Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 1)

Let’s start with the beginning. 

Most people are overweight in the US. Recent studies show more than 60% of people 12 and older are overweight, and about half are clinically obese. It’s not getting better over time, it is getting worse.

But everyone already knows that, or if you don’t know that, I’m not sure where you are living. The US is big.

That was the origin of my blog and podcast. I wanted to help people reach their goals—all goals—including weight management. And my constant refrain is “calorie counting and move more than you used to.”

I still believe that to be the foundation of any successful weight management program. I use LoseIt to easily count my calories and my Fitbit to keep reminding me to walk more.

But, that is not enough. Or rather, maybe that is too much, at least in the beginning. Learning to eat the correct number of calories, and then log them all, and then create a new habit of walking more are three very large goals. They are worthy goals, but it is possible they are too large, too aggressive, and too monumental to talk all at once.

I am working with a weight loss client. Let’s call him “John”. We connect about three times a week with email, video mail and Skype calls. Last weekend we were talking about his strategy, and a phrase came to me. I told him that while his goal is large, we are going to focus on “Simple Small Successes”. Small goals that can build on each other, creating a succession of successful actions. We are going to set John up for success, because each goal has a very simple threshold. Success breeds success. As we move further into his program, the goals will continue to be simple, but eventually they will result in very large changes to his eating and living habits.

I started to think about how I can help more people. I’d love to be able to meet with all of my readers and listeners as I do with John (and it is possible for some) but until I am able to become a fulltime consultant and coach, I will give your advice here.

There are five areas that affect our eating habits, five locations that we can make very small changes to help you make better choices.

You will not need to buy different food, cook differently, or eat at different restaurants. You will not count calories, do special exercises, and go to meetings. In fact, there is only one thing you will need to purchase, and it will cost you only some spare change! But we will get to that in a bit.

But before I give you my ideas, I want to give full credit to Dr. Brian Wansinck. He is the author of two books about the habit of eating. “Mindless Eating” is an excellent discussion of our bad habits while eating. And we all have them. His newest book, “Slim By Design” takes his first book and adds many actions that will help the reader change their life. So to be clear, none of these ideas are mine. I am using his ideas. My words. His ideas.

We encounter food in four general places: home, the grocery store, the work place and restaurants. I am going to give you specific steps for each of those places. Remember, I am focusing on Simple Small Successes and each one of these ideas are free, simple and effective.

What are they?

Let’s start with the first idea, which can and should be used anywhere. Let’s consider the plate you use to eat.

How much of eat group are you supposed to eat? And what size plate?

The USDA has a complicated definition of how much of eat type of food to eat. And if you want to follow that, you will eat very healthy. But it is not simple, and remember this is all about “Small Simple Successes”.

This is what MyPlate looks like on my actual plate.

So instead of the USDA plate with its four categories, I suggest an easier approach. It is simply eating with a “Half Plate Habit.” Take your plate—any plate—and visually divide it in half. That is easy enough, right?

Then—here comes the easiest part—when you eat, fill one half with fruits, vegetables and green leafy salads. Tuna pasta salad and potato salad do not count here. But all the steamed, roasted, grilled and raw veggies you like, your favorite fruits, and a nice salad with fresh greens, that will be how you fill half your plate.

Easy enough?

The other half? Anything you want.


Anything you want, but with two rules: the food cannot extend over the edge, and you cannot pile food on top of other food. But otherwise, pizza, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, BBQ ribs, quinoa salad can all go on this half. This is where the tuna pasta salad and potato salad will go, along with the onion rings, French fries, and brownies.

Wait a minute! Do I really think this will help you gain control over eating? It sounds like I am suggesting that pigging out is the answer to being overweight.

Yes. It will help. Think about it. First off, you only have half a plate to fill with the “pig out” food, and I limit it to not extending over the edges, and not piled high. So the reality is you will not get a lot on that plate. But the other half is full of the really good food, the healthy food. The fruits have sugars, which will satisfy your sweet tooth (and we all have one) while the veggies and their fiber help fill our stomach with bulk but not many calories.

But the real magic happens when you decide you want that extra piece of pizza. When you get up to go get it, you then remember that you will also need to eat a half plate of fruit and veggies, too. Many times, you will decide that maybe you really do not want that pizza that badly, and you will stop eating, and very likely eat much less than you normally would have eaten.

What happens if you cheat and take the pizza but not the fruit and veggies? Well, yes it is cheating, but the only person who loses is you. This “Half Plate Habit” will only work if you really want it to work. It will be the most difficult of my five suggestions, but it is the most important, because you will be able to use this everywhere: at home, at a family gathering, at an all you can eat buffet, and at work.

This one habit will be the first habit to propel you to success.

That is my first “secret” trick to gain control over your eating habits. This trick can be–should be–used everywhere you eat.

Tomorrow we will go to a specific place of food, and give you a simple and extremelt inexpensive trick to help you maintain control.

If you do not want to wait for the next blog post to reveal and explain the next tip for control, you can listen to my podcast and hear all of them.

Note: the links to LoseIt and Fitbit are my affiliate links. That means if you click on those and buy one (or all) I will receive a small commission. It does not change your cost at all, but it will help me continue to provide recipes and advice here and in my podcast Make Your Someday Today. That is the only firm of payment I have here, or in the podcast. I tell you about tools that worked for, and if you belief they can help you, your purchase keeps my work going. And for that, I thank you!

