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!

Where Do You Want to Go?

Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? Who do you want to be?

I don’t know your answer to those questions. Maybe you don’t either. But your options are nearly unlimited. Or rather, they are only limited by one thing: you.

What do you want?

The first step in anything is having a plan. Choose something as your goal. Weight loss. New career. Launch a podcast. Walk the Pacific Crest Trail. Anything. Find a goal, something that you are passionate over, and make a specific goal statement. Picture what success looks like. Write your goal–on paper–and attach it somewhere you will see it frequently. Be as specific as specific as possible. Set a deadline, for all goals except weight loss. Our bodies are frequent obstinant about losing weight. Focus on the end weight, not a due date, and you will have less frustration.

The next step is take action which moves you toward the goal. Right now. Don’t wait. Tomorrow will not be any better than today. Just act. Will it be the right action? I don’t know. Neither do you, until you try. If you want to lose weight, maybe that means downloading a calorie-counting app (like LoseIt, which I use.) Start using it. If you find success, great! If after a few weeks of consistent use, you find it unhelpful, try something else. Nothing will happen until you do something!

You may decide to get more active. I wear my Fitbit to help keep me moving. But you need to 1) wear it, and 2) keep moving to get any benefit!

I have a friend who stated in November 2013 that he would launch his podcast in one year. To date, he still is chasing ideas for his podcast. As he puts it, “When you chase two rabbits, you don’t catch any.” Now, that isn’t a terrible thing, but until he know what he really wants, he will continue to chase those rabbits.

Deepak Chopra put it nicely when he said “No solution can ever be found by running in three different directions.”

Do you want a new career? What do you love doing? That isn’t necessarily what you enjoy as a hobby, but what makes you feel completed? I homebrew beer. For a few years, I actively considered creating my own brewpub (brewery and restaurant) because I make really good beer, I am a good chef, and I love servin people my food and beer. But the more I looked at it, the more I realized that while I love brewing and cooking for myself, my family and my friends, doing it every day, on a demanding schedule would not make me happy. Look into classes at your local community college. Maybe you can test your resolve by taking a class in accounting (if you want to become an accountant) or welding (if that is your plan.)

Side note: here in Northeastern Wisconsin, we can’t seem to find enough skilled welders. The college that I teach offers welding programs that are always filled. A good job, if you like that type of work, might be waiting for you in Wisconsin.

Do you want to start a podcast, blog or write a book? Well, guess what? Those don’t magically appear. They all involve writing and a significant committment of time and energy. And they all take consistent effort. That is similar to students who buy a textbook but rarely–or never–open it, and then wonder why their test scores are low.

Find a resource, sit down and take action. To learn how to podcast, go to Meron Bareket’s Podcast Starter Kit. Starting a blog is easy when you follow Leslie Samuel’s “Become a Blogger” plan. Jeff Goins is an awesome author and his blog “Goins, Writer” helps new authors get their start.

So, you have a plan and you took your first steps. Are you having any success? You need to always evaluate your progress. Maybe not daily, but weekly or monthly is a good timeline for assessment. Sit down at the same time each week, and look at your metrics. How many pounds did you lose? How many days did you eat within your budget? How many words per day did you write, or how many interviews did you record and edit? Is that answer what you need to reach your goal? If yes, stick with it. If not, consider small changes to maximize your chances of success. Maybe find a mentor, face to face or vitual to help provide accountability. That is what I do for my weight management clients.

When should you do this?

Right now. What will be accomplished by waiting? Even if you say that you need to wait until tomorrow for that flight to Tibet, you can still take action today to prepare for it. Act now. It is the only time that you now you will have.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
Note: the links to LoseIt, Fitbit and the Podcast Starter Kit are my affiliate links. (Other links are simply excellent resources.) 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!
All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.

Prepping for Sunday’s Show

On Sunday, I will be making crepes on Good Day Wisconsin. I am making both recipes before Sunday, just to make sure that I eliminate any rust. I don’t make crepes every day. Planning and preparation is important when success is important. If I were cooking for myself, I might be tempted to not worry about details and just “wing it.” But when I am cooking for guests at home, I try to create food as good as possible (which, in my humble opinion, is sometimes as good–or better–than what is available in a restaurant.) When I am cooking on live television, that increases the need to be as correct as possible. So I practice my recipes.
When I made foods on previous shows, I always had all my ingredients out on display so people could get an idea what was necessary. My recipe is very basic: milk, eggs, flour, vanilla, salt, and beer. Yes, beer. (Here in Wisconsin, we can put beer in anything, right?)
Every beer brings its own characteristics. You can’t use just anything. Something like North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout–a great beer–would add a powerful flavor, as would something hugely hoppy like Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. So, I made a test batch tonight. And I know what I am using.
So, you may be wondering what beer I will use. I don’t want to keep you in suspense.
I am going to use Wisco Disco, a fine amber ale brewed by my friend Brad Stillmank and the Stillmank Brewing Company here in Green Bay. It is malty and hoppy, smooth and delicious. You can see in the photo that one can of the four-pack is gone, sacrificed for the test batch. Well, not all of it. The recipe only needed 5 ounces, leaving 11 ounces for my glass!
If you are local, I hope you watch me. (Also, locals will be able to buy some of this great beer!) If not, I will post a link to watch my segments online.

Think happy thoughts for me!

The Only Way To Stay On Track

That is how I planned for our Thanksgiving feast. Yes, it is old-school paper and pencil, but it worked. The right column is the menu, how each food item is prepared, the time it will take and the temperature needed. The left column is the critical “timing” plan.

Was it perfect?

Nope. You will notice that nowhere does it list “trigger smoke detector–not once, but twice”. It doesn’t tell me to use “bread dough that won’t rise” or “under cook the pecan pie.”

But it all turned out! The smoke alarms were noisy and annoying, but didn’t do any damage, because in both cases they happened when I not as busy as at other times. The bread didn’t rise because (as I discovered later) I mis-measured my water by about 10% which is just enough to prevent good yeast activity. And the pecan pie? That truly was unfortunate, because it is a really good pie. However, I still had a perfect pumpkin pie so all was not lost!

That’s how I plan for a party. 

And that’s just for something as fleeting as a party. What about life after the party?

Do you plan your life? 

Do you know what are you going to do this week? This month? This year?

Are you making progress toward your goals every day?

Is your plan written down? Is it detailed, showing you all the necessary steps? 

Do you set a timetable?

If you tend to “wing it” through life, are you as successful as you want?

But back to festivities! Next up for parties: we host the neighborhood holiday bash on December 20th, followed by the Christmas Eve brunch for the family. More planning! More excitement! Fewer smoke alarms!