If you know me, you know I’m not a girl who plays by the rules…at least not anymore!
I rock a super-shirt pixie hair cut. I have huge traps. I really, really don’t like to shave my legs (but I do, at least in the summer, lol).
Since I don’t follow rules in my life in general, I’m not a big fan of them when it comes to how I eat.
Don’t get me wrong: I believe in the usefulness of counting macros, getting familiar with serving sizes, and knowing how to read a nutrition label:
But these are tools, not rules. And there’s a big difference!
Rules control us, while tools are things that we yield. When it comes to dieting, I don’t believe in rules because one size certainly doesn’t fit all.
Trying to follow rules that don’t fit your lifestyle or personality is a direct route to Misery City.
When it comes to dieting, there’s no dearth of rules, tips and fancy tricks that we’re told can help us lose weight.
As odd as some of them are, they are presented so convincingly that it’s easy to be persuaded, to think that maybe this tip or hack will be the last one we’ll ever have to try.
It’s especially hard not to fall for these tips when they speak directly to our insecurities. Even though it’s just smoke and mirrors, the hype feels real!
I’m not ashamed to admit that I fell for each and every “tip” I’m about to share with you, even though I cringe when I think back to how gullible I was.
I don’t regret these missteps because they were all part of the journey, but nevertheless, please try to withhold your judgement, lol!
Maybe some of these will be familiar–you may have even tried one or two yourself. You may even use one or more of these tips now and be thinking, “What’s so bad about it?”
There’s nothing bad about it, but I would ask you to inquire within:
Is this really helping me forward, or is this making me miserable?
If it’s the latter, I’ve included 5 alternative tips or strategies to replace these that are 1) realistic; 2) implementable; and 3) actually helpful because they help you build confidence and resilience with your food choices.
I hope you enjoy this, and can have a laugh at yourself, too!
1. Drink a shot glass of vinegar before each meal to blunt your appetite:
I used to keep a bottle of white vinegar in my parents’ Lazy Susan and every night before dinner, like clockwork, I’d take my prescription: a shot glass of vinegar.
I’d read somewhere that doing this would curb my appetite and I’d end up eating less.
As far as I can tell, this “tip” didn’t have any discernible effect on my appetite. In fact, I think it had the opposite effect because it made me obsess over food all the more!
Instead of enjoying and savoring my food, I was constantly trying to figure out “Am I eating less?” “Is this working?”
Any “tip” that actually makes us over-analyze more is not a tip–it’s a trap!
Instead of a shot glass of vinegar, drink water. Hydration is a key element of a fat loss lifestyle. If you’re dehydrated, you’re more likely to think you’re hungry and eat more at meals to compensate.
Drink water at meals instead of juice or milk, or in addition to. If you’re having wine, drink water in between.
If you want to eat less, focus less on how much you’re eating and more on the experience of eating: Put your fork down between bites. Sit down to eat. Use decorative plates and napkins. Eat with others and converse.
Making an experience out of a meal is more likely to help you curb your intake than a preemptive shot of vinegar or something equally-strange!
2. Choose 100-calorie packs for snacks
Omg! I used to be obsessed with “diet” snack food! I loved Weight Watchers bars, but those 100 calorie packs were my kryptonite.
I remember trying to convince myself, “It’s just as good as the real thing”….(it’s not.)
100-calorie packs are marketed as a “healthy” and more “figure-friendly” choice that will nip cravings and keep you on track.
But if you’re in a huge calorie deficit and exercising like crazy, a 100-calorie snack is not going to cut it.
In fact, I would argue that they exacerbate cravings instead of controlling them because there’s no bulk to them: they automatically trigger the brain to think: “I want–I need!–more!”
As far am I’m concerned, if I can literally eat the single pack in one bite, it’s not a good option!
So what should you do instead?
Eat snacks with more bulk to them for a similar number of calories! An apple with a few nuts; some Greek yogurt with berries; half a protein bar, etc.
Also, don’t settle for the “diet” version of your favorite snack.
The moment you try to convince yourself that 100-calorie packs of Oreos are as good as the real thing is the moment you begin to crave the real thing. And ignoring that craving is what will lead to overeating the “diet” foods…and you’ll still feel unsatisfied.
