Ever wonder how the contestants on The Biggest Loser can work out so hard and watch what they eat so diligently and sometimes gain weight? Well, as it turns out, our bodies are pretty adaptable. When we don’t eat enough food or burn too many calories through activity, our bodies naturally know to go into “conserve” mode and lower our metabolism. And in turn, our bodies actually burn less calories than they did before the calorie restriction or excessive exercise. Because many of us go all or nothing on weight loss regimens, when we see this show up on the scale, we are quite frustrated and often give up!
But here’s the trick – it turns out that our common approach to many things, taking small steps, is also the secret to weight loss. According to Brian Wansink, PH.D., and author of the book Mindless Eating, we can only lose about ½ pound per week without triggering a metabolic slowdown. That’s a mix of good and bad news. good because the vast majority of us can lose ½ pound in one week if we try, bad because we typically don’t like to see results that slowly.
But how about we surrender to the idea, make progress and feel that we didn’t really change much to get that little benefit? Over time, the little benefit of ½ pound per week would add up and before we know it, in 6 months, we’ve lost 12 pounds! Sounds like a pretty good idea, huh? According to Wansink, to achieve this, we can simply incorporate what he calls the “mindless margin,” which is the “margin or zone” in which we can slightly undereat (or overeat) without being aware of it.
Using the Mindless Margin
What kind of target can you set that falls within a mindless margin? Most people can pretty easily eliminate 100 calories per day, which would yield 10 pounds lost per year! Quite simply, is there one thing you could eliminate or do to net out a loss of 100 calories? Or maybe you could do a combination of things that add up to 100 calories? The key is to make such tiny changes that you don’t feel deprived – and that your body doesn’t detect either!
Some tips for your journey as you give the mindless margin a try:
- Keep your favorite things in your diet, but maybe just cut down on the volume a bit.
- Replace a high calorie/high fat food item with fruits or veggies which are lower in calories.
- Stop eating a meal before you are full. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to know that you are full, so stop eating sooner and let your brain catch up. You can easily end up eating 20% less calories!
- Try a combination of calorie restriction and expenditure. An example would be to only drink ½ the can of your regular soft drink and do 5 – 10 minutes of walking or other exercise.
Here’s some food for thought to get your motivational juices flowing:
- One less 140 calorie soft drink each day = 14 fewer pounds a year
- One less 270 calories candy bar each day = 27 fewer pounds a year
- One less 420 calorie bagel or donut each day = 42 fewer pounds a year
The mindless margin works! Be creative, find something that works for YOU! For more information and lots of FREE stuff, including a refridgerator magnet, check out www.mindlesseating.org.