Saturday, October 10, 2015


By Mary Kennedy                               

We all know diet books don't hold a magic cure. If they did, why are the shelves crowded with new releases every single month? And the truth is, some diet books do more harm than good: they promote extreme weight loss (which usually includes muscle loss), they eliminate entire food groups, and they go against scientific evidence.

Yet people buy diet books, try to follow their advice, meet with failure and then discard them. And the cycle continues. Another month, another slew of new releases.

So I tried something different. I did a completely unscientific survey (not random, not double-blind) and asked my clients to list what "worked" with their weight loss efforts. Interestingly, I found that the clients who managed to lose weight recommended the same "tips," and I thought I'd share them with you.  Just a caveat: I'm a clinical psychologist, not a registered dietician and I'm not offering these tips as medical advice (just a few fun observations).
1. If you don't know what you want to eat, don't eat!! Wait until you do know. Don't eat impulsively and grab whatever you see. Plan your meals carefully.  Don't "spend" calories on something that may not be high quality food and doesn't promote health or a feeling of fullness. (hint: protein and fiber are among the most filling foods and they will keep you satisfied for a longer period of time.) All my clients agreed when they found themselves idly staring into the refrigerator or opening kitchen cabinets, they took a deep breath and stepped back. No browsing or grazing allowed. A little of this, a little of that, and you've scarfed down half a day's calories!!

2. Go for a brisk walk and wait for the magic "20 minutes" to pass. Did you know that it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you're full?  So take a deep breath and wait. You may be pleasantly surprised when the synapses connect and you no longer feel hungry. Nutritionists call this feeling "satiety." It simply means that you feel "full," and are not experiencing hunger pangs.         
  3. The simplest tip of all. Drink a big glass of water before each meal.  One of my clients keeps a big pitcher of water in the fridge, and adds some fruit slices to give it a little taste and make it look appealing.  You can use a fruit infuser like the one pictured below, or just float some lemon slices in ice water. I bought a fruit infuser when I spotted one at a spa in Palm Desert. They used sliced lemons, limes, grapefruit and even cucumber in a giant pitcher of chilled spring water--it was delicious. And it was so visually appealing, I found myself guzzling more water than usual. Which is a good thing.  If you prefer herb tea, that's a good possibility, too. The main thing is to choose something that you know you will drink. Here's what a fruit infuser looks like, in case you're wondering. I love mine and use it all the time.

I hope you find these tips helpful. I thought it was interesting that they seem to be "universally known" among people who have been successful in managing their weight. You might have your own tips you'd like to share and I'd love to hear them!

Mary Kennedy


Anonymous said...

A squirt of lemon juice or a slice of lemon in hot water on a wintery day works well too.
Sound tips, Mary. Thank you. Zena

Unknown said...

These are all good tips. I knew about the 20 minute wait, and I often will eat a small salad or some fresh veggies 20-30 minutes before a meal so I don't scarf down more than I need at dinner. For me, the biggest mistake I can make is eating when I'm really hungry, because I eat a lot faster and will eat way more than I need. I am typically a very slow eater. Others are usually finished way before me, and generally eat a lot more than I do. They often feel uncomfortably full when it finally hits them.

I also try to avoid shopping when I'm really hungry because I end up buying a lot of the wrong type of food. And since I hate to waste food, I will often eat junk that I wouldn't ordinarily eat.

One of the best practices for me is trying to eat several small meals a day instead of a couple of large ones. When I eat at least 3 meals a day (but adding a couple of small snacks a day is even better), my weight stays more consistent. When I was working, I would often be running late and not eat breakfast, and there were even times when I would be busy and skip lunch. Then by dinner, I was so hungry that I would eat anything I could get my hands on. I finally got in the habit on the morning when I was running late, that I would at least take a big spoon of peanut butter with me and eat it in the car. :-)

I have thought about getting an infuser. I do drink a lot of lemon water, but I just squeeze some in my water. I tried to use lemon juice because it's more convenient than keeping lemons on hand, but I haven't found the right amount to make it taste the same.

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

Lemon juice in hot water is a terrific idea, Zena, thanks for suggesting it. I was watching Valerie Bertinelli's cooking show and she also recommended it. Thanks for stopping by.

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

Hi Lynda, these are all good points. I have to remind myself not to shop when I'm hungry--my resistance is down and everything "evil" (cakes, pies, sweets) look way too tempting on an empty stomach. One of my favorite drinks is cucumber slices in a pitcher of ice water, and also grapefruit slices. Very refreshing! Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Lynda, you have reminded me of a tip I received from a professional dancer who needed energy quickly in the morning for rehearsals: mix a heaping teaspoon of peanut butter into yogurt. The energy lasts all morning. Zena

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

Zena, that is a great idea, love it!!

Anonymous said...

As I always tell my mom-- It's not always about what you eat, but how much. OK, you're eating a salad, but you're eating four servings, you might as well have had that one burger then, right?