There’s room for the real deal in a fat loss-friendly diet, just be smart about it:
Enjoy these treats around your strength training workouts for extra fuel. When you do indulge, do so mindfully (not while hovering over the sink). Savor each bite. Remind yourself that no food is ever off limits, and when you can have it anytime you want it, it will begin to lose it’s allure, it’s illicitness.
3. Chew your food 50 times before swallowing
I remember my grandmother used to be a stickler about this. I think it was a result of having grown up with rationing during World War II, but still: Who can chew ANYTHING that many times?!
I understand the sentiment: chew your food adequately so that you’re forced to take more time with it and give your brain and stomach time to sync up: it makes sense.
But this is unrealistic advice–no one’s actually going to do it. Instead, I like to take smaller bites overall. This way, the food I have lasts longer and it takes me more time to eat.
Rushing through meals, or eating while distracted, is what often gets us into trouble. Taking the time to disconnect from our devices ad focus on the task (and pleasure!) at hand makes the meal more ritualistic and therefore memorable.
4. Ask the waiter to bring a to-go container with your meal so you can immediately make up your doggie bag
OMG. Can you say “buzz kill?” LOLOLOL!
Seriously, if I see this piece of advice in one more women’s magazine, I’m going to rip my hair out.
Again, NO ONE DOES THIS, and you don’t have to, either.
OK, OK. I do understand the rationale: get the extra food out of your face so that you don’t eat it just because it’s there. This is a noble move, but it’s poor advice because it reinforces something many of us feel about ourselves:
We can’t be trusted around food. (That’s bull).
I think it also reinforces the idea that we “must” clean our plates. After all, how likely is it that you’ll polish off every last crumb left on your plate–even if you aren’t hungry for it–simply because you already set half aside?!
And consider this: what if you’re really hungry? Should you just be content with half your meal? Is it ever OK to eat a larger portion? If you’re still hungry, is it OK to dig into the doggie bag…or is that against the rules?
Can you see how this is a slippery slope?!
Instead of planning ahead to ask for a to-go container, consider your hunger. If it’s on the low end, perhaps you could order an appetizer instead of a meal so there’s no need for the doggie bag “crutch.”
If you’re really hungry, why not order a meal and share with your friend/partner? This way, you get more variety; will likely be more satisfied overall, and less likely to overeat your own food.
You can also take a break and get up from the table once you start to feel full if it’s hard to resist food that’s right in front of you. Ask the waiter to remove the food while you’re away.
There are so many options OTHER than relying on this WACK advice that’s I’m convinced no one does, ever!!!
5. Don’t eat carbs after 8 p.m.
I used to believe that eating carbs after 8 pm would make me blow up overnight. I think I heard Oprah say in an interview that she didn’t eat carbs after dinner at all, and I remember being so impressed by her discipline.
Years later, I have more perspective (and so does Oprah apparently, given that she’s now the face of Weight Watchers new campaign that encourages moderation!).
Now I know that eating carbs after 8 isn’t what makes you fat: eating an excess of calories is what makes you gain weight.
In fact, eating carbs at night can be very good for your hormones because it triggers the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you get and stay asleep.
It is especially important for menopausal women who struggle to sleep through the night to eat carbs at night.
The real issue with nighttime eating isn’t what but how: in other words, many people struggle to keep their appetites in check after dinner because they’ve exhausted all their willpower trying to resist foods and “play by the rules” over the course of the day.
Instead of worrying about whether or not to eat carbs after 8, focus on making sure every meal and snack is satisfying. Incorporate small amounts of treats into your daily diet, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
If you’re trying to lose fat, focus on that overall deficit instead of when you consume your meals.
Eating a high-carb meal at night that fits your macros isn’t going to derail your progress!
Overall, my best advice is to be wary of any dietary “rules” that you come across because most of them cannot be universally-applied.
They are based on what worked for someone who may–but more likely may not–be similar physically, physiologically, hormonally, etc. to you.
For this reason alone, they are suspect! When it comes to fat loss as with any worthwhile endeavor, it pays to learn about you and do what works for you, i.e. stay in your own nutrition lane!