20 Tips for Achieving Optimal Weight and Healthy Eating

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I'm rounding out this trio of blogs on diet and weight management with the following 20 tips. Under each tip is a link to a supporting article or study.

1. If it's on your plate, you will eat it. Develop the habit of taking small portions. This is a variation on the notion that our 'eyes are bigger than our stomach' or rather, 'our eyes are bigger than we want our stomach to become'.

Bottomless Bowls: Why Visual Cues of Portion Size May Influence Intake: This study showed that we are poor judges of satiety and often rely on visual cues to signal when our hunger has been fulfilled rather than relying on what our stomachs actually tell us.

2: Don't eat mindlessly. Be attentive to the amount as well as the flavor of your food.
At the Movies: How External Cues and Perceived Taste Impact Consumption Volume: This study showed that packaging combined with the distraction of entertainment not only prevented people from judging how much they ate depending on amount, but also with little regard to flavor!

3.  Make a practice of NOT CLEANING YOUR PLATE, especially in restaurants.


Restaurant Portions Are Gargantuan: When you wish to eat a particular food, it is assumed you are eating one serving of that food. Most restaurants serve portions that really are for three or four people. When we see huge portions so often, they start to look normal.

4. In restaurants, ask for half the food to be wrapped to take home BEFORE it is
served to you.
See the tip and study above.

5. Keep a diet diary. Record whatever you eat and tally your calories before you go to bed each night. A combination of calorie accountability based on their unique point counting method and the scale forms the basis of Weight Watchers, arguably the most successful dieting method.

Losing Weight: Start by Counting Calories: Studies have shown that dieters who jot down everything they eat in a diet diary tend to eat less than those who don't keep a written record of their food intake. Bad eating habits are hard to break but the act of writing down everything eaten throughout day goes a long way towards allowing us to consider "Am I really hungry?" before putting that morsel of indulgence into your mouth. It also allows a health professional to evaluate whether in fact you are eating a 'healthy diet.' For the serious dieter, I recommend enrolling onto an online data program such as the one found on MyFoodDiary.com will compare what you are eating with a massive database of 65,000 foods, 850 brands and 250 restaurants, showing you all that you need. This will also help you to maintain strict records of the amount of calories you are eating each day.

6: Break up your weight-loss goals into small manageable units of pounds to be lost. Concentrate on losing one unit at a time.

Little Losses, Big Gains: Just the loss of 5% to 10% will relieve symptoms and complications related to being overweight. Don't intimidate yourself by thinking you have a huge amount of weight to lose. Instead, think of losing 8-10 pounds at a time. Just that small amount of weight lost is enough to make you feel much better.

7: The Nutrition Facts panel on your food is important. Learn how to read it here and be sure inspect it before you purchase or eat a particular food.

"Food Rules" author Michael Pollan offers some basic guidelines to purchasing food and a lot of it has to do with knowing how to navigate that Nutrition Facts label stuck on every package.

Beware of sugar and all its disguises. Learn to recognize it by its many names on the ingredient lists of your food. The ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup is a particularly problematic form of sugar, mostly because of the refinement processes used to make it. It is present in countless food products and is linked to obesity, allergies, and diabetes.

Finally, learn about good fats versus bad fats and how to identify them on the Nutrition Facts label. Don't cut out all fat but limit it in amount and use good quality, unsaturated fats and oils from nuts, avocado, canola, olive and sesame. These good fats and oils are all high in mono-unsaturated fat which have actually been shown to help in weight loss.

Polyunsaturated fats in the Omega 3 group of fatty acids are also needed in the diet. These lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and are found in salmon, flax, corn, safflower, sunflower, and fish oils.

Bad fats are saturated and found mainly in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs (which despite the fat content I consider one of the most perfect proteins) and seafood. Some plant foods such as coconut, palm and palm kernel oil are also high in saturated fat. It is claimed that this type of fat raises total LDL (bad cholesterol).

The seriously bad fats are trans fats. As hydrogenated fats, these were invented by scientists to prolong shelf life. Trans fatty acids are found in many commercially packaged foods including deep fried foods, microwave popcorn, vegetable shortening and margarine. These are known to be carcinogenic and are present in countless foods. As a general rule, don't eat anything that has "partially hydrogenated" or "hydrogenated" in its ingredient list, even if 0% trans fat is listed in its Nutrition Facts label. For more details on good and bad fats, read this.


8. Eat breakfast every morning.

Long-Term Weight Loss and Breakfast in Subjects in the National Weight Control Registry: This study showed that people who ate breakfast every morning lost weight and were better able to keep it off after losing than those who did not.

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Depending on whether we have adequate protein and other nutrients for breakfast, mitigates in a direct one-to-one ratio the amount of abnormal cravings we are likely to have throughout the day.

9. Turn the TV off , especially during meals.

Television Viewing and Long-Term Weight Maintenance:  People who spend less time in front of the TV are more likely to lose weight and keep it off.

Food provides two vitally important aspects to life: nutrition and satisfaction. A lack of satisfaction invariably leads to overeating. These days, the dinner table has been replaced by a seat in front of the TV. Besides all the other richness of life that is lost as a result of enjoying each other at mealtimes, our attention to our food is diverted to what is showing on the TV with the result that we unconsciously tend to eat more.

