by Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN
“Don’t procrastinate”… Growing up, I heard that expression in my home over and over from my dear (dare I say old) dad. I don’t think my dad was speaking specifically to me when he said it (maybe he was talking to my mom and brother, the creative, perhaps less organized ones in our home). I was and am still very much like my dad–we are a bit type A, like things to be organized and to always have on hand extras of whatever we need (in case we run out). And with the exception of writing thank you notes and such, I was never nor am I now a put-it-off-til-tomorrow kind of girl, especially when it comes to anything work-related. I always like to be prepared!
To help you ring in the new year on a healthier note, I had planned to write simple tips for eating and living better; but I think my dad, a smart and successful attorney (or as he likes to call himself, a country lawyer) was on to something when he told us to not procrastinate or put off til tomorrow what we can do today. In honor of my dad, I decided to write one tip a day, starting today– “5 Simple Do’s to Eat Better and Get (and Stay) Fit”– to celebrate the last days of December and the start of 2010.
Now I’m not a scrooge (I swear!) I know it’s holiday and vacation time for many, and the temptations are overwhelming and routines and schedules are different. But holidays, celebrations, weekends, and other challenging times are just part of the fabric of our lives. To live a healthier life and be successful at long-term weight management, we need to treat ourselves well–or at least better than we typically do–each and every day (or at the very least, on most days).
I hope my Simple Diet Do’s inspire you to get a jump start on changing your food and fitness behaviors one step at a time. It is my hope that applying these tips to your life will help you not only be healthier, but that they’ll pay you dividends in 2010 and beyond.
Diet Do #1: Eat Only When You’re Hungry
Hunger is a basic sensation that drives us to eat; it’s shaped by a variety of factors including our genetic makeup and the environment to which we’re exposed throughout our lives. Appetite is a mental desire for food and may have nothing to do with hunger; the sight or smell of tempting food can boost appetite and lead us to eat when we’re not hungry.
If you’re overweight and want to take a few pounds off, or if you’re an emotional eater, learning to eat only when you’re hungry (and not in response to visual or olfactory cues or when feeling stressed) can help you eat less, curb your calorie intake, and lose some weight.
So the next time you eat, ask yourself “Am I really hungry?” before you dive into the meal or snack. If the answer is no, wait a bit longer before you eat. If you can work a little longer, run errands, or do something else that doesn’t involve food until you truly feel hungry (but not ravenous), great. I realize this is easier said and done, and sometimes because of your school or work schedule you don’t always have control over your time (especially your meal times). So if you’re at work or school and only have breaks at certain times and know if you don’t eat when you have the chance you’ll end up starving (and overeating) several hours later, have something to eat, but keep the portion small (for example, have a small snack like a low fat yogurt and/or some nuts, or have only half of your lunch like 1/2 sandwich).
If you know you’re not hungry, but for one reason or another the sight, smell or thought of food makes you feel like it’s calling your name (perhaps you’re used to eating at certain times every day, whether you’re hungry or not), try to get yourself out of the habit of eating by the clock or in certain situations by arming yourself with distractions: you can take a brisk walk, listen to music, write an email or text, knit, or simply call a friend. At the very least, you can sip on some water or seltzer, chew a piece of gum, or suck on a strong mint or breath strip. You may find that over time, you break the habit of eating when you’re not hungry; when you do eat, you’ll probably end up enjoying it even more and feeling more satisfied when you’re finished; I know I do!
Tomorrow: we go on portion patrol!
For more information, please see my web site, nutritionatyourfingertips.com.
Nutritionist Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN is a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of the new book “Nutrition At your Fingertips," as well as Feed Your Family Right” and “So, What Can I Eat?” She is a registered dietitian and certified nutritionist who has counseled families and individuals on managing their weight and various health conditions, from diabetes to high cholesterol. She has appeared on CBS’s The Early Show, The Today Show, and on dozens of other national and local programs on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, Food Network, Lifetime, and NY1. www.elisazied.com
For more information on her book, go to www.nutritionatyourfingertips.com