According to statistics, two out of three American adults are now overweight or obese, and the health effects are not very positive. We all know the common prescriptions for losing weight are: eat less, exercise more, and read food labels. This is good advice, but it doesn’t inspire anyone because it sounds like drudgery.
But what if you could trick yourself into losing weight? That’s a practical joke we’d all like to play on ourselves right?
By and large, we gain weight because we take in more calories than we burn. Unfortunately, it has become too easy to eat more than we need to maintain a healthy weight. Bigger is better these days; plates, portions, and packages are all heftier than they used to be. For the most part, we’re not aware that we’re consuming many more calories, so we eat up, clean the plate, empty the package, and pile on the pounds. And we may not be much better off cooking at home.
Many current popular cookbook editions contain recipes with larger servings and more caloires than those published in the past. But if you want to maintain a healthy weight, it is best that you cut recipe servings in half and put the other half in the freezer. In that way, you or guests can go back for seconds or thirds but can think twice about doing so. In this way, people eat about 30 percent less over the course of a long meal.
To save even more calories, set out tall, slender glasses for soda, juice, or alcohol and use your short, squat tumblers for water. We tend to pour more liquid into tumblers than into tall glasses that hold the same amount.
Calories consumed in liquids such as in sugary sodas, juices, and lemonade have another drawback: People compensate for them by doing without the same number of calories of solid food. “Liquid calories slip under the body-weight regulating system,” says Harvard University endocrinologist David Ludwig, M.D., director of the Optimal Weight for Life clinic at Children’s Hospital in Boston.
In an effort to save calories, many people switch from sugar-laden soft drinks to artificially sweetened ones. It’s a tactic that may not pay off. One study revealed an association between drinking artificially sweetened beverages and weight gain, and raised the question of whether these drinks might be fueling rather than fighting the obesity epidemic. It didn’t explain why this happened, and it may have been that men and women who were gaining weight switched to diet drinks.
Ludwig states that there has not yet been a long-term human study of diet drinks and body weight. “I have some potential concerns about the effect of diet drinks,” he says. Among other problems, artificial sweeteners may eventually sabotage weight loss by distorting the systems that keep our appetite and body weight in balance. “They may also change our taste preferences so that we seek highly sweet, processed foods and refuse to eat less sweet foods like fruits and vegetables.”
Although artificial sweeteners are safe, it doesn’t mean that they’re good for us. “Until we have more data, I don’t think we can comfortably recommend drinking a lot of diet drinks over the long term,” Ludwig says. Exercise is good for your heart, blood pressure, and mood, but when it comes to losing weight, cutting calories wins hands down. Exercise is important role to prevent regaining weight after you’ve lost those unwanted pounds.
Shaving just 100 calories from what you eat each day can add up to a 10-pound weight loss in a year, notes Lawrence Cheskin, M.D.
“When you exercise in an effort to lose weight, you make yourself hungrier and compensate for it by eating more,” says Lawrence Cheskin, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center in Baltimore. “To lose weight, it’s more important to control the number of calories you eat rather than to try to burn calories after overeating.”
“Weight control begins with the brain,” says William Sears, M.D., of the University of California, Irvine, author of Prime-Time Health. “Tell yourself you have to do this.”