To successfully lose weight, it is important to implement lifestyle changes such as increasing levels of physical activity and making healthier eating decisions. Most people find that breaking unhealthy eating habits can be difficult. This is often the reason for failing to stick to a long-term healthy diet. Broadly speaking, there are two approaches behind changing eating habits;
Changing the foods that you are eating
Changing the quantity of what you are eating
To maximise your weight loss in the long term, you need to assess and modify each of these factors. However, it is not a good idea to change both of these factors at once. Many individuals find that by changing both what they eat and how much they eat in one go can be difficult to adjust to, therefore leading to them eventually falling back into their typical unhealthy eating behaviours.A Finnish study from 2016 found that just about half of their study participants reported slow weight loss, primarily from making dietary changes. Dietary changes in the study included an increase in the overall intake of vegetables, a reduction in the amount of sugary and fast food consumed, and regularly eating smaller meals. Many of the study participants also reported that it was helpful to weigh themselves regularly. Some participants shared that they found it useful in applying the plate model – a visual method in which a dinner plate is presented as a pie chart, which covers the recommended proportions and daily intake of several food groups.Previously studies have found that if individuals are offered larger food and drink portions, there is a substantial increase in the intake of energy and calories. Subsequently, if these larger portions are offered over a few weeks, they then contribute to the onset of weight gain and even obesity. Numerous strategies such as tools and education on portion sizes and healthy eating have been suggested as a way to tackle unhealthy eating behaviours; however, data is limited on whether these methods are able to lead to long-term sustainable changes and improved eating behaviour.Some research has been done in which participants are given pre-portioned foods, and have actually demonstrated successful weight loss and management. Unfortunately, these types of studies do not prove that participants leave with a better understanding of appropriate portion sizes. Portion control is considered vital for weight management, however, those who are aiming to lose weight should not be encouraged to ‘eat less’ of everything. This is because all foods have different energy densities. A more effective weight loss strategy would be encouraging individuals to increase their portion sizes of lower energy density foods and to reduce their overall intake of high-energy foods. This way food can remain a satisfying experience and body weight can also be managed.Changing eating behaviour does not need to be a difficult experience. By keeping in mind the initial above to approaches to better eating habits, you may find the following tips useful in helping you change and reduce bad food choices;
Opt for smaller plates or pre-packages portion controlled foods to avoid overindulging in unhealthy foods
Share full-sized meals when you eat out, and avoid super-sizing your meals.
Drink plenty of water and stay well-hydrated throughout the day.
Eat smaller and healthier snacks during the day so that you do not over-eat at meal times.
Aim to gradually reduce your portion sizes over time, until you feel that you have reached the ideal portion size.
Ensure that your diet is well-balanced and regularly introduce a variety of foods into your diet.
Pre-plan your meals so that you choose healthier options and are able to prepare in advance with a pre-planned shopping list when you do groceries.
Remove any temptations of bad foods from your home if you feel you are likely to give in to temptation.
Take an interest in preparing and cooking your meals. This will help you learn more about what goes into your meals and healthier alternatives. You can improve your cooking skills by joining cooking classes, sharing recipes with family and friends and regularly looking into cookbooks and food magazines.
Practise a change in your habits consciously for a couple of weeks until they eventually become unconscious decisions. This is essential to making a maintainable change.
Modifying behaviour is heavily reliant on your own underlying intention to make a change. You need to be ready to accept that change is required, develop a long-term plan for yourself, and set goals so that you remain motivated and on track. Making long-term changes in undoubtedly a challenge, especially if you have personal barriers you need to overcome; however it is possible, and the results are well worth it!