5 TINY CHANGES TO HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT

It is no secret at this point that obesity and its related diseases of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer have become an epidemic in the United States and much of the rest of the world. But while the weight loss industry has become a multi billion dollar business, we do not seem to be closer to a solution. Part of the problem is that many of the diet books and programs being written are cookie cutter and do not take the long-term into consideration. Another problem though is that they are often based simply on somebody’s personal ideas of how to lose weight and have no scientific basis. In this article, I am going to give you five small changes that you can make that are backed up by the weight loss literature.

1. SMALLER PORTION SIZES

One of the mistakes that people make when trying to lose weight is that they underestimate how much food intake is controlled unconsciously by the brain. It turns out that how much we eat is not only determined by how much we consciously decide to eat but by environmental cues that we are not even conscious of. One example of this is portion size.
Research is pretty consistent that the more a person has on his plate (or bowl, cup, etc.) the more he eats or drinks. This is true even when we don’t finish what’s in front of us.
For example: if a person has a 3 oz portion of a snack (potato chips), they may eat only 2 oz, but if they have a 5 oz bag they would eat 3.5 oz. This is unconscious and does not appear to affect how satiated a person feels or how much he eats at subsequent meals later in the day. This means that one change that can be made to decrease caloric intake is simply to use a smaller plate in the first place. Try to resist the temptation to buy the bigger sized item because it gives you more value for your money as this may make it more difficult to control your weight.

2. MEAL REPLACEMENTS

Out of all of the interventions out there that are pushed by the diet industry, one of the ones with the most scientific support is the use of meal replacements (MR) to lose weight. These are usually drinks that are high in protein and low in fat and calories and replace 1-2 meals daily. They come in ready-to-drink formulations (e.g. slim fast) or protein powders can be mixed with water, milk, or juice although the milk and juice would add more calories. The reason these probably work is that they give you 1-2 meals a day where you don’t have to think or prepare, that have a fixed amount of protein, carbs, fat, and calories. If you have been struggling with your weight and have not used MRs as part of your strategy, I recommend giving it a try for at least a couple of months and seeing if it helps you.  
You can do this by starting to replace one meal per day with an MR on work days while eating regularly on the weekends.
Give this a try for 2 weeks and see how it goes. You can always add more meals per day and/or weekends if it is working well for you.

3. TRACK WHAT YOU EAT

While this may seem obvious to some people, research clearly shows that people who regularly track their food intake, weight, and exercise are more successful with weight loss than those who do not. I often saw with my patients that this one intervention alone was sort of “magical” in the sense that when people start tracking what they eat they automatically lose a bit of weight. I don’t know for sure why this happens, but it may simply be that people are more aware of their habits and make better choices when they record what they’re eating. Another possibility is that the accountability of reading over their logs later makes people make better food choices. Either way, I highly recommend tracking as many of these variables as possible without making life too crazy. There are many apps these days that make this easier to do like https://www.myfitnesspal.com, https://cronometer.com/, etc. If you’ve been trying to lose weight or even maintain your weight and haven’t tried self-monitoring, I highly recommend it.

4. AVOID SUGAR SWEETENED BEVERAGES

One of the foods that is most consistently associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even cardiovascular disease is sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs). SSBs include things like regular soda, fruit punch, and sweetened tea. It also includes things that may not be quite as obvious. Did anyone say triple mocha frappucino?
I usually even recommend to my patients that they cut back or eliminate fruit juice as this is also a source of liquid calories that are consumed very easily and don’t satisfy hunger well.
If you need to wean yourself off SSBs, try drinking diet soda or mixing your juice with one part water for every part juice in the beginning and slowly eliminating SSBs over time completely. You can similarly decrease sugar in your coffee slowly over time.

5. DECREASE INTAKE OF OVERLY DELICIOUS AKA HYPER-PALATABLE FOODS

Everyone likes their food to taste good, but what happens when your food tastes too good? Scientists call this type of food hyper-palatable food, and it basically means food that tastes way better than anything you could ever find in nature.
For example: I think a regular baked sweet potato tastes pretty good, but it doesn’t compare to the perfect mix of sweet, salty, and crunchy of BBQ potato chips. It turns out that these hyper-palatable foods are much easier to overeat than natural food that tastes good.
I recommend that you keep these kinds of foods to no more than 10% of your total food intake if you are trying to control your weight. It will be extremely difficult to eat less calories if you are eating a substantial amount of hyper-palatable foods.  
So there you have it. 5 simple things that you can do to help you control your weight that are backed up by science. Start by trying to implement one or two of these and add more when you get used to those changes.