Imagine each time a person goes home in the evening, they eat a snack. When they first eat the snack, a mental link is formed between the context (getting home) and their response to that context (eating a snack). Every time they subsequently snack in response to getting home, this link strengthens, to the point that getting home prompts them to eat a snack automatically. This is how a habit forms.
If the bathroom scale is an instrument of torture to you, it's time to make peace! Studies show that people who successfully lose weight and keep it off long-term weigh themselves regularly. Otherwise you're at risk of mindlessly regaining. In one study, a third of women didn't realize they'd put on five pounds over the course of six months—and a quarter had no clue they'd gained nine. To get over your scale dread, remind yourself that the number isn't an indictment of you as a person, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.N. "Think of it as objective data—like the temperature on an outdoor thermometer—that can give you helpful information about whether you're on track with your diet," she says. And daily weighing might be best. "It demystifies the scale and takes away some of its power," explains Carly Pacanowski, Ph.D., R.D., who has conducted weighing-frequency studies at Cornell University.
When researchers compared women on two different diet plans—one that gave dieters a list of foods they could eat and a few easy-to-follow rules, and another more-complicated diet that allowed dieters more food choices, but required them to carefully track all of their eating and exercise—they discovered that those who found the latter plan difficult were the most likely to give up. "Complex diets can be burdensome, so opt for one that seems manageable," says study coauthor Peter Todd, Ph.D., a professor of cognitive science and psychology at Indiana University in Bloomington and director of the IU Food Institute. "Everyone has a different tolerance, so the diet that works for your best friend might feel challenging to you. And if you're feeling overwhelmed by a diet, switch to a simpler approach. That's far better than quitting altogether."
Recent Cornell University findings suggest that shying away from the scale can cause those former pounds to sneak back onto your frame—not what you want! According to senior author David Levitsky, people who weigh themselves daily and track the results are more likely to lose weight and keep it off than those who check in less often. The method “forces you to be aware of the connection between your eating and your weight,” Levitsky said in a press statement. “The scale also acts as a priming mechanism, making you conscious of food and enabling you to make choices that are consistent with your weight.” For even more ways to shrink your gut, check out these 50 Best Ever Weight Loss Tips.
Most of us eat quickly, chewing each bite just a few times, which means we consume more food than we realize. Slow down and you'll slim down: In a recent study, people who chewed each bite 40 times ate almost 12 percent less than those who chewed just 15 times. When we chew longer, our bodies produce less ghrelin, a hormone that boosts appetite, and more of the peptide hormones that are believed to curb hunger. "Chewing seems to stimulate the gut to make appetite-suppressing peptide hormones," Dr. Cypess explains. Plus, the more you chew, the more thoroughly you break down food, which may release nutrients into your blood faster and give your brain time to register that you're full. From now on, focus on eating slowly at every meal. Put down your fork between bites and work your way up to 40 chews per mouthful of food.
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