10: Eat at home as often as you can. Just preparing your own food is an effective treatment for most eating disorders.

Learn to cook. This is especially true for younger people today who have grown to rely on eating out. Some cultures believe as do I, that the subtle vibration that is imparted in the process of cooking is important not only nutritionally but for our psycho-spiritual wellbeing as well.

Association between Eating Patterns and Obesity in a Free-living US Adult Population: A study in Massachusetts of 500 adults over a year found that those with the highest risk of overweight and obesity were those who ate the most meals out. The study also evaluated the nutritional content of meals eaten at home versus those eaten away from home. Breakfasts and dinners eaten away from home were significantly higher in total calories, percentage of calories from total fat, and percentage of calories from saturated fat. Meanwhile, they were lower in their percentage of calories from protein, carbohydrate, and fiber.

11:  Buy a digital scale and a tape measure. Use them every morning.

Despite the occasional plateaus that can be discouraging as we work to lose weight, the act of weighing ourselves helps us to keep our focus.

12: Walk more!

Effects of the amount of exercise on body weight, body composition, and measures of central obesity: Even without diet changes, most people can lose weight if they walk at least 30 minutes a day.

As with other changes start with small ones such as taking the stairs as opposed t the elevator, walking to the grocery store instead of driving, parking your car as far from your destination as possible. If you use public transportation, get off a stop earlier than your usual stop and walk the rest of the way.

13: Chew your food well and eat slowly.

Eating Slowly Makes You Feel Full: This goes along with the limiting the many distractions while we are eating. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island fed a group of women some pasta. Half of the women were instructed to eat very slowly and half were told to eat quickly. When the eaters were interviewed after the meal, the fast eaters had eaten more calories and did not feel full. The slow eaters ate less, and felt full.

14:  Stick to a boring menu. Eliminate choices, and stay away from buffets.

The Influence of Assortment Structure on Perceived Variety and Consumption Quantities: Six kinds of jelly beans versus one? Where there appears to be more variety of the same kind of food, people eat more.

We need to achieve a balance between 'living to eat and eating to live.' Too many choices of foods, eating too many different foods overstimulates our senses so that we tend to always look at food and eating as the main event in our lives. One of the most effective ways we use to help people regain their health and lose unwanted pounds is a mono diet based on eating only brown basmati rice and split yellow mung beans in an East Indian dish called kicharee (scroll down for the recipe).

15: Eat alone when possible. Limit your social eating to a few friends. Meet with larger groups of friends while walking, or in a non-food environment.

Environmental Factors That Increase the Food Intake and Consumption Volume of Unknowing Consumers: Many people tend to eat more when they are in a relaxed setting with friends as opposed to eating alone.

16: Serve yourself dinner on a salad-sized plate. Use smaller sized spoons, too. Your portions will look larger and you will eat less.

Unit Bias: A New Heuristic That Helps Explain the Effect of Portion Size on Food Intake: Scientists have found that people eat as much as what one serving appears to be (whether large or small), regardless of hunger.

17. If you have kids, limit their fatty foods and junk foods marketed specifically to their age group. Buy food that is good for you, it'll be good for them, too.

Adult Fat Intake Associated with the Presence of Children in Households: Findings from NHANES III: This study found that adults living in families with children ate far more fatty foods than adults living alone or with only other adults.

18: Don't just exercise to lose weight. Take up a sport or some physical activity that you enjoy doing.

Go Figure? Body-Shape Motives are Associated with Decreased Physical Activity Participation Among Midlife Women: This study found that women who had fun and stress relief as their main motivators for exercise led to increased physical activity.

19: Keep healthy foods accessible and visible. Don't buy and store unhealthy foods in your home or office, because you may eat more than you intend to.

The office candy dish: proximity's influence on estimated and actual consumption: Knowing that visibility and proximity can influence your estimation of how much you eat can be a useful tool in the battle to keep weight off.

20: Get at least seven hours of sleep every night.

Food is used by humans for many reasons, required nourishment, comfort but also for stimulation. When we eat, we momentarily stimulate our metabolism, which provides short-term energy for an exhausted body. Recognize when you are turning to food more for stimulation rather than for nourishment.

Leptin Levels Are Dependent on Sleep Duration: Relationships with Sympathovagal Balance, Carbohydrate Regulation, Cortisol, and Thyrotropin: While they are sleeping humans produce leptin, the hormone that signals the brain to let it know that it is full and it is time to stop eating. The sleep-deprived may produce less leptin, which leads to hunger and overeating.

Herbal Suggestions and Supplements

Planetary Herbal's Triphala Gold used regularly is the one single herbal formula that I would recommend daily not only because it helps achieve balanced detoxification without depleting the system of vital nutrients, but because it is the richest source of natural antioxidants.

In addition for any digestive disturbance, including bloat, gas, acid reflux and other conditions such as headache causes by poor digestion, 2 to 3 tablets of Planetary's Digestive Comfort seems to always bring relief.

Health and well-being is the foundation for everything, including success in worldly endeavors and spiritual pursuits. I hope these principles derived from my own experience and many other sources will help you to achieve a optimal health and well-being so you can attain your life's dreams and goals in this new year.

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