Have you tried diets, workout plans, calorie calculators-even natural health products or pills to lose weight? If so, you’re not alone. A whopping 80 percent of Canadian women want to lose weight and 58 percent feel pressure to be thin or shed pounds, according to a recent Ipsos Reid survey sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada. And with good reason: we know excess pounds can raise our risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and more. A scientific analysis published in a February 2008 issue of Lancet, for instance, linked excess body weight to 20 different types of cancer, including endometrial and gallbladder cancers. Fortunately, winning the battle of the bulge may be easier than you think. Just take it one meal at a time, with these research-tested tips in hand.
1. Enjoy a three-course breakfast-and a one-course dinner.
A UK study of 6,764 men and women aged 40 to 75 determined that those who ate the most calories at breakfast gained the least amount of weight, regardless of the total number of calories consumed during the rest of the day. Looks like breakie truly is the most important meal of the day!
2. Ask questions about all menu choices and toppings.
Just because one sandwich on the menu skinnies in at under eight grams of fat, that doesn’t mean they all do. We tend to apply a health halo to all menu items in restaurants that we consider healthier, such as Subway, says Dr. Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (Bantam). “Dressings, condiments, mayo – they all add up,” he adds.
3. Drop the salt shaker.
University of Helsinki researchers speculate that the increase in salt intake in the U.S.- a rise of approximately 55 percent from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s-may be behind the North American obesity trend. Their rationale: salt-induced thirst leads us to quaff down more sweetened beverages. Slake that dry throat with water or unsweetened drinks and go easy on the salt instead.
4. Stop guesstimating the calories of your entire meal.
You’re more likely to make an accurate calorie tally if you judge your individual meal components and then add them up mentally. Dr. Wansink’s frightening advice for accuracy? “Take your estimate and double it.”
5. Savour more whole grains.
Filling fiber in whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice and whole-wheat bread is not only linked to lower weights, it can also reduce belly fat and blood-vessel inflammation that boosts the risk of heart disease, according to a 2008 Pennsylvania State University study.
6. Keep the evidence.
Whether you’re whisking away plates between courses or tossing candy wrappers away as you nibble, the effect is the same: you eat more. Wansink’s research found that people ate less when surrounded by the spoils.
7. Balance calories burned and eaten.
Kudos to you for hitting the gym several times a week. But 30 minutes of cardio isn’t a free pass to the all-you-can-eat buffet. According to a 2007 International Food Information Council Foundation survey, only 10 percent of Americans knew the number of calories they should consume each day and only 44 percent balanced diet and physical activity. (59 percent of Canadian adults are overweight or obese, so don’t feel too smug.) Consider investing in a smart gadget such as a calorie tracking watch to keep track of energy consumed and burned.
8. Forget extreme diets.
Bodies react to quick weight loss by burning calories less efficiently and storing them as fat more readily, say the Dietitians of Canada. Overly restrictive diets can also trigger food cravings that contribute to weight rebound. Any eating plan that promises you’ll lose more than one to two pounds a week without exercise is probably not sustainable.
9. Curb your gourmet tendencies.
You wouldn’t dream of ordering a club sandwich with fries, but a Tuscan chicken wrap with red-pepper aioli? Yes, please! Posh-sounding adjectives can sway you into choosing more indulgent foods, and then eating more of them, says Dr. Wansink. When it comes to eating, remember that expensive-sounding meals are often rich in calories!
10. Invest in a registered dietitian.
You may benefit, even if you’re a nutrition know-it-all. You see, a small University of Minnesota study found that participants who took weekly classes with an RD dropped more pounds than participants who did weigh-ins alone. Use the Dietitians of Canada’s searchable database to find a local professional to help you create customized healthy eating menus, safe weight-loss strategies and more.
11. Turn off the tube.
We all want to know what happens next on CSI. But a study from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that people who spent four hours or more daily on screen time (TV or computer) were more likely to regain excess weight. So, get off the couch and get moving!