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SALT LAKE CITY — If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Fad diets are no exception: Diets don’t work. They’re short-lived, unrealistic, not sustainable and damaging to self-confidence. Diets don’t help you learn why you were overeating in the first place. They may work in the short term, but diets hardly ever have lasting positive results.
So, what do you do if you want to lose weight but you don’t want to diet?
I always recommend evaluating your motives for weight loss. Do you want to lose weight for health reasons, to feel better, to fit in, to gain a sense of self-confidence? Examine your thinking and make sure you feel good about your reasons for wanting to lose weight. Ensure those reasons are in line with the person you want to be.
Once you’ve taken some time to confirm you’re in the right mental space for weight loss, start applying healthy lifestyle changes into your daily routine.
Here are some of the top tips for a mentally and physically healthy weight loss journey. Keep in mind: Not every tip will work for every person so find a few that might make a difference for you and start there.
1. Focus on whole foods. Unprocessed foods that have one ingredient should comprise the majority of your diet. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats, beans, nuts, seeds, oils, etc.
2. Break up your sitting with brief walks. Aim to walk for at least five minutes every two hours. Sitting for long periods has been shown to be a risk factor for various chronic diseases so get up and move throughout your day.
3. Drink water. Ditch the soda and choose water instead. If you’re not a huge water drinker yet, try slicing some cucumber, squeezing lemons or putting fresh fruit in your water to flavor it and to make it a little extra refreshing.
4. Ask yourself if you’re really hungry before you eat. Get in the habit of pausing briefly before you eat to really understand if you’re hungry, bored, tired, stressed, anxious or some other emotion. If you’re not truly hungry, identify the emotion you’re feeling and do your best to engage in an activity that will be helpful for that emotion and not using food as the cure-all for every emotion.
5. Recognize when you’re feeling satisfied and stop. Learn the art of recognizing fullness. Practice this by paying attention as you eat to what sensations your body is experiencing. Do you notice you take a deep breath when you’re satisfied? Or do you notice you feel too full 15-20 minutes after you stop eating? Start paying attention and adjust portion sizes as you need.
6. Cultivate a sense of awe and love for your body.Body positivity is extremely important in the overall picture of our health. There’s a growing body of evidence that feeling bad about our bodies may actually be worse for our health than being overweight. Take an honest look at what your self-talk looks like and if you’re struggling in that way, start working on developing a healthier self-image and internal dialogue.
7. Plan your dinners for the week and have wholesome foods to choose from at home. Healthy eating is much more likely if you plan and shop and bring those wholesome foods into your home. Spend one day each week planning and shopping for foods and notice the difference it makes in your eating choices throughout the week.
8. Write down what you eat. The act of writing down what you eat can be a powerful impetus to making healthier choices with food. For many, this is an important early step to create some awareness about the what, when, why and how much of eating.
9. Watch one less hour of TV per day. Choose to unwind with a book, sit outside, connect with your spouse or a friend, or perhaps to plan and prep food for the next day.
10. Take (or make) a phone call on a walk. Are there ever times at work or at home where you know you’ll be on the phone for a while so you get up and start walking? Use that time to kill two birds with one stone and move your body.
11. Opt for active family and social gatherings. If you’re ever in charge of coming up with the activity for a family gathering, suggest a hike, a game of kickball, a relay race, a bike ride or anything that’s active and fun for everyone.
12. Serve your plate at the counter/stove instead of on the table. This helps you avoid those times where you might not really need more food but you end up eating it because it’s right in front of you. Requiring yourself to get up from the table, go into the kitchen and serve yourself more food can be enough of a barrier to cause you to ask yourself if you’re really hungry for more or just bored.
13. Eat at home more often. Restaurants are fun and eating out can be a real treat. But we all know we typically make better choices when we eat at home. Make eating away from home an exception and notice how your eating improves.
14. Fill half your plate with vegetables. Vegetables are full of fiber and water which help you feel full without the density of calories of some other foods. They also offer vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and more that are essential for health and vitality.
15. Eat the whole fruit instead of drinking juice. If there’s ever a choice to eat an orange or drink orange juice, opt for the whole fruit. While juice tastes great, it doesn’t contain the same fiber content as the whole fruit and it can be easy to overdo juice as well.
16. Eat at the table. Ditch the distractions and eat your food at the table. I’ve seen people have great successes on the scale just from avoiding eating at their desk, in the car, in front of the TV or at the counter.
17. Put all the food you plan to eat on a plate. Instead of eating chips out of the bag, put them on your plate. Rather than mindlessly snacking on trail mix, portion it out on a plate ahead of time so you can evaluate the portion size. This can really help with mindless overeating.
18. Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals tends to lead to bad decisions later (i.e. you get hangry). Have a general window of when you eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and adjust portion size as necessary based on the amount of hunger you experience when it’s time to eat.
19. Grow a garden. Gardening is great for so many reasons. The task of gardening requires hard work outside (read: physical activity) and so many excuses to eat wonderful, fresh produce.
20. Practice mindful eating. Be mindful and present in the moment while you eat and avoid distractions. Pay attention to your senses and what your body is communicating as you eat.
Pick two or three that resonate with you and start there. Then, when those get easy, add a few more into your routine. This is how lasting behavior change happens.
Use this list to help you get started. Take a look at the things you can improve on and start small and simple. Feel free to share your successes or to list more ideas in the comments for nondieting healthy lifestyle changes.