Losing Weight: Time to Get Off the Yo-Yo Highway

When you decide to lose weight, it’s tempting not to leap with overzealous determination into an extreme diet—one that disregards both the psychological and biological realities of your complex body. Any approach that’s going to provide lifelong mastery is not going to be fanatical  (fanatical approaches have a less than 5 percent chance of succeeding), but rather an enlightened approach of moderation—one that allows your body and mind to adapt and regulate itself. Even Darwin would agree: It’s all about evolution, not revolution!

Your hunger-satiation patterns have probably been conditioned by years of, not only abusive eating, but intermittent yo-yo interventions. Now it’s time for consistency—consistency and moderation. In order to give yourself every advantage to achieve lifelong weight mastery, having even a casual appreciation of the forces that work for you and against you can put you in the gastronomic driver's seat rather than passively being driven around by urges, compulsions, and cravings. 

1. Get Enough Sleep. Getting fewer than six hours sleep a night (or getting poor quality sleep) can cause your satiety hormone (leptin) levles to drop, and your hunger hormone (ghrelin) levels to rise. Translation: You feel hungrier. Since leptin is usually produced during sleep, even a few nights of poor sleep will lower these levels significantly.

2. Exercise Regularly. Exercise causes your hunger hormones levels to drop and your satiety hormones to rise. What's the best form of exercise?  When it comes to weight loss, aerobic exercise (jogging, walking, working out on an elliptical machine, and so forth), is a more effective fat burner than anaerobic exercise (weight training, sprinting, etc.).

3. Slow Down Your Eating. When partially digested food reaches the small intestine, antihunger hormones are released, sending messages to your brain that you are no longer hungry. This usually takes about 10-15 minutes from the start of your meal. If you're a fast eater or you heap on a second portion before your antihunger hormones are released, your brain won't know that you've had enough.

4. Get Hydrated. Drinking water through the day and during meals aids digestion, makes you feel fuller, and facilitates the burning of fat. Some research supports the idea that drinking a glass or two of water before each meal correlates positively with weight loss. As you lose weight and your body burns old fat deposits, it also releases various contaminants. If you're hydrated, these contaminants can be readily flushed out.

5. Reduce Stress.  When you're stressed, your hypothalamus sets off an alarm in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, the adrenal glands are stimulated to release a surge of hormones, including adrenalin and cortisol. Although adrenalin will initially decrease your appetite, cortisol will leave you feeling ravenous for quite some time.

6.  Avoid Unrealistic Expectations. It's hard to be patient with weight loss, especially if you're trying to look good for that wedding or summer vacation, but keep in mind that moderation, especially in your expectations, is the key to lifelong weight mastery. Nothing will sabotage your efforts more quickly than impatience, pessimism, or the hopelessness that comes from unrealistic expectations.

7. Eat Earlier. It's not just what you eat that matters, it's also when you eat. You're much better off eating your main meal earlier in the day. Although there isn't a consensus on what time that should be, recent studies suggest that people who eat their main meal before 3:00 p.m. lose significantly more weight than those who eat later in the day. Eating after 3:00 p.m. prompts your body to store more energy in the form of fat.

8. Limit Alcohol Intake. Alcohol adds calories, weakens self-discipline, and stimulates hunger. Research consistently demonstrates that alcohol can distort both your body's and your mind's perceptions of hunger and satiety. Research further shows that having a drink before or during your meal will lower your inhibitions and diminish your willpower.

9. Challenge Your Perceptions and Judgments. The sight and smell of food have hypnotic and chemical effects on the brain. Take, for example, eating at a buffet, you inevitably wind up with a plate heaped up with an array of food that you typically would never order a la carte.  Bottom line: you can't trust your judgment or your perceptions when you permit yourself to graze. Avoid some obvious traps: never snack out of a bag, try using smaller plates, tell the waiter to hold the bread, turn off the TV while you're eating and keep seconds out of sight.

10. Eat Breakfast. Research shows that 78 percent of people who have kept lost weight off for more than a year include breakfast in their daily eating plan. Skipping breakfast causes late-day hunger, bingeing, lower energy, and an increase in your insulin response, leading to an increase in fat accumulation and weight gain.


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