(Adapted from Susie Burrell via news.com.au, and Nicola Jackson from EatWellNZ.)
Everyone knows a friend, family member or colleague who seems to effortlessly control their weight, while you gain a kilo even thinking about a slice of cake.
What is it that these individuals do differently to the rest of us that sees them stay slim with seemingly very little effort?
There are a number of lifestyle habits these individuals share that the rest of us can learn from, so we too can take control of our weight, for good.
They don’t diet
Forget detoxing, juice fasts or the latest fad diet. Evidence suggests that slim people consume a basic healthy diet that eliminates nothing, but seeks balance.
The issue with diets is that they tend to immediately illicit a feeling of restriction and deprivation. This can lead to an excessive focus on food and eating, fuelling binges and an obsession with food, which basically negates any benefits associated with the original diet.
The take home message here is that if a diet feels restrictive, it is unlikely to help you with weight control in the long term.
They exercise regularly
Evidence suggests that individuals who lose weight and keep it off exercise for at least an hour each day, and those who are slim exercise at least five days per week.
If something is important to us, we will make it a priority and set aside the time to do it. Just like going to work each morning and having 3 meals a day, fit people make exercise a non-negotiable. While we don’t always feel like getting up when the alarm goes off and going to work, we do anyway because we know we need to and recognise the importance of doing it. Just like we know exercise is good for our health and we love how it makes us feel afterwards.
Winter can present some barriers to exercise (it’s too dark to go after work, it’s raining outside etc. etc.) but fortunately these are all things that we can work through! Ask yourself what you can do, and make a plan e.g. go for a power walk during your lunch break, invest in a headlight, start a new gym class with a friend, or throw on your raincoat and take a more sheltered route on wet days. Often the worst part is thinking about it. So put on your sneakers and just do it- you know you’ll feel great afterwards!
They eat vegetables, lots of them
No surprises here, with at least 3 servings of vegetables the recommended daily intake.
Dietary patterns that promote long-term health, like the Mediterranean diet, include 7-10 servings of fresh vegetables and fruit every single day. Which makes sense- when you eat this much fresh produce, there is far less room for other high calorie foods.
They practice quality over quantity
This is a big one. Long-term weight control is not about focusing on what you shouldn’t eat. It is about enjoying good quality food, high calorie or not.
It means not wasting calories on the mindless extras that can slip into our diets without us realising, for example, hot chips and rice crackers, which can add lots of extra calories to our regular intake.
It means enjoying a small serve of delicious cake, rather than eating an entire packet of biscuits just because they’re there.
It’s having a glass of great wine rather than a whole bottle of cheap or free grog. It’s about asking yourself the question, ‘I can have it if I want it, but is this what I really feel like?’
They shop smart
One of the easiest ways to check the quality of your diet is to have a look at your grocery bill. If it is mainly comprised of wholefoods like meat, vegetables, eggs, fruit and dairy products- then that’s a great sign.
However, if you regularly buy processed foods (especially those high in fat and sugar), treats, or foods you know you shouldn’t or don’t want to eat, then you may need to review your shopping habits.
If you buy them, you are eating them. If you know you should not eat these foods for weight control, then it is important to be honest with yourself and explore the reasons why you’re buying them. This will allow you to put some strategies in place to form healthy habits that support your health and weight loss goals. Stick to the outside of the supermarket where fresh produce is located and avoid going down processed food aisles you find tempting.
They cook at home
Meals prepared at home have significantly fewer calories than the meals we purchase when eating out.
For example, popular lunch choices at the food court can contain twice the calories of the same meal you prepare for yourself. These options tend to be high in fat, refined carbohydrates and salt, and portion sizes are much larger than what you would normally serve yourself at home.
Restaurant meals can be the equivalent of an entire day’s food intake, especially if you have starters, some dessert and alcohol in addition to your main!
For this reason, simply cooking at home more often is an easy step towards weight control. It will help you save money too!
They keep their diet stable
It does not matter if it is Christmas, someone’s birthday, or winter. Individuals who control their weight maintain diet structure.
There is no such thing as taking a day or even a week off their good eating habits, rather there is a one-off heavier meal or occasional treat, and the normal diet resumed straight after.
They snack smart
Forget low fat processed foods and packaged treats. Snacking means something light and nutritious for those who maintain their weight.
Nuts, vege sticks, dairy products and a piece of fruit are all nutrient dense, whole food options that will sustain you until your next meal. These actually represent a snack in calorie terms, rather than the mini meals many of us turn snacking into.
They don’t do food guilt
Forget labelling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’- food has no moral value, rather there are foods that we eat everyday for nourishment and health, and foods that we eat occasionally for enjoyment or a treat. Placing a moral value on food can lead to feelings of guilt, followed by cycles of deprivation and bingeing depending on what you have eaten.
Slim people do not rely on food to soothe emotional states and there is an understanding that at times we will overindulge and consume higher calorie foods, but it all evens out eventually.
There is no guilt or compensatory behaviours (e.g. going back on Optifast) associated with eating. It is about good habits, occasional treats and that boring concept of balance!
They keep an eye on their weight
Individuals who control their weight often report weighing themselves on a regular basis. Alternative measures, such as judging your weight by the fit of your clothes, are also effective- we know in ourselves when we have put on weight. The key here is monitoring regularly and making conscious choices as a result.
Regular weighing means that you notice when the scales are creeping up, which enables you to respond quickly and take the steps required to reverse weight gain, before it becomes significant.