It’s easy to fall into an eating rut. It could be from following a plan that leaves you bored to tears eating the same foods day after day. Or maybe you hit a weight loss plateau and can’t seem to move the needle on the scale toward your goal. Perhaps you’re trapped in a pattern where you want to eat better, but can’t find the motivation to take action. Regardless of what has you stuck, one tactic that could help turn things around is to literally upend your current habits and try the exact opposite. In this season of springing forward, a fresh new perspective can make all the difference.
A common and effective tool for staying on course with your eating habits is to maintain a food journal. The very act of writing down what you eat keeps you mindful of your choices and accountable for them. No one really wants to look back and see the words “sleeve of Oreos” indelibly written. That prospect alone can be enough of a deterrent.
But if regular journaling isn’t working for you, flip it around and try a reverse journal, where you write down what you plan to eat. Sit down for a few minutes over the weekend to journal for the following week, or the evening before each day, and map out your eating plan, tying it into the other demands on your calendar. This way you can schedule accordingly, building in meal breaks, pack foods you might need to bring with you, and carve out time for grocery shopping and meal prep. If you know you will be dining out you could even look up the restaurant menu online and decide what you are going to order ahead of time. This strategy allows you to make food decisions when you are calm and focused instead of in the heat of the moment, and insures you will have the resources in place to make it all happen.
Many people backload their eating, consuming skimpy amounts during the day when they need the energy most, and having a huge dinner late in the evening when they are least active. There is evidence that reversing this pattern so breakfast is your biggest meal could help you manage your weight and steady your blood sugar.
One study published in the journal Obesity compared two groups of overweight women: one group was given a 700-calorie breakfast, 500-calorie lunch, and 200-calorie dinner. The other group received the reverse, a 200-calorie breakfast, 500-calorie lunch and 700-calorie dinner. Over the course of 12 weeks the women who ate the bigger breakfast lost more weight and belly fat, had a bigger reduction of triglycerides and glucose and reported being less hungry and more satisfied than the big-dinner group. With that many plusses, it’s worth a try.
If boredom is your issue, shake things up by rethinking how you prepare your produce, cooking what you might normally eat raw, and vice-versa. For example, slice raw Brussels sprouts thinly and toss into salads or layer on sandwiches. You can do the same with grated raw beets. Both vegetables are much more mildly flavored when uncooked, so served this way they might even appeal to those who don’t typically like them.
On the other hand, it can be a revelation to cook vegetables we commonly eat raw, like celery, for example. It is delicious braised with some garlic, broth, salt and pepper, and a splash of lemon juice. Firm lettuces like Romaine are delicious on the grill; just cut the head of lettuce into wedges with some of the core attached to each piece so it holds together, brush with oil and grill for a couple of minutes on each side. You can also tear Romaine lettuce into pieces and add to stir-fries to char and soften along with the other vegetables.
Instead of starting your meal with a small plate of salad followed by the entrée on a dinner dish, switch it up and use the larger plate for the salad first, and then the smaller one for the main. This simple swap could do double duty to help you eat fewer calories and feel full faster.
First, a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people who started their meals with a large salad automatically ate less of the main course, and fewer calories overall, than those who started with a small salad. To get the desired effect, make sure you go for a light, vegetable-based salad, not one loaded with cheese, bacon bits, and heavy dressing.
Second, the amount of food we portion out for ourselves and how much we ultimately eat is dictated in part by the visual cues we receive — what our plate looks like. We tend to serve ourselves more when we have a bigger dish. By using a large plate for salad and a small one for the main, you set the stage to automatically eat more vegetables, have a sensibly sized entrée, and leave the table feeling perfectly satisfied.