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Question of the Week: Small Changes Lead to Big Successes

Posted Jul 20 2011 9:23am


The following question was submitted for discussion on this week's blog post, "I was recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes and have had weight issues my entire life.  I cannot find a diet that I am able to stick with, it usually lasts 2 - 3 days if I am lucky and then back to old habits.  Any suggestions you can give me would be great!"

My first comment is that diets don't typically work.  Any success that a diet produces is on the short-term.  If you are looking for something that works for the long-term, you have to make a "lifestyle change".  Meaning small, achievable changes that will be able to keep for a lifetime.  Bottom line, small changes lead to big successes!

Secondly, it is important to realize that it takes approximately anywhere between 14-21 days to a negative behavior into a good habit.  Patience and perseverance is needed as these things do not happen overnight.  Many people get frustrated but they forget that the weight did not show up instantaneously -- so taking it off will not occur quickly either.

To help you start your journey - here are 12 quick changes you can make which will make a huge difference.  Start with one or two that you feel are truly achievable for you.  Once you master those switches, move on to the next one until you master that, and so on.

1.  Rethink Your Drink:  Think about all the beverages you consume in a day.  How many of them are caloric?  Are you drinking regular soda, juice,sports drinks, alcoholic beverages, or adding sugar or milk to coffee or tea.  Anything that passes your lips as a beverage counts towards your total caloric intake for the day.  You can easily lower that number by looking at beverages and making healthy swaps.  For example
  • Skip the regular soda -- if you must, switch to diet variety.  Better yet, find yourself a flavored seltzer water if the bubbles are necessary.
  • Skip the juices.  Although full of vitamins and minerals, they are also high in sugar(natural) and calories and lack the fiber.  4 oz is a serving of juice and most people drink more than that.  If you must take a splash (1oz) and dilute it with water for the flavor.  Better yet, take lemon, lime, or orange slices and put them in a tall glass of cold water for flavor.
  • Skip the extras in coffee and tea if you can.  If necessary switch to non-caloric sweeteners such as Equal, Splenda, etc. over sugar and bypass the sugar shots in cafe drinks.  Choose skim milk if you must.  Not used to skim?  Wean yourself off the full fat stuff by switching from whole to 2% to 1% to skim.  Try using 1/2 skim with 1/2 2% in the beginning to get used to it.  Skim Plus makes a delicious creamy skim milk that you could try.
2.  Veggies!  Maybe you have been skipping them because you are too tired or rushed to cut up your own veggies.  In addition to being full of important vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals with added health benefits, they are loaded with fiber to keep you fuller longer!  Many companies now manufacture bagged salads, cut veggies, and vegetable blends already prepared for you.  Many supermarkets have salad bars in them with all types of vegetables already prepared.  Now there is no excuse not to eat them.  Yes, they might be a little more expensive ready prepared in some instances, however all the more motivation for you to cut up your own.  Fill half your plate with vegetables and I guarantee you that you will feel fuller faster.

3. Bread.  Look for a whole grain variety (fiber of 4g/serving or more).  When possible make the switch to the sandwich thins.  Sandwich thins can  have only 100 calories.  Not able to switch right away, try eating your sandwich open-faced using only one slice of bread.  This will save you many calories.  Don't like an open faced sandwich, look for light varieties of bread that only have 40-60 calories per slice.

4.  Portion control.  Large portions at home and at restaurants is what gets alot of us in calorie trouble.  Keep measuring tools on hand to keep you in check.  After a while you will be able to actually "eyeball" your measurements without use of the tools.
  • When eating out, ask the waiter to bring a take home container with your meal.  Put half of it in the container before you even start.  Out of sight... out of mind.   Plus you have dinner/lunch for tomorrow.
  • Use smaller plates.  It is possible to fool your body into thinking you have a huge portion.  Personally, I use a salad plate for my meals and it really helps.  With a larger plate we have a tendency to want to fill every space.  Buy a set of ramekins which will hold about 4 oz.  Using them will help you with portion control with items such as rice, starches, or dessert type items. 
 5.  Have no time to work out?  Work out to the television.  Lie on the floor in front of the television and do sit ups, push ups, stretches, yoga poses, leg lifts, et al. during the show, and/or commercials.  If you have exercise equipment, situate it by the television and use it while you watch.  No need to be sedentary.  During one sitcom you would have completed 30 minutes of exercise.

 6.  Get a pedometer and wear it.  A pedometer is a tool that keeps track of the amount of steps you take over a period of time.  Strive for 10,000 steps daily.  Once you have mastered that, strive for more. A review of 26 studies covering 2700 participants found that wearing a pedometer increased activity by 27%.

7.  Swap sour cream and mayonnaise with 0% Greek yogurt.  Greek Yogurt has a similar consistency but is more nutrient dense with lots of protein and calcium and without the added fat or cholesterol.

8.  Dip, Don't Pour.  Order or serve salad dressings on the side and dip the tines of your fork in it as you eat your salad.  This way you will have a taste of the dressing with each bite of salad.  Choose oil and vinegar based dressings over creamy.  Try lemon juice or fresh fruit slices on top of the salad that will allow the juices to coat your salad for flavor.  Stop pouring the calories, fat, and sodium.

9.  H20!  Drinking at least 1 to 2 cups of water prior to a meal may help curb your appetite and your hunger.
Thirst is commonly disguised as hunger and by drinking water prior to a meal will help you determine if you are truly hungry.

10.  Eat slowly and chew each bite mindfully.  One obvious benefit to eating slowly is that you will get to savor each bite and enjoy the flavors and textures of the meal.   If you double the amount of time that it takes to eat your meal, you may even realize that you are full before finishing everything.

11.  Put the fork down!  Place your fork (or other eating utensil) down between bites of food.  This will help you slow down and allow time for you to digest your meal.

12.  Stop Before You Get Stuffed!  It takes your stomach approximately 20 minutes to signal your brain that you are full.  The process doesn't occur until your stomach begins to "stretch".   By slowing down your eating and following tips 10 and 11, you give your body a chance to let you know you are full instead of getting to the point of feeling sick.
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