A high-calorie nighttime snack can quickly undo a day’s worth of healthy eating. If late night snacking is sabotaging your effort to lose weight, consider making one or two small changes to reduce the temptation to eat after dinner.
Habit or hunger
It is important to determine whether you are snacking out of habit or hunger. If you eat an early dinner at 5:30 p.m., and you stay up until midnight, then you are probably experiencing true hunger around 9:30 p.m. Listen to your body and feed it when it's hungry. Choose healthy snacks that are just filling enough to take away the hunger. A low-fat yogurt or a cup of hot tea with toast and nut spread will usually do the trick.
If you finish dinner and are sitting in front of the TV an hour later with a bag of chips, then you are probably snacking out of habit. Habits can be difficult to break, but the good news is that you're not fighting physical hunger.
Close the kitchen
Clean up the dinner dishes immediately following your meal. With a clean kitchen, you are less likely to dirty a dish for your snack. Once the kitchen is spick-and-span, turn off the lights and close the kitchen for the night. If there is no door on your kitchen, put a chair in the middle of the walkway or in front of the refrigerator or food pantry. Make a sign that says "Kitchen Open" on one side and "Kitchen Closed" on the other and hang it in a prominent place. Get creative with ideas that will remind you to stop and think before you begin snacking, which will help you break the habit.
Create a nighttime ritual
Once the kitchen is closed, head to the bathroom and brush and floss your teeth. This age-old tip works very well because it signals that eating is done for the day.
Snacking most often occurs while you are standing in the kitchen, sitting in front of a screen, or driving in the car. It's hard to listen to your internal body cues when you're multitasking. Always sit down at the table and eat mindfully when you have a meal or a snack. Once you do this, mindless snacking will feel foreign.
Change your schedule
Shake up your nightly routine for a while until your urge to snack at night lessens. If you simply can't resist snacking while watching TV, you may need to replace your TV watching for a few weeks with something that is not associated with snacking. Pull out a card game, walk the dog, engage in meditation, or call a friend. It may be the perfect way to gain a new hobby or revisit old hobbies. Once you develop a new routine, you will be less likely to snack out of habit.
Whether you are just starting out or you’re only a few pounds from your ideal weight, it’s easy for distractions to steal your focus. Here are 9 ways to stay motivated, overcome challenges, and reach your weight loss goal.
Save the date.
Keep a calendar specifically for listing milestones in your journey towards fitness. For example, the morning you ignored the donuts in the breakroom, the day your weight finally dropped into the 100’s, and the the evening you made it through every lunge in exercise class -- these small achievements deserve recognition. Circle the date and write a description of your success. This calendar will remind you how far you have come in both weight loss and self-improvement.
Keep your stats in a prominent place.
As you start your journey to fitness, track more than just your weight. Track inches lost around your waist, body fat percentage, blood pressure levels, miles you’ve walked, or new healthy foods you’ve added to your meals. Write them down and post them in a spot you will see frequently. Any change for better health is something to be proud of.
Pictures are an easy and powerful way to track how far you’ve come. Take before photos, and then take photos again at regular intervals, such as every 3 months. Hang these photos on the fridge, or make a scrapbook that you can flip through regularly. Seeing your progress is the perfect motivator to skip an unhealthy dessert, or to grab your shoes and get to the gym!
Keep a journal.
Tracking food intake is essential for weight loss, but don’t let your journaling stop there. Writing down thoughts and feelings forces you to pay attention to positive changes. If you do not take the time to assess progress, the small changes in physical, emotional and mental health go unnoticed. Personalize your journal to meet your own needs. Record what makes you happy, when you feel stressed, and things you are thankful for.
Make the weight a physical object.
A number on the scale is more motivating when it becomes something you can touch and feel. Find an object that represents the weight you will lose, and the weight you’ve already lost, whether it is 3, 25, or 50 pounds. It may be a bag of food from the pantry, a dumbbell, a medicine ball or a combination of all three. Pick it up periodically, feel the magnitude of this weight and how it slows you down. This exercise should not cause you to beat yourself up over the weight that you need to lose. The purpose is to remind you of what your body is dealing with on a daily basis, and the huge difference in how you feel as the weight begins to come off.
