Take Stock of Your Behaviors and Stay at a Healthy Weight, Naturally


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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by Susan Burke March, MS, RD, LD/N, CDE

We live in a time of huge portions, cheap food, and timesaving technology. We're burning fewer calories, sitting for hours at our desks, in front of computers, and in traffic. It's so easy to overeat and even best intentions get in the way of getting regular activity. This isn't an American problem—there's even a term that's been coined to describe the world-wide explosion of obesity and weight-related type 2 diabetes—"diabetesity." With barely enough time for our families and friends, how is it possible to take charge of our foods and work in activity?

We can take it one meal at a time, one food at a time, and one walk at a time, and one day at a time. We can make choices that work for us.

When you see a thin person, do you assume that they are that way "naturally"? Or, are they making smart choices most of the time, every day, so that their weight control becomes second nature? People who make mindful eating second nature may appear naturally thin, but they're paying attention to what they're eating—and how much they're eating, and when. They usually stop eating when they're full, although there are times when they may overeat—that's natural too. They eat what they want—but how much they eat is usually just enough.

Thin doesn't come from having a "skinny gene." Almost always, a thin person practices thin behaviors. For example, they consistently monitor their weight—not necessarily by stepping on the scale—they may use their favorite jeans or skirt to keep track of their waist size. (Weight is just a number on the scale, and won't measure your fitness, for example, a muscular person can have an "overweight" BMI (body mass index) and be extremely fit—see a professional wrestler or active basketball player). When the thin person gains unwanted inches, they take steps to reclaim their physique, not by "dieting," but instead by cutting back and adding in; eat fewer servings of bread or pasta, eat more fruits and vegetables—and add more activity. It's not magic—just consistency, with activity.

Overeating is a habit, a learned behavior, and becomes ingrained and expected. Large portions become 'normal' and we are constantly reminded that the larger size is a "bargain"; that "upgrading" your order saves money, and that for just a few cents, your order can be a "biggie." "All you can eat" has become "eat all you can." Fast food eaters consistently underestimate large or super-sized meals by 500 calories. Do that just once a week and you'll gain almost eight pounds a year.

What does it take to gain a pound…or lose one?

Theoretically, consume an extra 3,500 calories per week to gain an extra pound of fat, usually landing on your hips or thighs or belly. It's all too easy to do, but by eating "mindfully" and deliberately making healthy choices, you too can make weight control second nature.

Smart Strategies for Weight Control
Don't add fat to your food.
Notice I didn't say don't eat fat, and I don't mean that "fat" is a bad food, but those extra fats that appear on the table—the tub of butter and olive oil for dipping bread—and sour cream on your baked potato each adds an extra 100 calories per scant level tablespoon—and no one uses a level tablespoon! Instead, substitute tomato salsa on that potato, and if the bread isn't good enough without butter, skip it. Save about 200 calories per meal—equivalent to about 8-10 pounds per year.

Cut out sweetened drinks. Period. That goes for sweet tea, lemonade, and even fruit juice too. It's the quickest way to get a lot of calories that I know—and it doesn't fill you up or satisfy your appetite, in fact, it may stimulate it. One 12-ounce soda has 150 calories. Substitute water, seltzer, and herbal teas. Opt for one or two diet beverages if you choose. In one year, reduce calories equivalent to 16 pounds.

Start right. Instead of sugary pastries or oily bran muffins, save hundreds of calories and get a better head start by choosing a high-fiber, low sugar cereal (like Kashi GoLean), nonfat milk, and a cup of berries. The calorie difference is huge! Save more than 200 calories daily, equivalent to 20 pounds weight loss yearly.

Snacking Strategies. Split your meals into smaller, more frequent meals, and lose weight automatically by not adding calories at all—you're just eating differently. This eating strategy helps keep you energized; since you're not hungry, it's easier to resist temptation.

Finger Foods. If it's advertised as not easily stopping at "just one" then you know it's going to add up. Shelled nuts are irresistible—and just one handful means more than 500, even 600 calories. Since nuts are very nutritious, high in protein, magnesium and vitamin E, and other essential nutrients, keep their clothes on, and only eat un-shelled nuts. A cup of peanuts in the shell has about 200 calories and you take longer to eat them. Save hundreds of calories and "earn" your snacks by shelling your own nuts.

Switch. Just switching from whole milk to nonfat saves about 60 calories per glass. Reduce calories equivalent to about 6 pounds a year. Each time you choose (and dairy is a good idea for most), choose a non-or low fat product. By age two, kids should be drinking and eating nonfat or 1% fat dairy. Choose low or nonfat versions of milk, sour cream, yogurt, and cheese. Low-fat buttermilk makes a good substitute for whole milk in many of your favorite recipes.

Registered and licensed dietitian Susan L. Burke, MS, CDE, is the author of "Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally," which offers a wealth of practical information, tips and strategies for people who are serious about taking control of their health, fad-free, for life.

Do you use any of these tips in your own life? Will you? Which is the most helpful to you?

