It is that time of year, the time when many of us who made New Years Resolutions start to question whether or not it is really worth it to keep on our new diet and exercise routines. Or if we are staying on them, how we might be able to “cheat” just a little here or there.
Well now is the perfect time to talk about willpower and how to keep up you newly forming healthy habits. Anne Marie O’Connor talked about how to “Outsmart your Willpower” in a recent issue of Pilates Style Magazine. She says the key is not counting calories, mindful eating or even outright denying yourself foods you love but to use our willpower wisely as we go through our day! She spoke with Brian Wansink, PhD, a professor of marketing, the director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and the author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions. He said, “For 90 percent of us, the solution to mindless eating is not mindful eating—our lives are just too crazy, and our willpower’s just too wimpy,” says Wansink. “Each of us makes more than 200 nearly subconscious food choices every day—soup or salad? A little or a lot? Finish it or leave it? We’re nudged more by our eating environment and things like 100-calorie packs than by our deliberate choices.” Having studied people’s eating habits for more than 20 years, Wansink has concluded that “the key is to make a few changes in our food radius [the places where we spend the most time, including work and home], so we can mindlessly eat better. “Once you’ve made the right changes to your eating environment,” he points out, “you’ll start eating better without thinking about it. You can make healthy choices even when your brain’s on autopilot.” By implementing these 25 tips, the culmination of years of research that he’s compiled in Slim by Design, you can start losing weight effortlessly.
#1 Keep food out of sight (and out of mind) except for produce. If you see it you are more likely to eat it or crave it. One of Wansink’s studies found that women who kept chips on the counter weighed eight more pounds than women who didn’t. But as irresistible as chips are, there’s an even more dangerous food to keep out: breakfast cereal. In Wansink’s study, women who stored it on the counter weighed a whopping 21 more pounds than women who didn’t. So why was cereal even more of a problem than chips? Wansink believes that it’s because that while everyone knows chips are a diet disaster, cereal has a “health halo,” especially when the box is covered with claims like “whole grain” and “good source of protein.” The moral: Keep everything but fruits and vegetables behind closed doors.
#2 Don’t make your kitchen a hangout. Wansink reports that when people made their kitchen less lounging- friendly—by moving out things like comfy chairs, TVs and iPads—they spent 18 fewer minutes a day there, making them less likely to mindlessly munch on sugary and salty snacks.
#3 Pick your plate’s color wisely. It sounds wacky, but it’s true—the color of your dishes can subtly affect how much you eat. In one of Wansink’s studies, he found that people who served food on a dish that was the same color as what they were eating downed 18 percent more. Having pasta with marinara for dinner? Don’t serve it on a red plate. And don’t put linguine with clam sauce in a white bowl.
#4 Use “skinny” dishes. The size of your plate matters, too. A two-ounce serving of pasta will look huge on a 10-inch plate, but tiny on a 12-inch one. Which means we’ll probably serve ourselves more to “fill” the plate, or feel we deserve seconds since we only ate a “tiny” portion the first round.
#5 Shrink your drink. Is your daily glass of wine starting to look like a Big Gulp? Enjoy your libation without feeling like you’re denying yourself by serving all types of vino in white wine glasses. They’re taller than red wine glasses, so the glass will look fuller. (This trick works better when you’re sitting down and looking at it from eye level.)
#6 See red. In studies, participants poured themselves about 9 percent less wine when they were drinking a Bordeaux or Pinot Noir than a Chardonnay. You can see red wine in the glass more clearly, so it looks like you’re drinking more.
#7 Avoid the fat clubs. Yes, the keg-sized jar of peanut butter for $5 or the 48- pack of mini quiches for a buck may be mouthwatering deals. But even though you may be saving money, you may be enlarging your waistline. “Once you get the forklift home, those bargains turn into a burden for your cupboards—and your diet,” says Wansink. In studies, he found that people who filled their cupboards (and pantries, and garages, and basements) with warehouse-store purchases ate half of what they bought in the first week—and ate it twice as fast as they normally would. Still stuck on Costco? Try repackaging your bounty into single-sized servings, advises Wansink.
#8 Make your pantry and “inconvenience” store. Wansink doesn’t believe in denying ourselves our favorite treats, but he does advise dieters to make it less convenient to eat mindlessly. By moving the pantry away from the kitchen (by relocating it to the garage or the basement, for instance), you’ll be less likely to grab a snack every time the thought crosses your mind. In his studies, he’s found that if you have to make a trek to get something to eat, you’re more likely to think twice before mindlessly devouring a handful of nuts or cookies.
