I was quite surprised this month to discover a magazine article that is actually packed with sensible weight loss advice. Kudos to Real Simple magazine for their April 2006 article "The Secrets of Thin People". Here's a summary with a few editorial comments. :)
1. Thin people favor bulky foods.
In other words, they eat foods that take up a lot of space for the calories they provide. Foods with a high water and fiber content lead the charge. Think water based soups, veggies, cooked whole grains like brown rice. You are more likely to feel full on less calories. Here are a few of my personal favorites: oatmeal cooked in water - I can hardly start the day without it; organic baby carrots dipped in my favorite Trader Joes Eggplant Hummus dip (~35 calories per 2 tablespoons); soups made with lentils and lots of fresh veggies.
2. Thin people watch portion sizes.
Really, they do. I know it often seems they were blessed by the gods of metabolism, but that's not true. They just know how to match their intake with their metabolism, whatever it is. You may see them eat the burger and fries, but you don't see them not eating before and after their public indulgence.
High Quality frozen entrees (try Amy's) have built in portion control, so are a good option for the time starved. Thin people avoid oversized restraunts where an entree could easily feed a family of four (the Chevy's and Marie Callendars of the world). If you have any doubt, look at the size of the average patron. And when the clerk says "Tall, Mondo or Obese" for your drink size, ask for a small (it's often not even on the menu).
3. Thin people can put themselves first.
Stop here. If you were looking for the key, you've just found it. I work with so many generous and giving women who always put others first, to their own detriment. Somehow it's not acceptable to say "I'm doing it for me".
Remember, put your own oxygen mask on first. If you're dead, who'll do the caretaking?
4. Thin people limit their options.
Research clearly shows that the more food options available, the more we eat. It's the buffet syndrome--you want to try a little of everything, and before you know it, you've had way too much of too many good things. The same principle applies at dessert time. While you may have had enough of your main course, you can always find a little more room for something sweet.
Thin people know this and consciously limit their options. For example, they may have a "no dessert at home" policy, or a "dessert only when shared at restaurants" rule.
5. Thin people live in Colorado.
Ok, so every list has to have at least one silly entry. However, Colorado is the thinest state according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, probably because it attracts people who enjoy an active, outdoorsy lifestyle (you know, Rocky Mountain hiiiiiiiigh in Colorado).
6. Thin people don't sit still.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic discovered that out of a group of 20 self-proclaimed couch potatos, the thinest were the the most fidgety. They stood, moved, and walked more than their heavier counterparts. In fact, they burned through about 350 more calories a day! "Over a year, this could results in a weight loss of approximately 30 lbs" according to James Levine, the lead author of the study.
Inspired by this research, I recommend to anyone with a dust gathering treadmill or bike to consider using it for "meandering" while watching tv or reading, in their normal clothes (in addition to regular workouts). Imagine how many calories you could burn if you did this during just one hour a day while watching tv?
7. Thin people weigh themselves.
This is a tricky one. According to the National Weight Control Registry, most people who have sustained a weight loss of 30 pounds or more weigh themselves on a regular schedule. This means once a week or once a month. However, multiple times a day is NOT going to be helpful.
Because I work with so many clients who are obsessive about their weight, I am very cautious about recommending frequent weigh ins. For many, a bad weigh in sends them into a negative spiral leading straight into a binge. My advice: ask your self if weighing yourself is a motivator or a downer and go from there.
8. Thin people don't skip breakfast.
They eat it. Every day. You know this. A healthy breakfast will set you up for success all day long, and boost your metabolism. Notice I said "healthy" breakfast. Starbucks scones do not qualify, nor do most commercial breakfast cereals, which are full of High Fructose Corn Syrup (see previous post "Corn Syrup: Hazardous to Your Health".) Think protein-eggs, cottage cheese, and whole grains like oatmeal and unsweetened cereals like Grape Nuts, Shredded Wheat.
9. Thin people enjoy their food.
Hooray! You don't have to eat cardboard to be thin! In fact, thin people enjoy their food a great deal, partly because they are not plagued by feelings of guilt.
Many compulsive overeaters enter a sort of food trance when eating, making them almost completely oblivious to what's passing through their mouths. Consider breaking this trance by really noticing the flavors and textures of the food you are eating. Eat slowly and consciously, savoring each bite and giving your stomach a chance to let you know when it's had enough.
10. Thin poeple practice early intervention.
The first two pounds you gain are the first two pounds you lose. It's all about self correcting. (There's a topic for another blog entry).
11. Thin people do what works.
In other words, they aren't good all the time, they are pragmatic. They have stragies they have found through trial and error, and they use them. If not buying potato chips works to prevent you from eating them, do it. If munching freely on carrots as a snack keeps the calories in check, go for it!
The big secret of the perpetually-thin is that they do have strategies in place, and they follow them. It may seem effortless to the outside observer, but ask them what they do. You may even find a few good ones to steal for yourself!