We’re beginning a new tradition here at the Spirit. With the great access we have to some of the top experts in their respective fields, it made sense to have Mason professors share a bit of their knowledge with our readers. So we’re starting the Top Five, in which we’ll ask a leading authority in a subject—any subject—to give us the skinny. We kick off the inaugural Top Five with Lisa Pawloski, chair of the Department of Global and Community Health and a nutritional anthropologist. Here are her top five ways to maintain a healthy weight:
1. Limit eating at restaurants.
If you do eat out, share a plate or take half home.
Most research suggests that people who dine out consume approximately 200 additional calories at each meal compared with those who prepare their meals at home. Not only are foods prepared at restaurants typically high in calories, but they are often higher in fat and sodium and portions are typically too large.
2. Eat with other people and not in front of the TV.
Socializing often helps to limit calories—particularly if you are quite chatty— but also creates an atmosphere that slows down your intake of food. Those who eat more slowly tend to eat fewer calories. Also, dining in front of the TV has been linked to increased caloric consumption and can create a Pavlovian-like association so that you may feel hungry each time you watch TV.
3. Small calorie snacks and beverages add up. Cut out one small habit and add another small good habit.
Most people don’t realize how cutting out small calories can make a big difference in weight loss. It takes 3,500 calories to make a pound of fat. If you consume one 150-calorie soda every day and cut that soda out, you would lose 15 pounds of fat in one year. By the same token, adding small increments of exercise can make a big difference, too, particularly those lifestyle changes that can be permanently integrated into your day, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Interestingly, these small changes in energy expenditure may have contributed significantly to our obesity crisis. Think about all the technologies you have that your parents and grandparents did not, such as garage door openers, electric windows, TV remote controls, wireless personal phones, and microwave ovens. Rolling up and down your car window every day for a year could take off five pounds.
4. Choose nutrient-dense calories that you enjoy. If the dessert isn’t really good, it’s not worth the calories.
An interesting study done in Sweden compared a group of Thais eating Thai food with a group of Thais eating Swedish food, and a group of Swedes eating Swedish food with a group of Swedes eating Thai food. When Thais ate Thai food and Swedes ate Swedish food, it was found they secreted more digestive enzymes and absorbed more nutrients. Lesson learned?
Eat foods that you are comfortable with and enjoy.
5. Try soup before your meals and try gum in between.
Recent studies have shown that warm soup before a meal fills the stomach and individuals consume less during the meal. Furthermore, those who chew gum, which basically creates a flavor in the mouth, have been found to better avoid high-calorie snacks in between meals.