One Simple Tip to Control Your Food Cravings in the Moment

I used to eat footlong Subways like they were going out of fashion. It wasn’t at all unusual for lunchtime to involve an entire 12” meatball marinara sub with cheese and calorie-packed chipotle sauce.

However, in recent years, I had weaned myself off footlongs and onto mere six-inch subs. Over time, the new habit of eating smaller subs firmly established itself, and I no longer craved footlongs. in fact, the mere thought of eating a footlong sub was often overwhelming, as I knew that my stomach couldn’t easily manage that volume of calories for lunch. (This is great example of how habits can change your underlying motivations, but I digress.)

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me and for the first time in a long time, my well-established six-inch sub habit was challenged a few days ago. I was queuing up in Subway at lunchtime when I was struck by an overwhelming urge to order a footlong.

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Getting Fit and Strong: The Missing Piece of the Puzzle

My name is Tom Ewer and I am healthy enough.

At least, that’s how I see it. I’m 6’2″ and a notch or two under 200lbs. Consult a BMI chart and I’m technically overweight, but I feel pretty healthy, and I’d rather trust my own subjective measure than one so simplistic as BMI.

Tom Ewer
Judge for yourself!

But here’s what I’m not: what most guys want to be. You know – toned, lean, buff, head-turning. And I wish I was, as many of us do.

So what’s holding me back?

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9 Ways to Lose Weight (And Keep It Off) Without Changing Your Life

According to Science Daily, the number one reason why diets fail is because dieters underestimate the amount of calories they consume.

In reality, it goes far deeper than that. Miscounting calories isn’t the problem. That’s only an indicator of a far greater issue: that the dieting measures most people take are overly prohibitive.

Many of us associate dieting with restriction and sacrifice — doing things we don’t want to do in order to improve ourselves. That association (and the subsequent actions we take as a result) is typically what trips us up when it comes to losing weight.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I have discovered that you can lose weight and keep it off without making any drastic lifestyle changes. Furthermore, I’ve made it my personal goal to reveal this truth to as many people as possible, which is why you’re reading this.

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Why You Should Eat Chocolate Every Day

Tom: The following is a guest post by Renee Knight: a freelance writer, editor and storyteller who loves covering health topics. You can find her at ReneeKnight.com.

I eat chocolate just about every day – and I think you should, too.

I let myself enjoy this sweet treat as a mid-morning snack and I don’t feel guilty about it or worry what it’s going to do to my waistline. In fact, I feel pretty good about my choice.

The key is, I’m not eating a milk chocolate candy bar filled with caramel (though that’s certainly okay once in a while). Instead, I’m choosing to get my chocolate fix from dark chocolate – a sweet treat that actually provides health benefits.

That’s the beauty of dark chocolate – not only does it satisfy my sweet tooth, it’s also good for me. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants that help protect the cardiovascular system and even might help promote weight loss. Even better, eating a small block of dark chocolate keeps me from splurging on a bowl of ice cream or a calorie-filled candy bar later in the day.

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The Role of Water in Weight Loss

There are a bunch of reasons as to why you should drink more water — not the least the fact that around 60% of your body is made up of the stuff. It stands to reason that you should keep your levels topped up. But for the purposes of this article, you should drink more water because it encourages weight loss and increases satiety.

One study conducted at Virginia Tech offers evidence of water’s weight loss effects. The following is a paraphrased summary of that study courtesy of Wikipedia:

Davy et al. took a group of 48 overweight and obese Americans aged 55 to 75 who were considered inactive and divided them randomly into two equal-sized groups. The control group followed a calorie-controlled diet equating to approximately 1,500 calories per day for the men and 1,200 calories per day for the women. The second group followed exactly the same diet but drank 500ml of water before each meal. Both groups kept up the diet for 12 weeks.

Although both groups lost weight on average, the water-drinking group lost about 5lbs more on average (an 30% increase in weight loss). Because the water-drinking group reported feeling both more full and less hungry, the researchers believe that the water acts to suppress appetite.

Subjective effects also reported by the water-drinking group were feeling less hungry, having a clearer mind and a better ability to think. There were no negative effects reported.

While this study is far from perfect (for instance, the sample size and physiology of the subjects is limited), it does point towards the positive effects of drinking plenty of water. Furthermore, the study is backed up by an enormous volume of anecdotal evidence of the benefits of water consumption on weight loss.

Finally, drinking water prior to meals is advised in order that you do not confuse thirst signals with hunger signals. In my experience, it also encourages you eat less than you might otherwise.

So go ahead – drink more water. What have you got to lose?

