January is long over, and it is around this time that everyone is realizing that their resolutions aren’t off to the start they hoped for. Oftentimes, this is due to unrealistic, unsustainable habit shifts. Five-thousand calories of junk food straight to twenty-five hundred of healthy food may be a tad extreme. Not only is this a dramatic shift for the size of dinner plate you use, it is also a slap in the face for your metabolism. Such a dramatic shift in calories may work in the short-term but before long, your body will think this lack of sustenance is going to be a long-term thing. Remember when everyone thought we would be in quarantine forever and stocked up on toilet paper to their house’s rafters? Your body will try to do the same darn thing, keeping body fat and using less energy to make it through the perceived tough time. Instead of these drastic measures, try some simple portion limitations to ease your calories down and provide steady, healthier results.
Portion control method #1: Eat slowly
Something as simple as taking your time while eating will greatly amplify your ability to tell if you are still hungry, satiated or too full. I could elaborate plenty more but a couple How I Met Your Mother quotes will suffice. “Take it sloooow, Robin. Take it slooooooow.” “Experience your food.”
Portion control method #2: Smaller portion possibilities
Finding ways to limit portions of the unhealthy foods you consistently eat can be a simple and easy way to begin tapering down calories without having to adhere to a wildly strict diet or eliminate the unhealthy habit entirely and drop calories too drastically. Instead, you can find ways to have smaller portions of your common indulgences. I will openly use myself as an example. In grad school, I was trying to put on weight but was out most of the day for school then the gym. After a very long day, I would try to make up for it by cramming calories with little thought to how healthy they were. I was drinking about a liter of Mountain Dew with my mixing bowls of food. The abs began to disappear (imagine that) and I decided to ease up. My first step was to drop my Mountain Dew consumption by half. That move alone was about a 250 calorie reduction and was easily replaced by water. Once I had tapered off, I switched to a cup or two, then eliminated it entirely by not buying anymore 2 liters. That process took only about 2 weeks. The gradual taper led me to miss the drink less and notice its absence far less than when I tried quitting cold turkey. Nowadays, I have a much healthier holistic diet plan but keep a 24 pack of Mountain Dew around. This way if I want to indulge after a very hard workout, I get to but in a very small quantity compared to the old days. If this is too tempting for you and you can’t limit yourself when the food or beverage of your desires is in the house, don’t ever have it in the house. Make a rule that you have to go to a gas station or grocery store to get your one bottle of pop, two-pack of cupcakes, etc.
You can really have your cake and eat it too, just make that slice a little skinnier. Soon you will be too.
Portion control method #3: Veggies and protein first
Next strategy is to have the more micro-nutrient dense and protein-rich foods first in your meal. This will act to satiate you earlier, fill your stomach and guarantee you take in those important food groups. Another paramount aspect of this strategy is getting the thermogenic quality of protein consumption. This reflects the metabolic cost of digesting protein and more than carbs or fat, protein takes a lot to digest. While this can’t be an excuse to overeat, it is another reason to eat your protein first. One last valuable reason to eat in this order for weight loss is being sure you get enough protein to maintain muscle mass which is crucial in the long run.
Portion control #4: Pre-scheduled cheat meals that fit in your daily caloric allowance
Last strategy for today is pre scheduled cheat meals that will fit in your allowed calorie count. Note I said MEAL, not day. Cheat days can impede progress for a very long time. Cheat meals on the other hand can lessen mental strain and even amplify or reinvigorate fat loss by reducing leptin resistance when wisely timed. Try to have your cheat meals sparingly and don’t think of them as free-reign to do whatever the heck you want. Many people revert to their old ways if given zero restrictions and don’t rein themselves back in. Plan out a nice cheat meal at-home or go out to a nice dinner. Either way, it is little trouble to calculate the calories and make sure you adjust your other meals for the day to keep your calories in check.
“Cheats” and “binges” are close cousins but a quote-unquote diet doesn’t necessarily need to make you want to die. You don’t need to lock yourself in a tiny cage eating only chicken, broccoli and brown rice the rest of your life, but you also can’t have zero limits and roam free going from buffet to drive-thru. Growing up, our horses would insist on reaching their heads through the fencing just to eat the grass on the other side from time to time. You can do the same thing wisely and then reel it back in and eat whatever healthy yet delicious foods keep you within a smart calorie count. I hope these tips reinforce just how sustainable healthy eating can be without just torturing yourself.