Why the REAL Diet Happens on the Weekend

On any given weekday I have a very strict (some may say boring) routine.

  1. I get up and drink coffee
  2. Eat an energy bar (low calories) and drink water
  3. Drop the kids off at school
  4. Swim for an hour
  5. Eat a raw egg (to build muscle) and bit of cornflakes to restore energy after the swim
  6. Work
  7. Drink coffee
  8. Work
  9. I make and eat a big salad and drink water
  10. work
  11. Eat my 4pm meal – usually cornflakes and yogurt.
  12. work
  13. Go home at around 7pm and eat dinner (2 slices of bread, vegetables, some low fat pastrami and soup)
  14. Play with the kids, showers, insert kids into bed
  15. Read something or see a TV show with the wife
  16. Eat the night meal (a couple of biscuits and a Popsicle).
  17. Go to sleep.

It’s all very predictable, habit based and … very effective in helping me lose weight. But on the weekend the routine goes to hell. It’s more like…

  1. Sleep late
  2. Chaos
  3. Birthday parties
  4. Chaos
  5. Snacks
  6. Family feasts
  7. Chaos
  8. Snacks

That’s why you have to be particularly mindful on the weekends and be aware that if you can maintain your diet through the weekend, you have 10 times the chance to lose weight.

photo credit: Drew “Rukes” Ressler via photopin cc

How to train yourself to stop snacking

In my experience, addiction is rooted in Pavlovian behavior. I’ll explain…

I noticed it when I quit smoking (Yes, Yes, I was also a smoker). The first challenge was getting rid of the nicotine addiction. That was hell, but it only took two weeks. A much bigger challenge was getting rid of my smoking habits. Even when I didn’t need a cigarette for the nicotine,  I still felt an almost overwhelming urge to light up in the following cases:

1. When I was excited

2. When I was sad

3. When I was stressed out (which happened a lot since I was the CEO of a struggling startup at the time)

4. When I drank coffee

5. After sex

And that’s just a partial list.

A few times, the need to smoke was so strong, I slipped. And bear in mind that at that point I couldn’t even stand the smell or taste of cigarettes.

And still… I smoked. Despite knowing that it would be disgusting . Despite knowing I would need to go through nicotine-withdrawal hell all over again. And despite the fact that my lovely, gentle wife  would kill me dead if she found out.

And still, the conditioning was so strong, it took me more than a year to get from under it.

Why this happens

Well… it’s pretty simple. The nicotine in the cigarettes and the sugar in the snacks stimulate our brain’s pleasure center.

So when we repeatedly compensate ourselves with pleasure (chocolate) while feeling an emotion (sad) and every time we reward ourselves (cigarette) after performing a specific action (drink coffee), we are training ourselves to associate that action or feeling with the snack or with the cigarette.

This association is created at the primal level of our brain (our lizard brain). That’s why it’s so hard to fight it. That’s why these urges ‘appear’ out of the blue.

What to do to stop snacking

1. Stop being ashamed – you are not weak. You are just very well trained to snack.

2. Make a list of snacking triggers – Be honest. Make a complete list of all the feelings/situations that send you on a snack hunt.

3. Choose an alternative reward – Find a behavior that gives you pleasure and that’s healthy. It’s also a good idea to chose something you can do anywhere and doesn’t take long to do, Like talking to a friend or listening to a song on your iPod or doing one yoga exercise.

4. Start small – Pick one trigger that causes you to snack from the list above and decide to replace its reward/compensation with the healthy alternative.

5. Repeat for 30-60 days – This is the amount of time it usually takes to re-train your brain.

6. Continue to the next trigger – Once you’ve re-trained yourself for a specific trigger, you can move on to the next one. The second one will be a lot easier, because you’ve already succeeded once.

I’ve used this technique to quit smoking and stop snacking. The only problem was I substituted the smokes and the snacks for reading comics and watching TV. So now I have to quit those.

