Dieting 101: Tips and Tricks

One of the most recurring conversations I have with my fiancee is about changing dietary habits. It’s difficult for him, like many other working men, to have a healthy routine. His job requires long and unpredictable hours behind a computer and often involves fast food. This gave me an idea, how about giving you some tips on how you can alter small things to make big differences.

1- The 20 minute rule
This is a tricky one, because I know that when we’re busy at work or really hungry, it is difficult to pace ourselves. This might seem like a small and irrelevant detail, but the reality is – it takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that the stomach is full.
Often when we get really hungry, we inhale our food and because of that – we overeat. Your stomach is approximately the size of a fist, so you don’t need 3 plates to fill it up  <tweet this. Also, contrary to popular belief, you are not meant to feel overly stuffed or bloated after food. You are really just meant to feel full.Yes. Just full. Give yourself a minute to let that idea sink in.

In order to help yourself get to that 20 minutes – be conscious of the food you’re consuming. Enjoy the taste, try to guess the different flavors you’re eating. Share a meal and have a conservation during so that you can give your stomach enough time to digest. Cut your food into smaller pieces, and take smaller bites.

Small steps, big effect.

2- Why starve?
This  is very common amongst working men, many tend to skip meals and come back at the end of a long day and have a severely fattening and big meal. Not only do they put their body in “starvation mode” all day (see Dieting 101: Myth Busters), but they are most probably going to overeat at that meal and end up gaining weight in their most problematic area (It’s more common that men gain weight around their middle, women gain around their hips) – hence the existence of the “Kiresh”. The reason a big belly is an issue: 1- It’s not an indication of prestige or “wajeha” whatsoever, 2- It indicates that you are storing fat in a area close to the heart which is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (or heart attacks).

So how can we turn that around? If stopping for a good balanced lunch is too difficult, a good habit would be to include more healthy snacks during the day so that your are less hungry at night. Good and portable options would be: low-fat yogurt; walnuts and almonds (not more than a handful/day); cucumbers, lettuce, carrots; no-added sugar toast. Consult with your dietitian so that SHE* may give you exact quantities of these according you your body weight, height, and age – and enjoy mixing up a few of these along your work day.

3- Always always start with a salad
Whether it is lunch or dinner, at home or at a restaurant etc… I cannot emphasize enough how beneficial it is to start with a good salad plate. Rule of thumb is – anything green is “all you can eat”. You will NEVER hear the phrase “poor X, she gained so much weight eating all that lettuce!”. Not only do green leafy vegetables contain many essential minerals and vitamins, but they are mainly made up of  water and so have very little calories – and can be quite filling (as a vegetarian, I can attest to this!).

Two things to note here:
1- Some vegetables are a bit high in sugar so you need to watch out from those and use them to a lesser degree, these include carrots, beets, corns, and potatoes (Avocados are high in calories because of their high fat content and need to be consumed in smaller amounts as well).
2- Dressing. Just because a green leafy salad is not high in calories does not mean the complementary dressing is. If you slather on that Thousand Island or that lemon mayo thinking you’re dieting, I’m afraid I’m going to have to burst your bubble- your best options are vinegar, lemon, and oil(less oil, more lemon and/or vinegar though). Avoid all those mayonnaise based dressings or those with  high sugar content (honey mustard, sweetened balsamic etc…)

In case you need to indulge in a delicious and calculated salad, this recipe is on loan till you make your own.

4- Hydrate hydrate hydrate
You have probably heard this before, and will continue to hear (read?) it here – water, water, water. Consider it your new best friend. Start your day with it, share your meals with it, and keep it next to your bed at night. It’ll help you flush out extra salt and toxins, and sometimes even makes you feel less hungry (believe it or not, some people mistake thirst for hunger). If you’re not big on regular water, try flavored water that has no added sugar, or green tea (again,no added sugar). Green tea is an excellent antioxidant.

Hydration is such an important topic, I’m dedicating the next post on beverages Do’s and Don’ts. Stay tuned!

5- Small portions
I blame family and culture for this common mistake – never get up before the plate is finished! Now, I agree that it IS a shame to waste food, especially with so many needy around us. So in order for you to stick by your parents’ upbringing and finish your plate – don’t over stack it! Your plate should stay flat before and AFTER you pour food on to it. Add food in small portions so that at the end you don’t feel obliged to finish it all and undo the top button of the pants. Smaller portions, more bites, more chewing – eventually leads to less food and calories and better eating habits.

and just because I’m nice, here’s a 6th tip

6- Add exercise in baby steps
This is one of my favorite pieces of advice because seriously now you have no excuse NOT to exercise. Park a little farther from work and take that extra 5-10 minute walk. You don’t have time to exercise during the week? That’s fine, exercise during the weekend. Take a 2-minute break every 40 minutes at work and run in your place (sure people might laugh the first time, but might join in on your 3rd time – this technique is actually becoming quite big in Japan). Live on the 4th floor, take the stairs up. Baby steps, GREAT start!

Today is a Monday, so a lot of us just started our week, and I’m sure more than a few of you told yourselves over your “overeating” weekend that – That’s it! Monday I start dieting – so here you go.This is the sign you needed to get yourself started! It’s personal now, don’t let that scale beat you!


*She may be contacted here on the blog for more details. 😉

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8 thoughts on “Dieting 101: Tips and Tricks”

  1. Which part is it that you find most difficult? maybe you can start by picking the least challenging tip (for example, hydrating) and work your way up over time – you don't have to do everything at once. good luck!

  2. hello Jamil! have u read none of my ..umm.. 2 posts? hehe actually my biggest advice at the moment would be that you don't pursue this diet for long – hyper-protein diets are "unnatural" in the sense that u can't stay them on for life – your brain NEEDS carbs. so i suggest that if u must, take up the diet for no more than a month (at the most) just to lose some weight and feel motivated and then change into a healthier life style which would include high fiber foods and veggies. Also very importantly, plz watch out for fat content as most hyper protein diets are also high fat and thats no good at all. gluck! 🙂

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