Eating and Food Tools Choosing What to Eat

Bite and Write: Lifestyle Logging

While it sounds simple, it ’ s hard for most people to keep track of their daily eating. If you feel the need to skip over this section, having done this “ dozens of times, ” go ahead and do it. There ’ s nothing magical about writing down what you eat — you don ’ t automatically eat less. But the one thing that logging does is force you to think before you eat anything. What I like about lifestyle logging is that you ’ re keeping track of not only food intake, but also your activity, your feelings (both positive and negative), and your sleep patterns on a daily basis. I ’ m a fan of pen and paper logging, because it makes a stronger connection between you and your food intake. For many people, spreadsheets, PDA programs, and online tracking services can work just as well. Whichever tracking method you use, you ’ ll want to make sure your lifestyle log includes these four parts: Amount and type of food Duration and intensity of activity.

Read Food Labels

Nowadays a food label looks like a page from a science textbook — so much information packed into such a small space. While only some of the information is required by law, food factlets turn up everywhere on the box. Is all of this information necessary to read every time you make a choice? In a word, no. That ’ s why I think so many people just give up reading the labels altogether. Others tell me they ’re actually embarrassed to ask for an easy shortcut to reading food labels. In fact, thats a great idea. The first step is to pay attention to the boxed information on the back of the package, with the specifics of the product. Don ’ t be fooled by large type elsewhere on a package with terms like “ a good source of whole grain ” or “ trans – fat free ” or “ excellent source of vitamin C. ” These descriptions are meant to grab your attention — Look at me, I ’ m a healthy choice! — but it ’ s essential to read below the headlines, and check out the main label. When it comes to losing weight, the two most important bits of information are the serving size and the calories per serving size.

Check out the calcium content, particularly for dairy products and other foods that are calcium – fortifi ed. To know what you ’ re getting, take the milligrams (mg) listed per serving and cut off the zero at the end of the number. So a cup of yogurt with 350 mg of calcium contains 35 percent of your recommended daily intake (about a third). Similarly, a product with 80 mg of calcium per serving — which sounds like a lot, if you ’ re not paying attention — contains a mere 8 percent of your suggested daily intake. The percentage of your daily intake is the number to know.

Choose a Realistic Rate of Weight Loss: Reverse Calorie Counting

It ’ s important to get a reality check of your projected rate of weight loss. When your goals are modest, you ’ ll never be disappointed. Set your goals based on your life now , and avoid comparing to a rate of loss you aimed for fi ve, ten, or even twenty years ago. Choose a pace that ’ s realistic for you at this time in your life. A great way to start is using what I call “reverse calorie counting. ” In fact, it ’ s not really counting at all. A mistake many people make is to only eat up to a limited number of calories, usually leading to a feeling of deprivation. A better way is to cut back on what you ’re already doing. You still learn the calorie – counting basics, but you lose the pressure of a calorie deadline. Using this strategy:

If you save 100 calories every day, you’ ll lose about 1 pound a month.

If you save 250 calories a day, you ’ ll lose about 2 pounds a month.

If you save 500 calories a day, you, ll lose about 1 pound a week.

If you save 1,000 calories a day, you’ll lose about 2 pounds a week.

If you ’re really not a reverse calorie counter, you might ask about using a calorie limit. If you feel secure with a daily calorie limit, it ’s important to use some realistic guidelines. The only way to prevent rigidity in your plan is to accept a daily calorie range. For women, use a starting range of 1,400 to 1,600 daily calories. For men, use a starting range of 1,800 to 2,000 calories. Aim for the lower range, but accept the higher range as a successful day. After trying this consistently for a month, adjust by 100 to 200 calories in either direction, depending upon your rate of weight loss and your effort level. (See chapter 3 for a discussion of effort level.)

Last word

Once Joanne understood the concept and saw how she, herself, could create the structure with better choices for every meal and snack, she was enthusiastic. Using her vast knowledge of calorie contents from years of logging and using an online calorie-counting guide, Joanne trimmed calories from her present eating, to save calories every day. Joanne’s greatest surprise was that she did not feel deprived, and she lost about 2 pounds a week for the first two months of her plan, which gave her a 15-pound loss. Joanne learned the way to consistently trim calories without having the pressure of calorie limits. Joanne also agreed that it was a great success to maintain her 15-pound loss, and she reset her final goal. She no longer felt that 25 pounds was her target. She was thrilled with her 15-pound loss and her ability to maintain it with moderate, not heroic effort. Her reverse calorie counting really worked and provided a newfound sense of accomplishment and comfy dance that she could sustain over the long term.

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