The secret of successful weight loss is the creation of habits that help - not hinder - you achieve your weight loss goals. Motivation may get you started, but it's habits that keeps you going. If you always bolt a meal down as if it were your last, that's a habit that sets you up to overeat more than you probably need. Doesn't matter whether it's low-kilojoule salad or high-fat tiramisu, eating fast is not a habit to cultivate (another good reason not to buy fast food which is often eaten fast).
Habits, not diets
Below are 10 of the most helpful, healthy weight loss habits you can cultivate:
1. Sit down to eat
Make yourself sit down, even if only for a cup of tea or an apple. This will force you to think twice about stopping to eat (are you really that hungry?) and you may find you cannot be bothered to stop. It will also help you register that you're actually eating. Most overeating is thoughtless eating like snacking while you're walking, picking at food while cooking or nibbling in front of the television. Concentrate on the food in front of you and enjoy every mouthful. Which brings me to the next point.
2. Eat slowly - eat for enjoyment
Don't rush. Eat slowly, enjoying each mouthful. Chew your food well and aim to be the last person (not the first) to finish. Try to stretch out your meal to 15 minutes to allow your stomach time to signal your brain's appetite centre that it's FULL (called the "eye-mouth gap"). Leave the table feeling satisfied but not full or bloated. This is a really healthy habit to cultivate.
3. No more mindless eating
Don't eat in front of the TV or computer screen and don't read while you eat. Separate your eating from other tasks. Psychologists say that the two habits become "linked" in the brain, causing an automatic hunger once you sit down to watch television, start work on the computer or start to read the paper. At work, if you can't leave your desk, clear a separate space and enjoy your lunch without doing work or surfing the net!
4. Don't upsize your portions
Eat small portions, regularly. Eating is thermogenic - which means it generates heat and energy and speeds up your metabolism. Small meals eaten often are a great way to keep your metabolism revving high and burning kilojoules! A great help in the weight loss stakes!
5. Don't serve your meals up at the table
Plate food in the kitchen. Try not to leave serving platters or dishes on the table - the temptation to have a second helping is often too hard to resist when it's only an arm's length away. And having second helpings can become a habit too. Better to cultivate the healthy eating habits that will lead to healthy weight loss and leave the serving dishes in the kitchen!
6. Never nibble while cooking
Nibbling or tasting as you cook can quickly become automatic behaviour, so that you're not even aware of the additional kilojoules you're eating. Stop the habit fast by chewing sugarless gum (you won't feel like popping extra food in at the same time) or covering your mouth with a head band. (A band on the mouth can save centimetres on the hips!) Don't lick the beaters, spoon or bowl when you're cooking. Rinse them immediately with water to chase away temptation.
If possible, try to cook on a full stomach to reduce the temptation to nibble. Why not prepare part or all of your next meal after you have finished eating?
7. Planning is the key to healthy eating and healthy weight loss
Have something in the fridge or freezer that you can cook when you come home tired. If you're going out, take a salad box or sandwich with you so you don't have to buy fast food.
8. Make your fridge weight loss friendly
Don't fill up your fridge with tempting high-kilojoule foods that other family members can eat but you can't. You won't be able to stay strong and committed every time you open the fridge door! Fill your fridge with food to make your weight loss eating plan easy - low-fat milk, low-fat yoghurt, vegetables, salad ingredients, tomatoes, chilled water, cold meats, hard-boiled eggs. These add bulk for only a few kilojoules. Store leftover cooked veggies in the same way - they make nice nibbles.
9. You don't have to eat everything on your plate
You keep cleaning your plate simply because it's there! When you eat out, ask the waiter to put the rest in a doggie bag or share a dish with a friend.
Leave a little food on the plate to train yourself to judge you own food intake.
Remember to stop halfway through your meal and ask yourself: "Am I full now? Have I had enough?" Stopping eating when your stomach signals it's full is so hard to do but it's the secret of lifelong slimness and healthy weight loss.
10. Out of sight, out of mind and off the hips!
Keep high-temptation foods out of sight - in containers at the back of your cupboard or in the refrigerator. Don't leave bowls of sweets or nuts or biscuits around the house. The closer they are within reach, the more you're likely to nibble on them. Often the mere sight of food triggers your appetite and makes you feel like eating (not true body hunger*).
DOWNLOAD Catherine's free Hunger-Fullness Log to rate your stomach hunger and fullness.