Why Restrictive Diets Are Your Worst Enemy

You need chocolate.

Seriously. Life’s too short to cut out the things that you love the most: whether that be chocolate, cake, nachos, fries or all of them (hopefully not on the same plate).

Following a diet that prevents you from eating your favorite foods is a bad idea for two reasons:

  1. It’s incredibly hard to sustain in the long term
  2. It can make you utterly miserable

Successful long term weight loss and weight management is not about being miserable. It’s about moderation, not dieting extremism. After all, if you’re going to be following a diet for the rest of your life, you need to make damned sure that it involves you eating all of the things that you love.

Chocolate, chips and cake can all be part of a healthy diet. Moreover, if you like those foods, they should be. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

How Your Plate Can Help You Lose Weight

According to Brian Wansink, head of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab and the author of Mindless Eating, dinner plate sizes have increased 36% since the 1960s. That corresponds with an increase in obesity in the US from ~15% in 1960 to ~30% in 2004. While we should all recognize that correlation does not necessarily lead to causation, the relationship between these two variables is thought-provoking.

With the above in mind, you’ve probably read that if you use smaller plates you’ll eat less. However, that is not necessarily the case – a plate that is too small can simply convince you to go back for seconds or thirds, thus rendering the whole exercise pointless.

So instead of using smaller plates arbitrarily, find your ideal serving size (by measuring your meals and using the Portion Reduction Method) then grab yourself a set of plates that makes your meals look suitably piled up. A mountain of food on a relatively small plate will seem bigger to you than a meal spread across a larger plate.

How to Eat Fewer Treats

“They’re okay I guess, but they’re not a patch on Minstrels.”

It started innocently enough – a debate on the relative merits of confectionary on a second date with my now girlfriend. I’d always been a huge Minstrels fan, but she was putting an argument forward for Maltesers. I wasn’t convinced.

A couple of dates later we headed to the cinema. I bought a bag of Minstrels and she chose Maltesers. It was a standoff. Maltesers won comprehensively.

Fast-forward a year or so and things had gotten out of hand. I joke, but in all seriousness I did actually have a problem. It was not at all unusual for me to scoff an entire 360g box of Maltesers in one sitting. That’s about 1,700 calories (over two thirds of my daily allowance) of sugar.

While you cannot form a physiological dependence on sugar or chocolate, I was nonetheless psychologically addicted to Maltesers. It was ruining an my otherwise relatively healthy diet and had the potential to lead to all sorts of health-related issues down the line. Something needed to be done.

So I did something. In this post I want to share the specific techniques I employed to reduce the sheer volume of Maltesers that I was consuming on a near-daily basis. If you are addicted to sugar, chocolate or candy (or in fact any type of food), you’ve just found the means to make a major positive change in your habits.

Ban Enormous Portions

This is the only point at which I will simply say, “Just eat less.”

This is for people who are satisfying their addictions with absurdly large portions, like I was with my 360g boxes of Maltesers. The most effective thing I did was to enforce a complete ban on boxes and limit myself to the 135g bags only. This wasn’t particularly difficult – I just needed to give myself a long hard look in the mirror and convince myself how utterly wrong it was to destroy an entire 1,700 calorie box of confectionary in one sitting.

Don’t seek to eradicate your most-loved food, but do seek to eradicate eating it in an objectively absurd volume. If you are doing this, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Make Your Treat an Event

If you’re going to satisfy your craving, make it a big deal. Don’t just scoff your food down while watching TV – give the act the due ceremony it deserves.

I suggest eating your food of choice at a table with no distractions. Take the time to enjoy every morsel. Of course, you should start with a smaller portion than you would normally eat. Taking the time to really enjoy the process can satisfy you as much as scoffing down twice as much while distracted can.

Serve Your Treat on a Small White Plate

Seriously. A study conducted in Spain by Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, Ph.D. at Universitat Politècnica de València found that serving strawberry mousse on a white plate altered the participants’ perception of its taste – they considered it to be 15-20% sweeter, more intense and more enjoyable.

From a personal point of view, I believe this to be true. A pile of Maltesers in a small white bowl looks far more appealing to me than just munching them out of the bag.

White is not always the best color though – in some cases it is preferable to choose a plate color that complements the color of the food. Having said that, I wouldn’t worry about buying a plate in each color – white is a good default.

Furthermore, use a plate that makes your food seem more plentiful. When it comes to psychologically satisfying your appetite, nothing is worse than food on an enormous plate. In fact, eating from a smaller plate has also been shown to cut food consumption by more than 20%, according to David Neal, Ph.D., Director at Empirica Research.

