I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!” If you’re like most people, you’ve likely echoed this familiar phrase after a holiday feast or a large Sunday dinner at least once. Occasional overindulging is common and relatively harmless. But if you’ve gotten into a daily habit of eating too much, the results have probably started to show up on your scale and around your waistline. Use these simple steps to get yourself back on track to a healthier lifestyle.
Do you reach for the ice cream or chips when you’re angry, sad, bored, tired, lonely or anxious? Learn to distinguish these emotional triggers from the need to eat when you’re really hungry. Managing emotional triggers may be as simple as taking a few minutes to acknowledge your feelings and let them pass. To quell a stronger urge, walk around the block, knit or take a few deep breaths before you reach for the cookie jar. Keep fresh cut carrots, celery and other veggies in the fridge for those times when you have the urge to chew on something.
Have you become a couch potato or a mouse potato (someone who’s online for hours)? Hide your clicker, put your computer to sleep and aim to get active for at least an hour a day. Working up a sweat has benefits that last long after your workout is over. That’s because you continue to burn calories above your couch-potato level anywhere from 15 minutes to 48 hours after the activity is over. Regular activity can also improve your mood and reduce stress. Any aerobic activity that gets the heart rate up is good; even doing housework counts! Thirty minutes most days of the week is adequate, but 60 minutes is better if you want to lose weight. Make it weight-bearing activity, such as brisk walking or running, and you’ll strengthen your bones as well.
Studies show that people unintentionally eat more when given larger servings than normal. And super-sized servings are everywhere. Many restaurants, for example, serve portions that can feed two people, so share your meal or take half home. To learn to recognize normal portion sizes, weigh or measure your food and compare it to a familiar object. For example, three ounces of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, eight ounces is about as big as a slim paperback book. A medium-sized potato is roughly the size of a computer mouse and a half cup of pasta is as big as a tennis ball.