Try on old clothes.
As your body begins to change, your first thought may be to celebrate by getting rid of all the clothes that no longer fit. Keep a few around, and try on old favorites as you get close to your goal weight. Notice how they feel, and how your body has changed for the better.
Test your fitness.
It is great to have long-term fitness goals such as running a half marathon or completing a triathlon, but smaller goals can be just as effective at showing your progress. Maybe you can now do 10 standard push-ups instead of doing them with bent knees. When starting your exercise plan, test how many repetitions of push-ups, crunches, and lunges you can complete. Every few weeks, test yourself and see how many more you can do as your fitness improves.
Try one new thing each week.
Pick one new thing to try each week that supports your new healthy lifestyle. It may be eating a new vegetable, wearing a new piece of clothing, or trying a new leg exercise at the gym. Be adventurous and choose something you never considered in the past. Adding something fresh and exciting to a plan that has become monotonous will provide motivation.
Make sure that your weight loss goal is flexible. Ideal weight recommendations are simply that - recommendations. You may find that after losing 15 pounds you feel strong, lean and energetic and that further weight loss results in weakness and hunger. Listen to your body and trust the feedback that it provides. You will know when you reach a healthy weight that is right for you.
A successful weight loss program is like a recipe. Start with a few key ingredients as a base, add some others for taste and individuality, and you end up with a winning formula for success.
A usual course of events that lead to failure in permanent weight loss goes something like this: You are gung ho and overly anxious to lose weight. You drastically cut calories below what the body needs to perform daily functions. The body attempts to balance out this deficit by decreasing metabolism - the rate at which the body uses calories.
The body is very resourceful when it is stressed, so it dips into its fuel reserves. Although these reserves include fat stores, the body views muscle as a good fuel source too. As the body uses its own muscle, thus decreasing lean body mass, metabolism further decreases. You lose interest in the restrictive diet and return to a typical eating pattern. However, this time around, since the body has less muscle mass and a lower metabolism, you actually gain weight and surpass the initial starting weight. This vicious diet cycle only leads to repeated failure.
There are two major ways to combat this no-win situation and put the odds back in your favor. One is to never drastically cut back on calories. It's like raising a red flag alerting the body of starvation. Calorie reduction should be slow and minimal - about 250 calories a day less than you're accustomed to consuming. Look back over your food journal and identify small areas that you can adjust to cut calories.
Exercise is the other key ingredient to outsmarting your body's defense against starvation. If you are actually using your muscles by engaging in exercise, your body will not regard them as a primary means of fuel. Using your muscles relays the signal to your body that you need them and that breaking them down for fuel to meet the needs of the rest of your body is not a good idea. In addition to maintaining or even increasing your muscle mass, exercise also gives your metabolism a jumpstart. This boost in metabolism extends beyond the exercise session and can help you burn even more calories.
If you use 250 calories a day by exercising, and decrease your caloric intake by approximately 250 calories a day, your total caloric deficit is 3500 calories for the week. This will result in a loss of one pound per week. The good news is that it's one pound of fat - not lean body tissue!
Losing weight slowly through small changes in your eating and exercise habits helps you to successfully keep it off long term.
Information about the role of exercise in weight loss is readily available, but few sources address what this means for those who are obese. If you get out of breath walking from the car to the front door, even the smallest amount of exercise can be overwhelming.
Where do I start?
You simply start at the beginning. Everyone has a different beginning and your only task is to identify yours. Start moving little by little, pushing a bit more each day. It's easy to fear the unknown and imagine the task of exercise as complicated and difficult, but there is no secret to exercise. Our bodies are designed to move. Involve your doctor in this process. He or she will know your health history and can tell you what may or may not be good for you at this stage in the process.
