I hear from a lot of people that they do everything under the sun to try to lose weight and yet it still just doesn’t seem to be happening. They eat all the right foods, they go to the gym as often as possible, they seem to be getting a decent amount of sleep. But what did you eat in between all those angelic meals you had? What did you do when you went to the gym – were you sweating up a storm or talking to people and maybe grabbing a machine for a couple minutes?
It’s easy to miss the details. I know, for example, that I tend to eat a lot more when I’m eating with my husband. Or any guy 1.5x my size for that matter. I was recently on vacation with some girlfriends and when we went out to dinner I would find myself wanting so much more than they were eating. Frankly, I think I do tend to eat more than the average female adult, but I probably could do with a little less sometimes. The point is to pay attention to how much you’re eating, not how much your company is eating. When you are with someone who eats a lot more, ie your spouse who may be bigger than you are, you don’t need to eat as much as they do. Or when you go out to dinner with a bunch of people – alcohol gets mixed in and your portion sensors go haywire! Especially because the people around you indulge. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy the same food but just have a little less. You savor each bite just a little bit less and less after the first one anyway! At what point will you realize that you are going to enjoy the next bite that overstuffs you a lot less than the last one.
When you’re cooking, do you pay attention to what you add to the dish? An extra stick of butter might be overkill, but if you throw in a chunk here and a slice there, it seems like less. A pinch of salt may bring out the flavor, but several mindless pinches take over the dish. (If you’re drinking a glass of wine – or two or three – while cooking it’s especially easy to lose track.)
What about snacks? Do you reach for snacks during the day without thinking about it? You eat healthy meals but forget to pay attention to what happens in between? Maybe you think the food doesn’t count if you’re standing up or doing work at the same time? Or maybe you do reach for the healthy bag of mixed nuts – they’re raw and unsalted – but you keep reaching and reaching until you’ve eaten the whole bag? It’s a lot easier to keep your portions in check if you only give yourself the amount you want to eat. Take the nuts out of the bag, stick them in a little dish and close the bag before you start eating. Speed counts too – if you wolf them down, of course you aren’t going to be full after the 2.5 seconds it took to swallow them. Try to eat them slower and actually pay attention to what they taste like. Condiments too. You may be eating what seems like healthy fare, but sticking tons of sugary ketchup (catsup?) on it. Or oops, I’m eating farm-fresh vegetables but I accidentally deep fried them before they got to my mouth! Fresh produce is so delectable but it’s difficult to really taste it if it’s covered in who knows what. Pay attention to the amount and the flavors of the food you put in your mouth.
One thing I should note about portion size: do make sure you eat enough. Starving yourself is NOT going to help you lose weight, it’s only going to slow down your metabolism, give you less energy than you need and make you moody and irritable so nobody wants to hang out with you. Not only that, you generally reach a point where you realize you haven’t had enough food and suddenly you’re ravenous and have eaten everything in sight before you know what’s happened. Again it’s about paying attention. Your body will tell you when it’s still hungry. I don’t mean bored and wanting to munch on things, I mean genuinely hungry.
Exercise works the same way. You can do it reluctantly or you can do it well. You know what I’m talking about, you see those people at the gym who are really only there to socialize with the other people at the gym. The women in the locker room who look like they are getting ready to go out to a fancy dinner and then you realize they are in their workout clothes and they are actually beautifying themselves to go out on the gym floor. You know who you are! It’s fine if that’s what you want to do, but don’t tell me you are working out every day and can’t understand why you aren’t getting more fit. Muscle definition happens when you actually pick up the weight – and hopefully put as much effort and concentration as you possibly can into it! There are days when I just hop on a treadmill or run around the park with a thousand other things running through my mind – I think you need those workouts too. Part physical benefit, part mental. But I think you get so much more from exercise when you put your mind to it and really pay attention to what you’re doing. If you’re going to work out, do it well! PUSH yourself! Get the most from it! Maaaaaybe even enjoy it? Try new things! Pay attention to what they feel like, what parts of your body they work.
Do you remember what you just read? Did you pay attention? I challenge you to really notice your body next time you are exercising – how does each muscle feel and how hard are you really pushing yourself? Pay attention to your food and how much you really need to be satiated. Is the next bite really going to make you a happier person? Or is being satiated as opposed to over-stuffed going to make you feel better?