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    I found this information quite informative. Thanks for posting! - 1/15/2010   11:50:40 AM
  • 76
    I've started using olive oil in every recipie that calls for butter, skim milk in recipies that call for milk, all I drink is water, I've started having 1 serving of cheerios for breakfast ever morning with skim milk. I've been trying to make my meals smaller and more frequent, I don't like nuts, for snacks I eat fruit! - 1/15/2010   11:40:26 AM
  • 75
    Tthanks for the good info. I do do atleast one of those tips. I'm going to try some of the others. - 1/15/2010   11:39:44 AM
  • 74
    Thanks Great Tips!!..;-) - 1/15/2010   11:32:23 AM
    Am I the only health-conscious person in the world who thinks that salsa on a potato is kind of gross? I do plan on applying some of the other bits of advice, though. - 1/15/2010   11:24:37 AM
  • 72
    Thanks for the article and tips. I use only two of these tips and now I have more to incorporate. - 1/15/2010   11:16:46 AM
  • MAGZ84
    Some very good info. I already practice some of these strategies, but it is always helpful to have it reinforced and to pick up additional advice. Thanks for the article. - 1/15/2010   11:00:59 AM
    Lots of common sense information that we like to ignore at times. - 1/15/2010   10:51:26 AM
    Good article with plenty of practical advice. - 1/15/2010   10:41:46 AM
  • 68
    The biggest value of this information is that in order to maintain the changes we make in our weight, we must change some of the bad habits we may have. There are no "bad" foods but eating handfuls of something mindlessly or eating an entire restaurant sized entree instead of eating just what it takes to satisfy is a surefire way to gain or regain weight. - 1/15/2010   10:30:42 AM
    Thanks for the info. - 1/15/2010   10:30:10 AM
  • 66
    I have certainly found that starting with one small change until it becomes a habit and then adding more makes it easy to get healthy. First, I started taking my vitamin every day. Then, I added flax to my oatmeal. Then I added a glass of water to breakfast. Now, my morning meal is just about perfect! - 1/15/2010   10:20:44 AM
    I have been trying to do this for the last 2 years. It has helped. - 1/15/2010   10:17:01 AM
  • 64
    Great read! Definitely added this to my favorites! - 1/15/2010   10:14:46 AM
  • 63
    I've incorporated many of these tips since joining SparkPeople - and it has helped me to not only lose 40 lbs, but also keep that weight off for two years. - 1/15/2010   10:10:00 AM
  • 62
    I was amazed at the amount of weight you could lose or gain by making such small changes. This blog was very helpful. I especially liked the sentence - "It's not magic—just consistency, with activity".
    Thank you for the information. - 1/15/2010   10:03:04 AM
  • 61
    Since I have been dieting all my life, I do use these tips, but I do not always stop when satisfied. Too much of a good thing can be bad. - 1/15/2010   9:58:47 AM
  • 60
    A good breakfast does make a huge difference for me. I eat less during the day and have small meals and I am satisfied throughout the entire day. Thanks for the advice. - 1/15/2010   9:27:06 AM
    I found the tips to be very helpful. Most of them I try to use daily already. - 1/15/2010   9:23:23 AM
  • 58
    I only cook what we're going to eat, other than veggies. Portion control is easy when there's nothing left to eat! I try to make extra veggies, though, and use those for my snack ghe next day. Then there's always something healthy to have! - 1/15/2010   9:12:24 AM
  • 57
    One of my best friends is thin and has been all her life even though she eats desserts, drinks specialty coffees, snacks, and enjoys desserts. In looking at how she eats, though, she only has a few bites of her desserts, she has healthy snacks, her food portions are very controlled, and she seems to be mindful and enjoys everything she consumes. The SparkPeople nutrition tracker has been a big help to me in controlling my portions. - 1/15/2010   9:08:27 AM
  • 56
    nice article and good information. most of it I do already. except I eat 3 meals a day and one snack. I also eat on a smaller plate so it looks like I have more. - 1/15/2010   8:51:54 AM
  • 55
    This blog kind of turned me off with the automatic association of "thin" with healthy. Someone who is thin does not automatic lead a healthy lifestyle. In fact, I would say most of the "thin" people I know do not lead healthy lifestyles whatsoever at all. My husband has always been thin, but eats potato chips almost everyday. Not exactly healthy. - 1/15/2010   8:41:56 AM
  • 54
    Common sense advice. Eat like a thin person and you will be a thin person. However, I don't agree with the 5-6 meals a day. For me that doesn't work. It makes me focus on food too much. Three meals a day works better for me. In the old days snacking was looked down upon and people were much thinner. The French and Chinese don't snack and they are much thinner. Maybe there's a connection? - 1/15/2010   8:36:17 AM
  • 53
    I believe there's a serious difference between how naturally thin people and the rest of us (fat or thin) eat. I semi-joke that my grandson (who's rail thin) eats "like a thin person." Sometimes he eats everything he can get his hands on, other times his younger sister eats more than he does.