#9 Avoid the Mother Hubbard syndrome. Just because your cupboard is bare doesn’t mean it’s diet-friendly, or that you’ll never overindulge. It sounds counterintuitive, but Wansink found that if there’s nothing in the house to eat, you’ll probably order in or get takeout. He discovered that people who do order rarely phone in just a snack, no matter how hungry they are; instead they get a whole meal. So even if you would have been satisfied with a 140-calorie yogurt, you’ll end up ordering—and eating—a 500-calorie tuna sandwich. If you hate to cook, at least stock up on healthy, easy-to- prepare foods like yogurt, eggs, fat-free milk, string cheese, sliced turkey, canned soup and pre-cut vegetables and fruit.
#10 Serve meals Downton Abbey-style. Take a cue from the Earl of Grantham’s household and don’t allow the serving dishes to be set on the table. (No butler? We don’t have one, either. Leave the serving bowls and platters in the kitchen.) Wansink found that people ate 23 percent less when food was dished up directly from the stovetop or the counter onto plates, and then brought to the table. (This also made diners reconsider whether they really wanted seconds, not just mindlessly help themselves.)
#11 Try the 3 bites trick. Craving chocolate or some chips? Try this ruse: Take two or three bites, then put away the treat and do something else for 10 or 15 minutes (write a few emails, water the plants). In one of his studies, Wansink found that people who had just three bites and then stopped were satisfied and didn’t want any more—if they distracted themselves afterward.
#12 Make a snack pact. Tell yourself you’ll eat a piece of fruit or a glass of water before you indulge in a treat. By forcing yourself to do something healthy instead of just shoveling chips in your mouth or wolfing down the leftover ravioli, chances are you’ll eat less and you won’t just devour something robotically.
#13 Remind yourself to eat more fruit. Placing a fruit bowl on your counter will encourage everyone in the family to eat more apples, bananas, oranges and pears, Wansink has found. Filling it with two or more types of fruits will make it even more likely that people will help themselves, as will placing it within two feet of the busiest kitchen pathway.
#14 Buy a diet friendly refrigerator. Your fridge can have a big effect on your “bottom” line. The skinniest refrigerator style is one with the freezer on the bottom and the fridge on the top, Wansink says. This makes it more likely fruits and vegetables will be the first things you spot when you open the door.
#15 Make your fridge a healthy zone. Wansink advises putting the healthiest snacks (berries, cut fruit and carrots, peppers and broccoli florets) in the front of the center shelf, which makes them easy to see them when you open the door. Keep other fruits and vegetables (salad greens, cooked vegetables) in clear plastic bags or see-through containers, so they’re easy to spot, too.
#16 Hide the calorie bombs. Disguise fattening foods by storing leftovers in opaque containers or aluminum foil. Put leftover dessert in the bottom produce drawer, so you’re not tempted every time you open the refrigerator.
#17 In a restaurant, ask for a table with a view. Sit by the window or in a well-lit part of the restaurant—people who did ordered healthier options, according to Wansink’s research. He adds that it seems that people who sat farthest away from the front door ate fewer salads and were 73 percent more likely to order dessert.
#18 Belly back from the bar. Don’t sit too close to the bar area. Wansink found that people who sat within two tables of the bar drank an average of three more beers or mixed drinks (per table of four) than those sitting even just one table farther away.
#19 Freebies can cost big calories. Tell the waiter to hold the bread or chips (or other “giveaway”) at the start of the meal. You won’t be tempted if they’re not there.
#20 Look for healthy keywords on the menu. Not sure what to order? Wansink found that foods described as seasoned, roasted or marinated had 60 fewer calories than other entrées.
#21 Learn to spot code words for “fattening.” Steer clear of foods with these words: buttery, creamed, crispy, crunchy, smothered, Alfredo, white sauce, fried/deep-fried/pan- fried, scampi and loaded. They are always more caloric, Wansink says.
#22 Consult an expert. Sure, the tree-bark salad is low in calories, but when you go out to eat, you want something healthy and delicious. Wansink’s advice? “Ask your server, ‘What are the two or three lighter entrées that get the most compliments?’ or ‘What is the best thing on the menu for someone who wants a light dinner?’”
#23 Go half-sies. Ask your server—or the restaurant manager—if they serve half portions of entrées. If they don’t, ask to have half of the entrée put in a doggie bag before they bring it to the table.
#24 Check out the menu before you go. When choosing a place to eat, look up the menu online first, so you can make a decision when you’re not hungry and won’t give in to impulse. Wansink recommends looking for a place that offers at least three healthy appetizers and three healthy entrées.
#25 Take a tour of the buffet before you serve yourself. Wansink’s research showed that slim diners “scouted” out a salad bar or buffet before they even picked up a plate; instead of piling on food without a plan, they helped themselves to just what they wanted.
Thank you to PilatesStyle.com for allowing us to reprint portions of this article.