Every year brings with it a new raft of miraculous diets that promise to easily and quickly solve everyone’s weight problems, yet the rate of obesity continues to grow in epidemic proportions. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that almost 38% of adults over age 20 are obese, and 70% are considered overweight.
While most people hope to find a quick fix to their weight problem, there is considerable uncontroverted evidence that diets simply don’t work for losing weight and keeping it off. The success rate of diets is somewhere between 3-5%!
So How do Some People Succeed at Losing Weight and Keeping it Off? The Key is to Focus on Changing Why and How You Eat
If you are overweight, it is because you are eating more food than your body needs for fuel. The reason you’re doing that is likely because you eat for reasons other than hunger.
When I was 50 pounds heavier, I thought that I got the short straw in the weight department because I believed that I didn’t eat more than the slim people I knew. But I was in denial and so is almost every other overweight person who thinks that.
In so many ways, your body is amazing. When it comes to eating, it knows what it needs. You just have to listen to it. That’s why you have hunger signals: so you know when you need to fuel your body. The fact is that whenever you eat but aren’t hungry, your body doesn’t need the energy, and stores the calories as fat.
When we’re babies, we only want to eat when we’re hungry. We get hunger pangs, and we cry. But as we grow up, many of us stop associating eating with being hungry. We eat for all kinds of reasons having nothing to do with hunger. Reasons like “it’s morning, so it’s time to eat breakfast,” or “someone brought doughnuts to work,” or “we always eat popcorn in the movie theater,” despite having just finished dinner.
Maybe you eat because you’re having a bad day, or because your girlfriend dumped you or some other emotional, nonphysical reason. Emotional eating is one of the main reasons why people eat when they aren’t hungry.
Although it takes a lot of effort to learn how to stop emotional eating, it’s never too late to learn. After doing it my whole life, I stopped emotional eating when I was 55. Here’s a free 14-day Freedom from Emotional Eating challenge to get you started.
Tuning into Your Body’s Signals
To lose weight, you have to get back in touch with your hunger signals and learn to eat only because you’re hungry and to stop when you’re lightly full.
How can you tell when you’re lightly full?
When you’re uncomfortably full, you have obviously eaten too much. But how do you know when your body has had enough?
When you’re lightly full, you should feel comfortable, like you can take a fairly brisk walk afterward without getting a stitch in your side. You shouldn’t have to unbutton your waistband. In fact, you shouldn’t feel your stomach distended.
Think of your stomach like a deflated balloon. If you fill the balloon until it is full, but not stretching out of shape, that’s analogous to how your stomach should be when you stop eating. If you feel bloated or otherwise uncomfortable, it is likely that you ate too much.
The Secret to Losing Weight and Keeping it Off
How Should You Eat?
What about the “how?” I tell my clients that they can eat whatever their bodies want when they are hungry, as long as they eat without distractions. That means sitting down, preferably at a table. No reading email, checking social media, watching television or reading the newspaper. When you eat, just focus on eating. That way, you can notice yourself filling up.
As a weight loss coach for foodies, people tell me how they haven’t succeeded at dieting because they love food too much to be thin. Really? There are many professional chefs and food writers who are a healthy weight and they love food enough to make it their profession!
You can Love Food, Lose Weight and Keep it Off
You can love food, lose weight and keep it off, but only if you consistently eat without distractions. You eat because you love the taste, right? But how much of the food do you really taste if you’re multitasking and not paying attention and savoring every bite? How many times have you wolfed something down then wondered where it all went because you weren’t paying attention?
If you eat without distractions, you will definitely taste your food more. Consequently, you’ll be more likely to notice when your body has had enough before you’ve overeaten. You’ll also be satisfied with less food. You might even get bored with eating! When you have to choose between eating and doing something else, you’ll be surprised at how often you choose to do something else.
The satisfaction you get from eating without distractions means that your cravings will eventually disappear. Additionally, if you allow yourself to eat what you love instead of low carb or diet foods, nothing is off limits. Therefore, if a coworker brings doughnuts to work, you don’t have to eat them just because they’re there.
You know that when you’re really in the mood for one, you can eat one when you’re hungry. You can approach eating from a place of abundance instead of the scarcity mentality of chronic dieters. That’s why dieters don’t trust themselves around food. Deprivation is not a good strategy.
Learning how to stop overeating by eating mindfully is an essential skill if you want to lose* weight and keep it off. With this skill, you can eat the foods you love and avoid dieting. It just takes practice, like forming any new habit.
No one does it perfectly, so don’t get discouraged or give up if you mess up. Just keep working at it. Over time, the weight will come off and eating the right amount for your body will become your habit.
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