Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Best, Easiest, and Most Sustainable Diet Tip

I'm replaying this one....

At some point in every meal you've ever eaten, the following mental question has arisen:
"Do I want to eat some more?"
It's always asked quietly - so quietly that it may not consciously register. And our reaction is, nearly always, to shrug and eat a few more bites. What the hell!

Here's the thing:

1. No one in the history of the human race has ever asked themselves this question while still hungry. Genuinely hungry people just eat! The fact that you're asking means that you have, in fact, eaten enough!

2. The gratuitous few bites you take after this point will probably add 10-20% more calories to your meal. And most of us are 10-20% overweight, so these are the marginal calories that make us marginally overweight. So drop your fork!

3. This "marginal eating" is the least satisfying part. After all, you're no longer hungry! It's tough to give up pizza, or to go hungry, or to eat only protein, or make other sharp changes to dining habits, which are deeply engrained and tie in with feelings of well-being. But marginal eating is just an afterthought. It's the easiest sacrifice to make.

4. Marginal eating is what makes you feel weighed-down after meals. If you stop eating as soon as you ask The Question, you'll feel better afterwards.

5. Once you learn to drop your fork when you hear The Question, you'll begin to notice that eating the "just right" amount makes you feel great. At that point, when you hear The Question, it will be welcomed. It's not austerity, it's adequacy.

6. As you fall into this habit, The Question starts edging back, and appearing earlier in your meals. You'll find that you've been eating much more than necessary to feel satisfied. And eating the "just right" amount feels, well, just right. Once you start feeling good after meals (it helps to also balance fat/carb/protein, and to never starve), that feeling becomes a new powerful crave. Häagen-Dazs loses some of its allure once you're addicted to feeling clear-headed and energetic.

7. This is a long-term viable behavior. It's not a misery to endure while dieting and then throw away once you've lost the weight. And so, unlike most dieting strategies, it won't lead to endless cycles of weight loss and weight gain.

8. A tip: if you feel you're having trouble "hearing" the question, that means you're there, right now. Listening for it is the same as having heard it. Truly hungry people never consider these things. Drop your fork!

That's the gist. The following is just optional commentary:

This tip resembles a few others you've heard - some ad infinitum. But those others either don't work or are inane. "Always leave food on the plate" is ridiculous; it hinges, of course, on how much food was there in the first place! And setting any arbitrary portion limit will leave you hungry, and hunger-based dieting always backfires (because 1. it triggers fundamental psycho/physiological processes, and 2. it's not long term viable). Simply following this tip ensures, inherently, that you'll never be hungry. It will tailor portion size to your body's needs at any particular moment. What could be better?

We have the notion that dieting involves discipline and deprivation. The "no-pain-no-gain" preconception is why dieting almost never works. The problems stem from a central miscalculation: the way we eat now is "normal", so in order to lose weight, we must do abnormal things. Naturally, we eventually return to "normal"...and get fat again.

So the only thing that makes sense is to create a sustainable "new normal". And this tip is your best bet. Not only is it a gentle way to recalibrate normality, it actually corrects a habitual abnormality in our eating (the result of mankind's current unusual condition of having extra food lying least in the developed world).

That said, the route of natural, sustainable, non-deprivational change is not the fastest way to lose weight. The faster you want to lose, the more abnormal and deprivational you'll need to go. But abnormal changes just snap back to an unhealthy normal. So consider making this much gentler change to your everyday eating, and see if it works for you.

1 comment:

Richard Stanford said...

The food rule that I made when I decided to lose weight (lost about 80 lbs overall) was pretty simple and very similar - I wouldn't eat "free food" (chips, breadsticks, etc) that I didn't order, and when the last bite of my entree was eaten I was done. I could eat chips with my enchiladas, but no more taking tortillas and turning the remaining beans/rice/sauce into three tacos after that last enchilada bite was finished.

It was pretty simple, easy to remember, required no math, and really helped me change my habits.

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