If you often sit for hours at a time, start by standing for 5 minutes every hour. Walk down the hallway and back. Once your body gets used to this amount of walking, increase the distance. You might also try 5-10 overhead arm-raises every hour. Any activity above what you're currently doing is an improvement and a step in the right direction.
How do I progress?
The key is to progress slowly by adding a bit more activity as you build up your fitness level. For example, when you feel stronger, add small hand weights (soup cans do the trick) while you do your overhead arm-raises. As your endurance increases, begin incorporating two 10-to-15 minute walks a day around the block. By gradually increasing your activity level, you can avoid injury while improving your health and losing weight.
What if I get discouraged?
Don't let the exercise fanatics of the world intimidate you! You are a beginner. Everyone starts somewhere. Start at your personal beginning and stay with it. You will be more fit tomorrow than you are today. Don't let your long term goals overwhelm you. Take one day at time, and if that's too much, take one hour at time. You'll be amazed at how quickly your body will respond to the training and how much healthier you will feel in a short time.
MyFoodDiary is designed to help you set attainable goals and focus on the importance of each day. If you string together one good day after another, you will reach your goals!
The number on the scale is not the only thing that will change after adopting healthier habits. Below is a list of 10 positive changes that reflect the benefits of weight loss.
Improved mood and attitude. Research shows that losing weight can improve your mood and decrease symptoms of depression. Better nutrition, higher self-esteem, and the benefits of exercise all contribute to an improved outlook on life.
Breathing easy. When you carry excess weight, your body must work harder. Walking and household chores may have quickly left you out of breath in the past. As your cardiovascular system becomes conditioned through regular exercise and your body weight decreases, fewer of your normal activities will leave you breathless.
Your piggy bank is full. Weight loss can save you money. Cutting out expensive, high-calorie coffee drinks and afternoon visits to the vending machine result in extra financial savings. Clothing will cost you less as you move away from plus sizes. Your health care costs can be dramatically reduced due to a strengthened immune system and a decreased risk of disease, which results in fewer treatments and medications.
Less jiggle in your middle (and everywhere else). Your body can become more toned and smaller without the numbers ever changing on the scale. You may notice there is now firm muscle where soft fat tissue used to be. Pay attention to how your clothing fits. You may need to tighten a notch in your belt before you see drastic weight loss in numbers.
Healthier body fat percentage. As you lose weight and gain muscle, your body fat percentage will decrease. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a body fat percentage of 10-22% for men and 20-32% for women for a reduced risk of obesity-related disease. Have your body fat accessed by a fitness or health professional to determine if you are within a healthy range, and reassess in three to six months as you lose weight and gain muscle.
Slimming circumference. According to the National Institutes of Health, waist circumference is a key indicator for health risk. Waist circumferences should not exceed 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women. Measure your waist circumference every few weeks to track your progress, but don’t stop there. Measure your thighs, upper arms, and chest as well. The circumference of these areas will decrease as you lose weight, and become more toned with muscle.
Canceled cravings. As you make eating healthier foods a habit, your tastes will change. Yes, you will always have a favorite indulgence, but over time you will become more selective on where you save and where you splurge calories. For example, you may splurge on chips or fries and not like how you feel afterward, which will reduce the likelihood that those cravings will creep up again.
You keep going and going. Not only does exercise give you energy to face your day-to-day life, but you will begin to notice your current routine getting easier and easier. This is because your body is becoming accustomed to the activity, and it needs to be challenged once again. Over time, you’ll find that you can exercise for longer periods and at higher intensity levels.
Positively painless. Extra weight adds stress to the lower back and knees that can result in pain. As the weight comes off, so does the stress on these parts of your body. You will notice that you can do more with less pain.
Sleeping like a baby. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep problems are common in overweight and obese adults. Research has shown that even as little as a 10% reduction in weight can improve sleep apnea in obese individuals. In addition, regular exercise improves sleep quality when performed at least three hours before bedtime. As you exercise more and lose weight, you will sleep better, and feel rested and energized in the morning.
MyFoodDiary can help you achieve these wonderful benefits and much more.