Around this time of year, people start re-evaluating their New Year’s resolutions. They either are still on track and feeling great or they’ve lost their resolve and are feeling frustrated and defeated.
One of the common goals set at the beginning of the year is around weight loss. As a yoga teacher, I get questions about yoga’s effectiveness for weight loss. People want to know how many calories they’ll burn, is hot yoga more effective for weight loss than unheated yoga or how many times per week do you need to do yoga to lose weight. I usually say something like this:
“Yoga, done regularly can be an effective tool for managing your weight. If you can get to a studio class three times per week and supplement that with 20 to 30 minutes at home on the other days or use these alternate days for pure cardiovascular exercise (plus one rest day), this can be a solid path to controlling or losing weight (you need to be eating healthy, too).”
Today’s focus will be on things you can do to bring more awareness and health to what you eat. Eating better, while it’s a great start, is only one piece of the puzzle. But it’s a huge piece and something that, if ignored, weight loss can’t happen (even if you’re running miles a day).
Take a look at these tips:
1. Build your daily meals on the “one hand” approach (five times). Eat three main meals a day and supplement with two snacks. This is a simple way to remember your eating “events” and decrease your caloric intake. Once you’ve committed to this “one hand” approach, start to look at what it is you’re eating during these five meals, where and how. It’s not enough to limit your meals; it’s also important to eat healthy foods that will sustain you and eat them with mindfulness so you enjoy them and can register a feeling of fullness.
2. Your five eating events should include three main meals. We’ll call these breakfast, lunch and dinner, but that doesn’t mean you need to eat them at those times. These three main meals will keep your blood sugar at a reasonable level, provide you with nutrition and energy to get through the day and keep cravings down. These main meals should include a mix of lean protein (chicken, fish, beans, lentils) carbohydrates (fruit, veggies and whole grains) and fat (less fat and healthy fats, like olive oil, nuts, fish and avocado).
3. Limit your bread intake, eliminate it or replace thick bread with healthy alternatives. Chunky bagels, crusty bread with meals and rolls with your soup all add enjoyment and heartiness to a meal, especially in the winter. But bread can be empty calories and can serve to fill you up but with unhealthy calories. Replace your grilled cheese at lunch with a salad with lean protein, replace your breakfast bagel with whole grain bread with egg and cheese (no fatty meat) and use pita bread with your pasta versus crunch Italian. These little changes can decrease calories with little loss of enjoyment.
4. Use one of your two snacks as a midday eating event. We all get that craving around 3 pm. Instead of reaching for a pack of cookies from the vending machine or going to Dunkin' Donuts for a fattening drink topped with whipped cream, go for something healthy but filling. Things like peanut butter on crackers, nuts and dried cranberries or a healthy fruit and nut bar can satisfy without the unwanted calories.
5. Use the second of your snacks for something sweet. I’m a big fan of dessert and firmly believe that you need to keep at least one thing sweet in your diet to satisfy that craving. Two cookies with tea usually does the trick for me at night or a handful of gummy bears can satisfy the urge as well. If you want something warm, bake an apple and top with non-dairy whipped cream.
6. Make eating an event. We’re all masters at multi-tasking and eating while doing other things, such as driving, typing or talking on the phone. But this shifts the focus from eating for health to eating for fuel only and in fact, we often don’t register when we’re full anyway because we’re not focused on the sensations in our body. When you eat, do nothing else. Notice the taste, texture and sensation. Say a word of thanks in your head for the meal. Eat to fullness only, even if that means you have leftovers.
7. Use smaller plates and cups. Portion sizes are out of control in this country. The average restaurant serving size for one course is enough for two people. When you cook at home, use a smaller plate versus a dinner-sized plate. When you eat out, order tapas or two smaller plates versus an entrée. When you go to your favorite morning coffee spot, pick a small size drink.
8. Have a healthy strategy for grocery shopping. My local grocery store recently closed and I’ve been forced to shop at a large, traditional grocery. The amount of processed food in large quantities and the way the grocery store layout literally assaults you, as the consumer, is overwhelming. If you simply go in without a plan, chances are you’ll overspend and overeat when you get home. I stick to the outside of the store primarily, a well-known trick that allows you to buy fresh food. I also stay away from anything packaged except for healthy items like nuts, tuna or healthy breads. I don’t buy any soda except for seltzer and avoid all frozen foods, except for healthy options. This may not be your strategy but have one that works for you.
9. Eliminate soda. Soda is another example of empty calories. There’s no nutritional value. Replace soda with seltzer or sparkling water with fresh lemon squeezed in. Save the calories for a glass of red wine with dinner.
10. Stop for five seconds before compulsive eating and note how you feel. One of the best ways to avoid unhealthy eating is to the five-second rule. Before you eat that slice of cake, box of cookies or work your way through a tub of ice cream, stop for five seconds and take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself what you really need. If you decide you’d like to eat whatever it is, at least the time you took will help you approach it with a little more awareness.
There are many other things you can do to improve the health of your nutrition. For more tips on nutrition, yoga and mindfulness techniques, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.