Well… nobody’s perfect (yet)

I need your help…

I want to compile a comprehensive list of healthy alternative habits. I would love it if you could think of something that you (a) love to do and (b) you can easily do anywhere and (c) don’t require a great deal of preparation.

And then either leave them as a comment on my facebook page or here on the blog.

photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc

Diet Tip #2: The 15 Minute Rule

15 minutes ago I was CRAZY HUNGRY.

I just finished my small afternoon meal (1/4 bowl of cornflakes and yogurt – 130 calories) and it was no way near enough.

And then the inner dialog started…

Lizard Brain: “I’m not feeling that good, maybe I should put the diet on hold. Eat well and get stronger.

Yoav: “Well… you know you’ve just eaten a good meal, and you’ve got another one coming in 3 hours. Maybe you’re just thirsty?”

Lizard Brain:  “Maybe … let’s check”

(Gulp, Gulp, Gulp)

Lizard Brain: “Nope, still HUNGRY, let’s eat…”

Yoav: “Wait. Hang on, let’s wait 15 minutes, and see if we’re still hungry. You know… the 15 minute rule”

Lizard Brain: “(Growl)… OK, but in 15 minutes it’s PIZZA TIME”

15 minutes have passed and I am very full and content. Yoav and the lizard brain are one again.

You see… when we eat, our body produces hormones that trigger the feeling of fullness in the brain (specifically in the hypothalamus). This feeling of fullness occurs 10 to 20 minutes after we’ve started eating. Some studies have shown that in obese people the feeling of fullness takes longer to appear, but the good news are that after 20 minutes, everybody feels full.

So the bottom line is… if you feel hungry after your meal, you don’t have to suffer until your next meal (or eat more than you’re allowed). Just wait 15 minutes and presto … You’re full.

photo credit: ToniVC via photopin cc

Diet, Coffee and Diet Coke

Diet Coke isn’t healthy for you and neither is coffee. Caffeine can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. And the artificial sweeteners are not that healthy either.

But you know what… screw it.

A cup of coffee helps relieve the feeling of hunger and can get you through to your next meal without snacking (and so can a diet Coke).

I don’t suggest that you take up drinking coffee if you haven’t done so before the diet. But if you were caffeinating, then by all means – harness this unhealthy habit to lose weight.

In fact, I strongly suggest that you do not try to make two big life changes at the same time. It takes focus and discipline to adopt diet habits and if you spread yourself too thin, you’ll fail both challenges.

Here’s a couple of caffeinating guidelines:

1.  Don’t increase your daily amount of caffeine drinks.

2. Use artificial sweeteners and not sugar with your coffee (you don’t need the extra calories). If you can’t stand the taste of artificial sweeteners and must use sugar, then reduce the amount of sugar to half a spoon per drink.

3. If you drink your coffee with milk, make sure you use mostly water and only a drop of milk to color the coffee.

4. Use low-fat milk.

4. When you order coffee, make sure that they make it as described above (mostly water and a touch of milk) and let them know you’ll be adding your own sweeteners.

Note: All the above is true if you don’t have doctor’s orders to the contrary. We’ll discuss doctors orders in another post, since they are important but sometimes destructive to your diet.

So… keep caffeinating my friend. And soon you’ll be a thinner, sexier caffeine drinker.

photo credit: dongga BS via photopin cc

Diet Tip #1 – Never Be Hungry

Most people think that being on a diet means you need to learn how to be hungry.

That’s a HUGE mistake. Hunger is the #1 enemy of a successful diet.

To successfully lose a lot of weight, your thinking, rational self needs to be in control over a long period of time (it could be months or even years in some cases). But when you let yourself become hungry, you relinquish control to your lizard brain.

I’m HUNGRY the lizard brain screams – and while your rational self may fight the overwhelming impulse to eat for a little while, it quickly loses control and you find yourself standing in front of the refrigerator doing the nasty with a baguette and a bucket of Humus.

The surest safest way to lose weight is to establish a meal schedule that’s low on calories, but keeps you content and full 95% of the time.

photo credit: » Zitona « via photopin cc

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