Whether you want to maintain your weight or lose some, the underlying principle of energy balance is the same: If you consume more than you burn off, you’ll gain weight. If you consume less than you burn off, you’ll lose weight. As one ages, our metabolism becomes slightly less efficient. At first glance, things might seem bleak. Don’t go there! Your willingness to change and the increased brain power that comes with age will help you overcome a less efficient metabolism. This guidance is where the fork hits the plate…the art of enjoying your food while achieving your weight management goals.
The first step is to be honest about your eating and drinking habits. If you need to lose some weight, not 100 pounds, but 20 to 40 or so, you can do it over a few months by making subtle changes that will challenge your resolve, but not replicate life in a gulag. If you need to lose a lot of weight and have underlying medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease, ask your doctor to recommend a registered dietitian.
Below are the most often-cited roadblocks to maintaining a healthy weight and countervailing strategies to recalculate new routes to success. Your guidance system is on, bong, bong.
Roadblock: I eat out a lot because I’m on the road all day. It’s hard to find well-portioned, healthy food.
Recalculating new route: Go online and review menus of restaurants on your typical routes. Prepare lunch and snacks at home and pack them in a cooler for eating on the road. Investigate healthier fare such as salads, hardboiled eggs and sandwiches at convenience stores.
Roadblock: I snack too much during the day.
Recalculating new route: Think like a European and have a formalized, controlled break or two during the day for a ritualized snack. The Brits have tea and a cucumber sandwich. Many French enjoy an afternoon coffee and small piece of chocolate or pastry. The Spanish love their tapas. The Albanians enjoy…well, don’t ask. Find treats you will enjoy that contain between 100 and 150 calories per snack. In addition, stay fully hydrated. Thirst sometimes gets confused with hunger in the brain. Sure you will need to make more restroom stops, so get familiar with the best facilities on your typical routes. Enjoy your snacks in a relaxed atmosphere and use the time to decompress.
Roadblock: I snack after dinner while I watch TV, read or veg out.
Recalculating new route: If you eat a late afternoon snack, you can have a later dinner so that the window for snacking is reduced. You can also substitute reduced portions of lower calorie choices as your snacks.
Roadblock: I’m a great cook and I nibble the food while I’m preparing meals.
Recalculating new route: Set out a dedicated small plate or bowl of what you are preparing and consider that your afternoon snack. Or, you can set out a small plate of cheese and fruit to nibble on while preparing your meal. The 100 to 150 calorie limit applies here, too!
Roadblock: I am a junk food junkie. I know it’s not good for me, but it’s beyond my control.
Recalculating new route: Danger ahead! Stay out of fast food joints altogether! Don’t try to get a salad or something healthy in this environment even if it is on the menu. If you were a recovering alcoholic, you wouldn’t go into a bar to have a cup of coffee or Perrier, would you? If you need to make a pit stop on the road, find another place to use the restrooms. Avoid the temptation altogether.
At home keep junk food for the kids and grandkids in a separate container in a separate drawer or cupboard out of sight. Dedicate a separate part of the fridge and freezer for the stuff that requires temperature control. If placing crime scene tape around those areas containing junk food is over the top, then displaying a small label with your current weight will provide a gentle shot across your emotional bow. No one else has to know what that number means…a secret code with special meaning known only to you.
During May, give this guidance a chance to help you navigate the treacheries of the nutrition highway. Next month, more to come in Part Two. Bong Bong.