Tuesday, 6 to 7 pm.
To learn more, visit Torrance Memorial’s nutrition and weight loss
TorranceMemorial.org/Nutrition. Schedule an appointment with one of our registered dietitian nutritionists
through the MyTorranceMemorial patient portal or call 310-891-6707.