It’s a myth that thin people can eat what they want and stay that way. Sure a tiny minority might, most of them stay that way because they practice healthy ways of eating, living and thinking everyday
1. They move more than most
A study at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota found that one of the strongest factors differentiating fat people from skinny ones was the amount of ‘Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis’ they packed into their day. NEAT is a fancy way of saying fidgeting, wriggling in their seats, finger or foot-tapping, pottering. Turns out, thin people do loads. Just standing while you’re on hold or opting out of a seat on the bus can help. An Iowa State University study found heavy women spent half as much time on their feet as lean ones and just by moving more like this burned an extra 300 calories daily (that’s a 30 pound weight loss in a year). Read a Healthista feature about the day we tried NEAT and how to get more into your life
2. They don’t mind a bit of fat
‘Studies on people who lose weight and keep it off show those who are successful get 30 per cent of their daily calories from fat’, says Professor Alexander Miras, an obesity researcher at University College London. That’s because fat in foods means you satisfy your appetite with less food. A low fat yoghurt will probably make you want to eat more because it isn’t satisfying and if it’s marketed as low fat will have modified starches and other sweeteners added to it to make it palatable. These mess with your blood sugar and lead to cravings for more food.
3. They have breakfast
Pundits love a breakfast lecture don’t they? That’s because thin people eat it and people that avoid it off are four times more likely to be overweight. Missing breakfast means blood sugar drops mid-morning which make you more compulsive around food so you’re less likely to resist something sweet or junky mid-morning. Plus people who don’t eat breakfast are more likely to binge at night as their bodies play catch-up on calories they have missed making them more likely to store the calories as fat. Eggs are good – research at Pennington Biomedical Research Centre in Louisiana found those who started their day with two boiled eggs felt less hungry and ate less come lunchtime. Find out what slim women eat for breakfast
4. They say I ‘don’t’ not ‘I can’t’
A study at the University of Buffalo found thin women say ‘I don’t eat that’. ‘Can’t is a word that conjures up self-denial and deprivation where saying ‘I don’t’ is a choice which empowers you.
5. They wait
People who yo-yo diet have felt a lot of extreme hunger in the past and get their signals mixed up so much that they’re often terrified of feeling hungry. That means at the slightest whiff of food they want to chomp something down and may also over eat so they can avoid feeling hungry later. Slim women don’t fear feeling hungry. They wait for real hunger to come on and listen to their body’s signals for it. Real hunger is felt in the stomach, develops slowly over time with physical sensations such as tummy rumbling. Experts talk about a Hunger Scale from 1-10 where one is starving and 10 is stuffed. You should be eating when you’re about a three. Practice waiting by having a glass of water or tea or going for a walk until you’re about a 3-4 before eating. But don’t wait longer because your blood sugar will drop and you may make more compulsive choices around food. Think, the Danish and double caramel latte instead of trail mix and an Americano.
6. They eat loads
…of fruit and vegetables, that is. Skinny women on average have an extra serve of fruit and eat more fibre than their fatter sisters, found a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. By getting inventive with vegetables you can learn to love them, says Amy Cotta, celebrity nutritionist. She suggests the following healthy dressing combinations: 1. Mediterranean – Lemon, garlic, olive oil, basil, thyme 2. Oriental – Soy sauce, ginger, chilli paste, sesame oil, lime juice 3. Indian – Yoghurt, curry powder, garlic, lemon and ground red pepper. Watch a video of More 4’s presenter Emma Grazette cooking up a spicy roast veg salad for Healthista TV
7. They do it over and over
Slim women have core habits that keep them that way, says Professor Craig Jackson, head of psychology at Birmingham City University. ‘To develop those habits they apply certain strategies to their lives over and over again until those habits have become second nature. It’s only when a lifestyle choice becomes a habit that you really see the results.’ For example, take eating smaller portions. One way to develop that habit is to use a smaller plate (plates of eight and a half to nine and half inch diameters are associated with healthiest portions) over and over again until using a smaller plate becomes the norm for you and even when you use a larger plate, you only serve yourself the smaller amount, he explains. But give it time to become a habit. We’re often told it takes 21 days to make a habit but researchers at University College London found it could take anything from 18 to 200 days while on average, habit-forming took 66 days. So keep at it.
HOW THEY KEEP IT OFF
Experts love telling us that 90 per cent of people who go on diets regain the weight they lost in a year. But the 10 per cent who keep it off aren’t just lucky. The National Weight Control Registry in the US studied the habits of women who kept anything from 30-300 pounds off for five years or more. They found:
- 78 per cent ate breakfast every day
- 75 per cent weighed themselves at least once a week
- 62 per cent watched less than ten hours of telly a week
- 90 per cent exercised moderately, not hard for an hour a day
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