5 Food Rules to Follow — That Aren’t Dieting

IMG_8672Juice cleanses? No carbs? The baby food diet?

Eating right shouldn’t have to be such a complicated and grueling task. These straightforward food rules will help you maximize your weight loss without the enormous effort that comes with the latest diet trend.

Keep a food journal.

My number one piece of advice for those who are trying to lose weight is to keep a food journal. A food journal forces you to be accountable for not only what you eat, but how much.

As published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 1,685 overweight and obese adults were asked to keep a food diary for six months. After six months, participants who recorded their food and beverage consumption six days a week lost twice as much weight as those who only kept track one day a week or less.

That’s because a food journal boosts awareness and teaches portion control, allowing you to make better diet decisions down the road. It is not intended to make you count calories or deprive yourself.

Turns out that huge bowl of ice cream after dinner packs a pretty big punch! Cut it in half to save fat, sugar and calories, or switch to Greek yogurt.

Don’t skip meals.

You may have considered skipping a meal to ensure you take in fewer calories. But this methodology can backfire.

In a recent study, a group of mice were placed on a restricted diet where they ate all their food at one time and fasted the remainder of the day. Another group of mice were able to eat whenever they wanted throughout the day. The restricted diet group initially lost weight, but when they were fed the same amount as the control group, they would still eat all their food at one time, having conditioned themselves to feasting and fasting.  That group ended up regaining all the lost weight and saw an increase in visceral fat, a dangerous fat that surrounds the inner organs and a risk factor for disease.

To keep your hormones at bay and your liver’s production of glucose regular, eat small meals throughout the day.

Drink low-calorie beverages.

By trashing your soda, sweetened tea, frozen coffee drinks and flavored sports drinks, you can eliminate thousands of calories from your week. (Plus, they are nutritionally worthless, so you will be much better satiated eating real food. Score!)

Think diet soda is a good substitute? You’re trading one devil for another. Since artificial sweeteners and sugar can affect the brain in different ways, you may not get the same feeling of satisfaction by drinking an artificially-sweetened product. In addition, you might end up weighing more — during a 7-year study of 3,782 people, researchers found that those who consumed artificially sweetened drinks had a 47% higher increase in body mass index (BMI) than those who did not.

Try flat or sparkling water infused with lemon or cucumber for a refreshing, zero-calorie drink.

Eat on a small, red plate

Start seeing red! Studies have shown the bigger your plate, the more you’ll eat — you’re subconsciously primed to serve yourself more food and more likely to finish everything. By eating on smaller plates, you’ll put less on your plate and trick yourself into consuming fewer calories.

Not only should you invest in smaller plates, make them red. In a study published in the journal Appetite, participants who ate from red dishes consumed less food and soda. Researchers concluded that the color red suggests “stop.”

Weigh in daily to stay on track.

Most likely you’ve been taught not to weigh yourself every day because fluctuations on the scale could be a diet-damper. But a 2-year Cornell University study has found that tracking the number on the scale can help people actually lose weight and keep it off.

As published in the Journal of Obesity, 162 men and women were split into two groups. Everyone was taught basic strategies to lose weight and could choose whichever approach they wanted to take. In addition, the intervention group was told to weigh themselves at the same time every day. In the first year, the intervention group ended up losing nearly 6 pounds on average, while the control group lost just over one pound on average. More importantly, the daily weigh-in group kept off the pounds by the end of the second year.

The study’s authors suggest that recording your weight and eyeing your progress serves as reinforcement for healthy behaviors. Use a smartphone app like MyFitnessPal or keep it simple with a wall calendar.

A previous version of this blog was initially posted on healthwaysfit.com.

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