It’s easy to fall into the trap of deciding to change your diet to lose weight or be healthier, and then expecting the finite resource of your willpower to make the change in an instant. Like it or not, we are all creatures of habit, with ingrained eating patterns that are waiting to reclaim our waistlines the second our fat-burning focus drifts. Fortunately, there are some scientifically-tested ways to organise your life, and kitchen, to cover some of the hard yards for you…
When it comes to finding actual evidence for fat-burning tactics, Prof. Brian Wansink and his research team at Cornell University’s Food & Brand Labs wrote the book. Prof. Wansink’s key realisation was that, far from being a cure-all, willpower is a finite resource, which runs down when we’re tired – a fairly likely state of affairs when you are attempting to live with negative calories. So, the Labs tested real-world weight-loss and their studies proved these golden rules, whatever your diet…
1. Location, Location, Location
The food you buy doesn’t necessarily determine how many calories you eat. Adam Brumberg, deputy director of Cornell University’s Food & Brand Lab, told RISING that how you store it in your kitchen has a massive effect, proven by multiple studies, through making healthy choices convenient, attractive and normal. ‘Make sure that counters are free of high calories items such as cereal or cookies,’ he says. ‘Put them in the cupboard, on the top shelf if possible. Make sure that there are items like fruit available, on prominent display, on counters. In all storage areas – cupboards, fridge, pantry – make sure the lowest calorie options (fruit, veg, yogurt, no-sugar-added granola, low-salt nuts, water) are more visible and easier to get to than high-calorie items, like chips, pudding and soda.’
‘Changing the way that you eat can can alter your metabolism and burn fat as a result’
2. Build New Habits To Eat Less Without Dieting
The way we serve food, as much as the meals themselves, can impact on our overall calorie count. ‘At dinner, serve high-calorie main courses like lasagna, from the stove or counter only; don’t put them the table. Instead, put salad and veggies on the table, so that when people want seconds of something, the more nutrient-dense items are the easiest to get to,’ says Brumberg.
You don’t have to knock snacking on the head – do this instead: ‘Pre-proportion snacks to avoid mindless overeating. You can eat chips, just give yourself a reasonable portion in a bowl, and leave the bag in the cupboard.’ (One Cornell study found that snackers given 77% more chocolate or potato chips, did not have any stronger feelings of satisfaction than the group with the smaller portions.)
Notice that you’re not dieting here, as such, but you will be making major changes to the balance of calories and nutrients, a key component of altering your body shape. ‘This can change your metabolism and you may burn more fat as a result,’ says Brumberg.
‘Snackers given 77% more chocolate didn’t have any stronger feelings of satisfaction’
3. Don’t Let Tomorrow Just Happen To You
The last thing you want to do after a long day is think about your next long day. But, spending a few minutes taking control of tomorrow means that your good intentions are less likely to be derailed. ‘Every night, put all your workout stuff in a place that you are sure to see it. If you’re just getting started, use little breaks in the day to exercise. It doesn’t have to be one big workout, you can do 10 pushups or take a 10-minute walk a few times a day. Think of exercising as breaks in the day – you’ll feel refreshed and less like you’re ‘working’.’
If you’re planning a full workout then prepare a post-workout recovery shake of carbs and up to 40g of protein the evening before, to put in your gym bag. The benefits of this are twofold: you will provide your muscles with the nutrients to recover and adapt; then the protein will make you feel sated and help to short-circuit bad food choices. ‘Beware of ‘exercise reward’ eating; we tend to serve ourselves more, or eat more indulgently, after exercise,’ says Brumberg.
WHAT NEXT? Action movies and popcorn go together like Agent K and Agent J, but beware the calorie trap – a Cornell study published in Internal Medicine found that watching action movies increased the amount of snack food eaten by 36%, over talk shows. Take advantage of this by swapping high-calorie snacks for carrot sticks and fruit, in front of high-octane TV…
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.