Why Your Diet Fails
Any time I check my tag surfer, I see some sort of post about people dealing with hunger when trying to diet. A lot of people try using things like Diet Coke either as a replacement for their normal calorie-rich caffeine source, or as a way to fill up their stomachs and stave off hunger.
The problem is they don’t understand how hunger works. Drinking something sweet like Diet Coke will make you more hungry. Your body got hungry and you responded by telling it there is food around. So of course, your hunger doesn’t go away. Human still operate on caveman software, and cavemen needed to gorge to survive because of the risk of not finding food again soon. Once you tell your body food is around it will want to eat until it’s full.
Instead of something flavorful to fill up on, you need to go for low flavor things, like water, black coffee, or unflavored rice cakes. These tell your body that there isn’t anything worth eating, and soon your body will stop sending hunger signals to your brain. And, the less hungry you are, the easier it is to keep to your diet.
If this isn’t making sense, try thinking about hunger as an unattractive guy at a club or a bar. If he comes up and talks to you and you make conversation with him (aka: feed him something empty but tasty), he’ll become more interested and keep wanting to talk to you. But, if you brush him off (give him a rice cake), he’ll realize he’s not getting anywhere and give up.
I don’t plan on making any more posts on dieting in the near future, so I’ll just toss in some odds and ends on this one.
1. Don’t eat anything you don’t know the nutritional contents of. The four big things to look at are calories, fat, carbs, and sodium. Anything packaged has this info printed right on it, and virtually every restaurant has the info available online or on location. Look before you leap. The Arby’s Roast Beef and Swish Market Fresh Sandwich sounds like one of their healthier options, right? 810 calories, 42g of fat, and 1,780mg sodium say otherwise. It’s like eating two Super Roast Beef sandwiches.
2. Pay attention to sodium. Most people just look at calories, fat or carbs, but sodium is the secret diet killer. Too much sodium will make you retain water, and that can lead to quick weight gain. It’s easy to find fast, convenient foods that are low in fat and calories, but they’re usually super high on sodium. A Subway 6-inch double roast beef sub (that’s double the meat; you get a foot-long of meat on a 6-inch roll to save 230 calories) has 360 calories and 7g of fat, but 1,300mg of sodium; that’s way more than half your daily allowance.
3. Sushi is your friend. It’s one of the few things you can find that’s low on sodium (and fat and calories) that you don’t have to cook yourself. Sashimi is better, but you normally don’t eat too much rice with sushi anyways, so it’s not a huge deal. But, you must avoid spicy rolls. The heat comes from a spicy mayo blend, and mayo is a no-no when you’re on a diet. You also need to avoid using soy sauce. One tablespoon contains over 1000mg of sodium, over 40% of what you should consume in a day. Low sodium soy sauce isn’t much better, with over 500mg of sodium, or about 20% of your daily intake. The best option is to find out what fish you like the flavor of and learn to appreciate it.
4. Avoid any extreme diet. Any program that says to cut out a basic nutritional line, like carbs on Atkins, or EVERYTHING on the Master Cleanse is doomed to failure. Your body is a machine and needs fuel to operate. It must have carbs, calories, fat and protein or it will shut down. You will be much better off cutting each of these a small amount than cutting one a lot.
5. Plan your meals ahead of time. It’s easier to limit your portions when you’re not hungry, so plan your meals a good 5-6 hours before you’re going to eat (and stick to it). Whenever possible, set aside what you’re going to have in advance, or write it down. This makes it easier to stick with the plans you made when you weren’t hungry. For snacks and such, each morning try putting your daily limit into a bag or lunchbox and when it’s empty, don’t allow yourself any more snacks that day.
6. Walk. Walking at a leisurely pace for one hour every day will result in half a pound lost per week. This is a great way to add in more exercise when you feel too tired. You’re almost never too tired to put one foot in front of the other. Plus, you don’t need to bother with changing clothes, showering after, or going down to your gym, all of which makes it a low-hassle exercise.
7. Beware of “good fats.” Some fats are definitely better than others, no doubt. But, they’re still fat. Remember, you still have to limit your portions, you want to avoid the “health halo” (the tendency to over eat healthy foods). People at Subway consume on average 350 more calories than people who eat at McDonald’s. Consider that a 6 inch tuna sub contains 530 calories, 31g of fat and 1010mg of sodium, while a quarter-pounder (without cheese) is 410 calories, 19g of fat and 730mg of sodium.
8. Eat slower. It takes time for your stomach to signal your brain that it’s full. The faster you eat, the more unnecessary food is consumed between being full and feeling full. Also, it helps to not go back and forth between different foods. Changing flavors makes us hungrier (again, a result of your body thinking there is more food around). Try to stick with one item until you’re done with it (either finished, or given up).
9. Stand in front of your mirror with your shirt off and jiggle your fat. Do this for at least one full minute three times a week. This won’t sit well with the “love your body” crowd, but accept that while there are things about your body you can love, it’s perfectly fine to have parts of it you want to declare war on. Try not to think of it as a true part of your body, but an infection that’s invaded and must be disposed of. Fat is the Nazis and you’re the Dutch Resistance, not Vichy France.
10. Stop hating skinny girls. It’s incredibly hard to lose weight when you demonize those smaller than you. You don’t have to idolize people who are skinny to the point of it being a health risk, but remind yourself that plenty of people are thin, fit and healthy. When you hate skinny girls you make your size an “us v. them” battle, and as long as “them” is thin, attractive people, you’ll subconsciously prevent yourself from joining their camp. Put the traditional, thin, beautiful women into two camps: people you want to look more like, and people who are irrelevant and you won’t spend any more time thinking about. Too many women use Kate Moss as an excuse to stay fat, thinking that once they start to get thin it’s a slippery slope straight to completely disappearing. But of course that’s horse shit. There’s a sexy middle ground to be found (though, it’s far thinner than where the average weight is, so don’t use that as your metric).