    I do well when I eat cereal at least once a day (with nonfat milk, of course), but my food allergies make cereal not one of my better choices.

    Linda C - 1/15/2010   8:32:44 AM
  • 52
    This blog was very helpful to me - it's a good reminder to really stay alert when you are eating. - 1/15/2010   8:28:44 AM
  • ONTHEWAY2010
    I never thought about what a thin person does, but now looking at one particular person I know, they ate everything they wanted, but they did not go overboard on what they ate and were satisfied. I thought it was because the person was a man and had that skinny gene! Need to be mindful of what we are putting in our mouths. - 1/15/2010   8:20:31 AM
  • 50
    thanks for the great infomation! - 1/15/2010   7:37:30 AM
  • 49
    Very helpful information. Thank you. - 1/15/2010   7:36:40 AM
  • 48
    Thanks, great information! - 1/15/2010   7:01:01 AM
  • 47
    Great tips! - 1/15/2010   6:21:21 AM
    I found this really motivating - especially when you consider the potential yearly loss and see how it all adds up. I needed this today - thank you! :) - 1/15/2010   6:08:49 AM
    There's a lot of really good information int his blog that should be required reading for everyone! Thank you for sharing! - 1/15/2010   5:59:32 AM
  • 44
    I've learned the *hard way* to follow *MOST* of these tips: I drink nothing but water, black coffee in the morning and green tea in the afternoon. I've given up my nuts and nut butters except on rare occasions, no more pastries or baked ANYTHING, no more milk and snacking on non-starchy veggies throughout the day. The only one that still unravels my efforts at times is a slice of whole grain bread with more Olivio than I oughta have...but with the other compromises I've made this "offense" doesn't carry *TOO* much weight...lol!

    Great article which sums up many of the lifestyle changes I've made in my food choices!

    Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams - 1/15/2010   5:48:09 AM
  • 43
    Pretty east stuff. Small steps. I can do this. Thank you! - 1/15/2010   5:40:22 AM
  • 42
    Many things we think are obvious are left without our attention in the end, so structured tip lists like the above can be pretty useful. - 1/15/2010   5:20:29 AM
    Very good reading not only for myself but something that I will pass on to a friend and a couple of co-workers.Thanks for sharing this with us! - 1/15/2010   4:29:26 AM
  • 40
    Thanks for this well thought-out article, loaded with tips!
    I already drink 1% milk;thanks for the tip about avoiding fruit juice.
    I already get unshelled walnuts; perhaps, then, the peanuts-in-the-shell
    should be for me, and not just my squirrel friends in the park! - 1/15/2010   3:10:30 AM
  • 39
    I'm leaving for a cruise, Thanks for the great tips!!! - 1/15/2010   1:51:07 AM
  • 38
    A terrific article full of tips and information that I needed reminding of. I have never been considered overweight, but I am more comfortable when I weigh about ten pounds less. Hence, I am a Sparker and gradually getting to where I want to be. - 1/15/2010   1:34:24 AM
  • 37
    I think this is a great article, especially the tips. However, I do beg to differ that there are no naturally thin people. My best friend in school used to eat terribly...cocoa pebbles was her cereal of choice. She skipped meals, and the meals she ate were largely carbs with very little veg or fruit. She was underweight then and still is today. Oh, and she doesn't exercise either. So, if that is not naturally thin, I am not sure what is. I could elaborate, but I won't. I do think overall most have to work to be in good shape. - 1/15/2010   12:29:21 AM
  • 36
    No matter shape/size it's a lifetime commitment... lifestyle change... this article says it all in a nutshell... thanks for the tips! - 1/15/2010   12:03:20 AM
  • 35
    Portion control has been my number one goal since I started SP. Some great ideas here. I also saved this to my Favorites. - 1/14/2010   11:50:32 PM
  • 34
    The big portions are the part I think that get me. If it's on the plate you are supposed to finish it. I don't know where I learned that - it wasn't something that was taught that I remember. This year so far I am remembering. So far so good. - 1/14/2010   11:10:23 PM
    I always thought thin folks were just naturally thin. It's good to know we ALL have to work at it. - 1/14/2010   11:00:03 PM
    good info, added to favs - 1/14/2010   10:22:39 PM
  • 31
    great article! puts lots of things into perspective. i have added it to my favorites :) - 1/14/2010   9:37:54 PM
  • 30
    Thanks for the information... It is a great idea from a certified professional dietitian... Great and motivating... - 1/14/2010   9:17:19 PM
  • 29
    I could not agree more. I'm at a healthy BMI and, while most of my friends think I'm a naturally thin person, I've been an active member of Weight Watchers for over ten years and practice most of the tips given in the blog. When I start to get sloppy, I pull in the reins and get back to doing what I should be doing. - 1/14/2010   9:09:59 PM
  • 28
    Great advice! It's always good to read these blogs for inspiration and information. - 1/14/2010   8:38:32 PM

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