Mind how it goes: Seven ways to use your head to lose weight
April is here and summer's well on the way. But is there an easy way to shift those extra pounds? It's time to get mindful, insists Kate Whiting.
If you want to lose a little weight, the solution should be simple - calories in should be less than calories out, right?
But in reality, often we're not really aware of all the calories we're consuming, and stand bewildered on the scales wondering why we haven't managed to lose any weight, or why the figures keep creeping up.
If this sounds like you, it might be time to adopt a more mindful approach to eating. Here are a few handy hints to help you on your way.
START A FOOD DIARY
The best way to see exactly how much you're eating every day is to write it all down - and you have to be completely honest with yourself. The truth about your daily food consumption, in stark black and white, might shock you into eating fewer treats and snacks throughout the day, and help you see where you might be under-eating at mealtimes, leading to energy dips and more unhealthy binging or snacking later.
CONTROL YOUR PORTIONS
With food waste constantly in the news, it's easy to feel you have to eat everything on your plate. Generally speaking, portion sizes have ballooned in recent decades and we're often eating more than we actually need. So what if your plate was smaller? Try using a side plate when eating dinner, and you'll start cooking - and eating - less.
IT'S ALL ABOUT PREPARATION
Planning ahead, by buying a trolley full of greens (and other coloured veggies) and preparing healthy snacks at home to have throughout the day, will help ensure you stay on track. Protein and fibre will keep you feeling fuller for longer, so why not keep a jar of peanut butter handy to spread on Ryvita or oat cakes?
TAKE IT SLOWLY
When you're really hungry, the temptation is to wolf down your food without it even hitting the sides. But it's been proven that you end up eating more if you eat quickly, because your brain takes time to register that you're full (up to 20 minutes, according to the experts). Chew every bite carefully, put your fork down between mouthfuls, savour the flavours and have a sip of water every so often.
FOCUS ON FOOD
It's also tempting to plump down on the sofa with your bowl of pasta and chomp away in front of the TV. But if you concentrate on the simple pleasure of eating your meal, with no distractions, you'll feel more satisfied and less likely to want seconds. Eating is important and should be a pleasure, so give yourself the chance to really notice the tastes and textures by sitting down to eat at a table, or at least switching off the TV if you don't have a dining room.
TIME FOR CHANGE?
According to food psychologist and author of Slim By Design, Dr Brian Wansink, small tweaks in your home can help in the battle to beat the bulge. For example, he says placing fruit and vegetables on the top shelf in the fridge will encourage you to eat three times more of them. Pop the 'treat' foods in lower drawers - and you'll eat less of those.
DRINK FIRST, EAT LATER
It's common for people to confuse hunger with thirst, because the same part of your brain reads the signals for both. Generally speaking, most of us should be eating every three to four hours (unless there's a medical reason for eating more frequently, or if you're following a demanding training regime). If you feel hungry more frequently, try drinking a glass of water and seeing if that staves off hunger pangs for a while.