It is particularly difficult right now, when many of us are stuck working from home (or not at all), to follow through on diet intentions. You're constantly within a few steps of the kitchen and it's easy to end up snacking all day in addition to eating larger main meals - packing in extra calories and gaining weight. Couple that with a lower activity level from not getting out of the house and you really have the deck stacked against your summer bod and general health goals.
Here are a few tricks that I've accumulated through years of wrestling in high school and just generally wanting to look and feel good. Most of them are super simple and they've helped me out a ton. I hope they help you too.
(Side note: NONE OF THIS IS MEDICAL ADVICE. Always consult a medical professional before starting a new diet or exercise plan - I am not a medical professional. Please consider this as for entertainment purposes only.)
1) Drink a large glass of ice cold water before you eat anything, every time.
You've probably heard this one before, but it makes a really big difference. Drinking a lot of water (of course, up to a certain point which most people will never reach) is generally good for you and helps you feel and perform better in almost everything. Drinking a large glass of water before you eat anything - even if it's just a snack - helps you get more water in throughout the day. It also helps fill your stomach up and make you feel more full before you start eating. Personally, the thing I love the most about drinking cold water on an empty stomach is the cooling effect of it spreading into your body and soothing the burn you feel when you're hungry. If you just don't like the taste (or lack thereof) of water, try mixing in some no-calorie or low-calorie sweeteners like Crystal Light.
2) Chew sugar-free gum.
This is another super simple one. Chewing gum helps by keeping flavor in your mouth and keep you from craving food, sure. But I think the biggest reason it helps is that most people have a general aversion to wasting things. If you have just put a stick of gum in, you're much less likely to grab a snack and waste your gum (at least I know I am). I know that if my gum is running out of flavor, all I need to do is make it until I can get a new piece in without snacking and I'm good to go. It's also a good opportunity to grab another glass of water between spitting out one piece of gum and grabbing another.
3) Allow yourself to eat as much of you want...
as long as you're eating whole, fresh foods. Seriously. I know that my activity level was sky-high, but in my junior and senior years of wrestling I rarely counted calories and they were my easiest years of weight management by far. All I focused on was just eating good, healthy, whole foods and completely cutting out the junk. That meant no pop, candy, ice cream, or anything in the 'junk' category whatsoever.
Unless a weigh-in was coming up, I would drink a ton of water and eat basically as much as I wanted to of generally 'good' foods. I really believe that just cutting out the junk that most people have on a daily basis would be life changing. I know that's much easier said than done, but if you know you can have as many fruits, vegetables, chicken, and other whole foods as you want until you're full, it makes things a lot easier. Just think of it more as a substitution than an elimination and it's a lot less daunting.
4) Get a cheap kitchen scale.
Most people (including myself) are unbelievably bad at estimating how much food they're actually consuming. After I bought a cheap little $10 kitchen scale, I was amazed at what a serving size actually is versus what I assumed it was. I think you'll probably find the same with yourself.
Using a kitchen scale at home really helps you become better at estimating serving sizes when you're not at home too. If you meal plan and pack your lunches, a $10 kitchen scale can take the guesswork completely out of your diet plan for every meal of the day.
This also reduces the chances of you thinking you're consuming a certain amount of calories, ACTUALLY consuming double that, and becoming discouraged and thinking that you have a 'slow metabolism' condition or something silly like that. While there are some uncommon factors that can make it more complicated than "calories in, calories out," it is much more often the case that it is really just that simple.
5) Eat slower.
It takes about 20-25 minutes for you to notice that you are actually full after eating. That means that if you're eating quickly, you may be full after 10 minutes but continue eating for another 10 minutes before you notice you were full after the first 10. All of a sudden, you've eaten twice as much as you actually needed to be satisfied. The simple solution is to generally eat slower, but more specifically there are a few things you can do.
First, you can pack your meals in two equal portions. Eat the first portion as quickly as you like and then stop. Wait 20-25 minutes and then if you're still hungry, you can eat the rest if you have time or on a break later. Another trick you can use it to physically put down the food and/or your utensils between bites while you chew. Force yourself to finish chewing and swallow your food before you even pick up your fork again (or your sandwich or whatever). You'll be surprised how much this slows you down and you might feel better after eating too.
6) Don't do it all at once.
Quitting a sugar or junk food addiction cold turkey probably isn't going to end well. Some people can do it, but you're almost certainly better off long term by phasing things out rather than stopping all at once.
Try just substituting a healthier food that you like for dessert to start out. Try fruit or even just a tasty granola bar instead of a candy bar. Swap out ice cream for frozen yogurt. Trade sugary cereal out for fruit, whole grain toast, or oats. Instead of getting something fried or breaded, try it grilled, baked, boiled, or steamed. Get skim milk instead of 2% or whole milk.
Take it slow and keep it manageable. Little changes compounded over time make a huge difference! If you ONLY swap out 2% milk for skim milk and you drink two cups of milk per day, you will have consumed 14,600 fewer calories per year - over 4 pounds worth of fat! String a few changes like that together and it could change your life.
7) Set proper expectations.
There are 3500 calories in one pound of fat. That means if you want to lose a pound of fat, you'll have to burn 3500 more calories than you consume in a given period of time. A good rule of thumb if you combine a calorie restricted diet with about 1 hour of moderate to intense exercise per day, you can probably shed about two pounds of fat per week. Anything more than that is likely just water weight unless your are extremely overweight and make extreme lifestyle changes.
You can get a reasonable estimate of how long it will take you to reach your weight loss goal by taking the number of pounds you would like to lose and dividing by two. This will give you the OPTIMISTIC estimate of how many weeks it will take you to get there. If you deviate from your diet or activity plan just keep in mind that it may take longer than intended, but if you adhere to your plan well you may reach your goals sooner.
The biggest thing to remember with diet and fitness in general is that NOTHING noticeable is going to happen overnight. You aren't going to lose 10 pounds this week even (unless it's water weight). It is going to take time, but not forever by any means.
At a rate of two pounds per week, you can lose about eight pounds per month or 100+ pounds per year! Think how badly you wish you had started even a month ago base don those numbers and let that drive you to start today. Just be patient and consistent. Keep in mind that even though you might not see it now, every day that you maintain your plan can be about one-third of a pound lost per day over time. It's not enough to notice in the mirror or possibly even on the scale, but it adds up to a lot over time. Just get a plan, do the work, stay consistent, and you'll get there!
If you're looking for a personalized estimate of what your diet should look like, download the free StrongFriends RPE Tracker Spreadsheet and go to the macro calculator tab to get a starting point. Just keep in mind that I am not a doctor, trainer, or medical professional of any kind and you should ALWAYS consult a medical professional before starting any new diet or exercise program. Any information provided by StrongFriends should be considered as for entertainment purposes only. It is NOT MEDICAL ADVICE.
Thanks for reading!