How to Double Your Weight Loss before you Double Yourself

July 08, 2008

How to Double Your Weight Loss before you Double Yourself 

 Competency # 2  The Best Diet                                 Reference: American Journal of Preventative Medicine, August 2008,  Time Magazine 8/1/08 Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating, 2007 (Best book out there on managing your surroundings) 

 This idea is pretty simple.  If you keep a food diary when on a diet, you double your weight loss, plain and simple.  Double.  That’s it.  This comes from a huge research study.  Lot's of other strategies failed.  Keeping a diary worked.  Don't read any more.  It’s too painful for me. So much of the day, we eat without thinking about it.  

As Brian Wansink demonstrated so eloquently in his brilliant book we reviewed last year, Mindless Eating, we have very little insight into the amount of food we eat.  It all comes down to the very subtle cues in the world around us.  He shows in his book, even with graduate students in his research program, that you can change the amount of food people eat just by changing very subtle cues in their environment.  

For example, if you pass out small bowls for snacks at a party versus one quart bowls, you can change the amount of snack food your guests eat by some 50%.   Same principal works for candy dishes on your desk or soda glasses at the movies or stale popcorn in the ER break room.  If you have an open dish, you eat 6-7 pieces of your own candy every day.  If it's covered, you’ll eat less.  If it's opaque, even less.  If it's on the counter behind you, less yet.  (Lesson: use smaller plates; you’ll eat less and still be satisfied.  Don’t put food in sight.  You will eat it without thinking about it.) 

 Keeping a diary is raising the barrier to eating mindlessly.  If I have to write it down, I have to describe it and measure it.  How many ounces?  How big a piece? And the data sits there for all to see.  That extra little mental effort is a big pain, so I just rather not eat it.  Like a spoiled, entitled teenager, I huff off with my diary in my pocket and just have a little snit.  But I don't eat it. 

 And the merging science of sugar is becoming more clear.  Just a wee bit of sugar helps the medicine go down. And everything else go down that it's added to.  Do an experiment in your home.  Buy some plain, generic, peanut butter and set it beside a commercial brand that has corn sweeteners in it.  Taste a tiny taste of both.  Which do you want a second teaspoon of?  You picked the sugared one, right?  That's because we now know that the same parts of our brain that fires up with fireworks when we take drugs of various kinds (heroine, cocaine, morphine.....) is the same part of your brain that stands up and says "Yippee" when you eat sugar.  You are hard wired to eat more whenever sugar gets close to your tongue.  Like an addiction, sugar gives you a high.  A wee bit of sugar becomes another bite, and another bite and another bite.  Sweet used to mean you had found ripe fruit and you should gorge quickly before the mangos went bad and the season was over, or before you got chased away by a bigger competitor. No more big competitors to chase you away, just you and your conscience, and your spouse.  

Your inner elephant, your subconscious, is a raging wild animal that is much stronger than you if you don't get good tools to control him/her.  A food diary forces you to make your food choices consciously.  Once you are thinking, your rational side can control that devilish elephant.  A food diary is step two on the twelve-step program to recovery.  Step one is to stand up and say, "My name is ______, and I love sugar..." 

 WWW. What Will Work for Me?  Well.  I opened the fridge this week after 9:30 pm when we were in the middle of some shoot-em-up cop show.  I only had three minutes to find something yummy.  My adrenaline was pumping.  The Greek God Honey Yogurt carton was there with only one bite out of it, full fat, unbelievably delicious, sweet, sweet honey flavor.  I didn't get a bowl.  I just took one bite, then another, and another.  Finally, I just plain sat down with the whole carton, without thinking, glued to the TV.  I gave my dog the empty carton, 20 huge tablespoons later. It was just delicious.  However, I didn't feel full yet....    So, I'm starting a diary.  I need to learn how to keep track better than that.  And you?  Are you so innocent?  Of course, this couldn't possibly apply to you...  (Note pads are available at your nearest Walgreen's.  Join me)

The column was written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI. (262-784-5300)