How to Make Crispy, Crunchy Fried Chicken

Crispy, crunchy, breaded chicken is easy. Simply deep fry it.
But if you are looking for a healthier version, that requires baking it, and sometimes the results are not as crisp or crunchy as desired. I tried several versions, and found that the secret ingredient is Panko Bread crumbs. (My preferred brand is Kikkoman.)

Panko Crumbs adds an excellent and light crunch to everything!
In both versions, I used a buttermilk wash and seasoned flour. I baked the chicken on a cooking rack to allow airflow around the chicken, but the pieces that were given a second coating with panko turned out demonstrably crisper and crunchier.
These pieces had a crisp and satisfying crunch and that contributed to the excellent flavor.

This was very flavorful, but lacked the crunch.
The specific details:
I used chicken legs (thighs and drumstick.) I left the skin on (because sometimes I just want all the flavor possible.) I think this technique would work with skinless chicken, and I will run that test soon.
I seasoned 1 cup whole wheat flour with 
  • 2 tsp onion powder 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper 
  • 1 tablespoon rubbed sage. 

My wash was buttermilk.

The flour-only version was dipped in buttermilk and rolled in flour. The panko version was rolled in the seasoned flour first, then dipped in buttermilk and coated in panko.

Bake on a cooking rack in another shallow pan (I used a 10x15in jelly roll pan) at 425F/225C for 15 minutes, then 375/190C for 30-35 minutes or until the internal temp is 165F/74C.
Don’t bake solely based on time. If you remove the chicken at 165F/74C, you will have perfectly cooked chicken that isn’t dry. However, the downside of this is you don’t get the beautiful golden-brown color of deep-fried chicken. (I can live without the color!)
This recipe was requested from Tosha, one of the listeners of my podcast, Make Your Someday Today. In MYST 53, Tosha left a message on my voicemail system (Speakpipe) which you can find on my home page. If you have a question, please give me a call!

Success Is Internal, But The Growth is External

“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”
Ayn Rand
My wife and I are re-watching the TV series “Mad Men” and one of the characters likes Ayn Rand. I like her quote above, but I would replace “creative” with the word “successful”.

My awesome wife, Tammy!

We are competing internally. I don’t care how many challenges you join on LoseIt, the battle for weight management is a fight with your own body and mind. The battle for success in the field of podcasting or blogging lies inside you, with your ability to create a quality product and connect with your audience. It does not matter who else is podcasting or how many other blogs exist. Their success will not diminish your potential success. 
True success occurs because you want to become the person that you really are, not by wanting to lose weight faster than your neighbor, or publish more blog posts. If you entered a marathon, would you prefer to define your personal success based on how well you placed compared to the other runners, or based on the percentage of improvement over your last marathon? Why would it be any different here?
Achieving success is more than a number on a scale or download numbers on iTunes. It is being part of a group effort, of working for the common good. My guess is that people who are not interactive here and in the forums are the people who rapidly give up. When we post to each other and respond in the forum, we are all doing what we can to support someone else. We sometimes give them a new idea to try. Sometimes we are the bucket of cold water trying to bring some reality to the situation. But in either case, we are part of a team and looked at from afar, everyone gets better.
Looking back at running for a moment, which is run faster, four people competing in a one mile race or a team of four running the 4×440 relay as a team?  It is the same distance, but the relay will be completed MUCH faster, because each person does their part for the whole team.
The people of “Mad Men” competed externally and internally. They were all afraid of losing business to another firm and they all wanted to be the most productive account executive for personal rewards. They generally succeeded but I just wonder what they could have accomplished if the various departments and people acted as if they were integrated rather than separate units. If everyone were part owner instead of a salaried employee, there would be incentive to make sure you help the person next to you instead of sneak behind them for personal glory.
Make Your Someday Today is all about individual choices and responsibility, but it is also about everyone helping someone else. We all have knowledge and expertise. We all have needs and weaknesses. We can all participate in making others successful, because choirs sing best when many voices are singing the same song.
Personal experience: I would guess that many people reading this know the song “Piano Man” by Billy Joel. My wife and I attended a Billy Joel/Elton John concert back in 1995 at Milwaukee County Stadium with 54,000 people in the stadium. At the end of the concert, in the final curtain call, both singers came out without their bands and backup singers. They sat at their respective pianos for two final songs. The first song they both sang was “Good Bye, Norma Jean”. It was beautiful. And then they both played “Piano Man.” I love that song. I always have and always will. It is a beautiful solo ballad. But to this day, I still get a shiver down my spine when I think of 54,000 people rising to their feet and singing “Piano Man” in unison. I will never hear anything like that again. It wasn’t a planned sing-along. The performers didn’t invite us to serenade them. It was a spontaneous event.
There were good singers in the crowd. There were also singers who sang like me. And I am sure we sang in many different keys. None of that mattered. Our combined voices created a one-of-a-kind choir. The applause afterwards was deafening, because we were applauding ourselves for helping each other be better. There were a few tears, as well, for no apparent reason other than beauty takes many unexpected forms.
We can all do that here. Everyone here can be helped and at the same time be helped. The only saying is that the rising tide raises all boats.  Be part of the tide that raises everyone around you.

(Post-script:  As I sit here proofing this essay, with my iPod on shuffle, “Piano Man” begins to play.)