Share Openly

If your addiction is something that can be easily shared, get into the habit of doing so. For every bite someone else haves, it’s one less bite going in your mouth (and to your belly or hips, remember!).

While I am not typically an advocate of sharing food (woe betide the person who takes from my plate without asking), this is one situation in which I actively encourage it.

Buy Your Treats in Advance

This is not a strategy I would employ myself, but I know that it can work for some people.

It’s simple: buy your craved food up front for the week, in bulk. Agree with yourself that what you have bought is all you’re allowed for the week – how you eat it is up to you.

This may encourage you to ration your food appropriately, in which case you can gently taper the volume of food you buy per week to wean yourself off your addiction. Alternatively (and like me), you might eat the whole lot and go out the next day, rules be damned, in which case I do not recognize this strategy!

Track the Cost of Your Addiction and Incentivize Moderation

Food addictions can be expensive. You could be spending hundreds of dollars per month without even realizing it.

So let’s address that – from now on you should make a note of the cost of your purchased treats. Knowing exactly how much of your hard-earned money you’re spending on unnecessary treats can be a powerful discourager.

But that’s not all – why not incentivize a reduction (or even an eradication) of your treats? It’s simple: just a set a weekly anticipated cost of fueling your addiction based upon ongoing costs. Any money you save below that amount should be put to one side and used to treat yourself to something nice (but not food!).

Milestone Dieting: The Most Reliable and Least Difficult Way to Lose Weight

This is part two of my series on why your diet always fail. Check out part one here.

Every time I watch a film like Thor or The Avengers I get a sudden urge to build myself a body like Chris Hemsworth’s or Chris Evans’ (it’s all about being called Chris when it comes to buff Hollywood types). However, the urge usually dissipates by the time I leave the cinema.

Why? Because I know that I simply don’t have the necessary willpower to create a body like that. I also know that the idea of going from my current physique to that kind of physique in one step is utterly absurd.

Consider the kind of pressure these guys are under to make themselves look so incredible. We can talk about Hugh Jackman in Wolverine or Gerard Butler in 300. Getting that stacked was their job folks. They were getting paid inordinate amounts of money (in part) to create a physical presence that would suitably reflect the character they were playing. Not only that, they already had a base level of fitness way beyond the average guy’s before they even got started. They had a big head start.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t aspire to have a great physique, but shooting for a Jessica Alba-esque bikini body when you’re about 40lbs off-target is like trying to run before you can crawl. Give yourself a good enough reason to achieve gradual weight loss — i.e. set a goal that you are reasonably capable of achieving. Set milestones that are within reach, and celebrate every single one when you reach them. Every time you reach a new milestone, take stock and consider where to go from there.

While it can be tempting to tell yourself that shooting for the stars from the outset will get you to where you want to be more quickly, the likelihood is that you’ll find yourself right back where you started in a year from now. When it comes to dieting, slow and steady almost always wins the race in the long run.

The Single Biggest Reason Why Your Diets Always Fail

You’ve no doubt experienced the pattern before. You start off with the best of intentions and manage to go a few days (or even longer) with a fad diet. The pounds start dropping off and you’re feeling pretty great.

But soon after, the bad habits start to creep back in. Before you know it, the diet is all but abandoned and you’re back to your old ways. Where did at all go wrong?

Consider this: if someone offered you a million bucks to get stacked, you’d probably be pretty huge within a few months. Similarly, if someone held a gun to your head and told you that you needed to lose 20lbs, you’d sure as hell lose 20lbs (and quickly). But these kinds of motivations are rare in the real world, and for the most part, we’re kidding ourselves when we set outrageous weight loss targets.

Most of don’t have a gun to our head when it comes to dieting. All we have is an amount of willpower drawn from a desire to lose weight, be more healthy and/or look better naked. These kind of motivations typically aren’t overwhelmingly powerful. As such, the majority of us need a diet that is relatively easy to stick to in order to assure long term weight loss.

But we go for the über diet. The one that promises near-instantaneous weight loss. The one that is effectively marketed. The one that demands an unrealistic amount of discipline (yet makes us feel like crap when we fall off the wagon). The one that is ultimately unsustainable for all but the most motivated.

If you’re going to succeed in achieving long term weight loss and keep that weight off, you need to adopt a diet that requires no more than your existing store of willpower and motivation. That’s the simple equation. Far better for you to gradually adjust your eating habits than drastically change your diet in a way that will only result in one outcome: failure.

There’s a simple way to know if your diet is too demanding: just answer this one question. From there you should make adjustments as necessary.