Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 5)

This is the final step of our journey of finding more self-control.

In the first four steps, we’ve covered how to use our dinner plates effectively for improved weight management and weight loss, and have gained self-control while grocery shopping, at the office, and in restaurants.

The last place can sometimes be the most difficult.

At home.

We are going to apply three of the previous lessons here.  

First, I want you to treat your dining area as if it is a restaurant. Plate your first serving in kitchen, and do not forget to use the “Half Plate Habit” that we learned in Part One. 

But additionally, here we are going to divide all the food in the kitchen, just like we do on our plate. After we serve ourselves, bring the veggies, lettuce salads, fruits and milk to the table. Leave the entrees and starches in the kitchen.

This reinforces three previous tricks: “Half Plate Habit”, “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” and the “Six Foot Rule.”

You will always eat what is easily obtained, so make sure the vegetables and fruit are always prominent. And this applies not just during a meal. Have a bowl of fruit out on the counter and hide the chips, cookies and crackers in the pantry (or get rid of them altogether.)

Make sure that everyone has water in a glass waiting for them on the dining table. Again, if it is already in front of them, it will more like be consumed.

Make the dining experience enjoyable, not rushed. Do what most of the nicer restaurants do to make people satisfied with the environment. Dim the lights a little to help people bring focus to the food. Soft music in the background is excellent. 

And turn the TV off. Television is a distraction and leads to mindless eating, instead of what we are trying to do here, which is mindful eating. And everyone stays at the table until everyone is done eating. Make dinner a social event something to be enjoyed rather than rushed through.

Those are the five “secret” tricks to gain control while eating, whether you are at home, in the restaurant, at work or anywhere. When you use these simple actions, you will begin experiencing controlled eating. You will start enjoying those Simple Small Successes. And that will give you the confidence to make other changes to your eating habits.

And you will enjoy life more than before.

By now, you may have already read the five secret tricks, but if you want to listen to me as I talk about them, here is the podcast episode

Again, I want to acknowledge Dr. Brian Wansink and both of his excellent books, “Mindless Eating” and “Slim By Design”. His research and more importantly, his well-written and easy to read books were the source of these suggestions. You can buy these books using the affiliate links within the show notes.

Five Secret Tricks to Regain Control of Your Eating (Part 4)

Welcome back to this series of life-changing tips which are very simple to use!

To recap, we use going to use the “Half Plate Habit” everywhere, chew gum while shopping, and move temptations at the office out of sight.

But many of us eat one or more meals away from home and office. What about when we eat at a restaurant? How can you use the “Half Plate Habit” when you are not in charge of plating your food?

I will offer a few simple actions. Oh, I know, you already know the trick about having the server pack up half the entrée before they even bring it to the table. That will prevent you from eating the entire meal without thinking.

(Do you do that? I don’t. I should, but I don’t.)

And we probably should order all those “heart healthy” foods. You know, those foods with the little heart logo. But do we? Not usually. Sometimes those foods just don’t look appetizing, or the portions seem too small, but for whatever reason, we ignore those options.

So what can we do? I have three simple suggestions.

  • One is seating location. Ask for a seat near a window or a well-lit location. When people sit in a booth, in the far corner, dark and isolated, people tend to order more and then eat more. Sitting near a window or on the outdoor patio, generally helps people make healthier choices. When you can be seen, you will usually do what you “should do.”
  • The second step is when you order a meal, remember to use the “Half Plate Habit”. Instead of a starchy side dish, ask for extra vegetable or a side salad. And when the server arrives, immediately ask for a glass of water with a lemon or cucumber slice, and ask him or her to not bring the dinner roll basket.
  • Lastly, you should try to limit alcohol consumption. Not only is alcohol empty calories, but one of the first effects of alcohol is to put our “decider brain” into a deep sleep. That is why we tend to eat when we drink. But if you are sitting near the window you probably will also not be sitting near the bar, so that decision will be easier. 

If you really want to throw caution to the winds, and bypass everything we’ve learned so far, order food while sitting at a dimly lit bar, during double-bubble happy hour, and with 2 televisions going.

But if you really want to do that, we will need to have a one-on-one session.

And just a reminder, if you do not want to wait, you can listen to last week’s podcast, where I list all five suggestions. The show is about 30 minutes long, and you can find it here. You can also subscribe to my podcast in iTunes (for users of Apple products) or Stitcher (non-Apple devices.)


I want to acknowledge Dr. Brian Wansink and both of his excellent books, “Mindless Eating” and “Slim By Design”. His research and more importantly, his well-written and easy to read books were the source of these suggestions. 

Small Changes Make a Big Difference

What if you could do one small, almost invisible thing, and that simple act would help reduce your calorie intake by up to 359 calories a meal?

Would that help you get healthy?

Would it help the people you live with?

What would you pay to prevent gaining 38 pounds a year?

Would you make the decision to act?

Many current sets of dinnerware feature dinner plates that are 10-11 inches. I’ve seen one with 12″ plates. The set of Corel plates that we formerly used had 11″ dinner plates and 8.5″ salad plates.

These are much larger that our vintage plates from the 1950s, when dinner plates were 9″ and salad plates were 7.5″. That doesn’t sound like much, until you calculate the area that each plate holds.
My wife and I use the 9″ plates, but we leave a thumb-width around the edge. That reduces the available area to 8″. Why don’t we just use the 7.5″ plate? Because by always leaving a thumb width on every plate, we train ourselves for those days when we eat at someone’s home. We’ve done it long enough that we know how much empty space to keep all around the plate.
We only fill it one time, and we don’t pile food on top of each other, so we are careful to only choose the foods we love.
What a difference an inch makes!
Plate Diameter  Square Inches   Ratio to 8” plate
         12”                   113.1                  2.25
         11”                     95.03                1.89
         10”                     78.54                1.56
           9”                     63.62                1.27
           8”                     50.27                1.0
So what does all that mean?
When I used the 11″ plates and filled them to the edges–not an uncommon practice in my previous life–I was able to put 1.89 times more food on that plate than I can now. If my old way of eating allowed me to load 1000 calories (imagine a Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and all the rest of my most favorite meal), my new plating habit now only allows 529 calories. Changing that eating habit saved me up to 471 calories, and since I routinely ate second and third helpings, my other new habit of only one serving saves many more calories.
If you just switch from a 10″ to 9″ plate, you will save a lot of calories. That 10″ plate holds 1.23 times the food a 9″ plate will hold. Again, comparing a potential 1000 calories piled on the 10″ plate, that will be reduced to 813 calories (edge to edge) or only 641 if you use my thumb-room method.

That is potentially 359 calories saved. In ONE meal! Over the course of a year, that would be almost 131,000 calories eaten. Eating off your old plates could add almost 38 pounds–or using the new plates may help you lose the same amount.

In every case, we will see a full plate. Our minds will think that we are getting a LOT of food, but we will be limiting how much we eat.
The difference in how much food a plate can hold, based on comparison of square inches.

The equation is area = πr2(where pi = 3.141592654) 

Stop Trying To Be Happy! Just Enjoy Life!

Today we have a guest post by Scott Wilson. An author and engineer, Scott finds problems and then designs the solutions. With his blog, Designed2Succeed, he helps his readers design their most important project: their own lives.

After you read his post, please leave him a comment here, and then check out his thoughts on his blog.

Everyone wants to be happy, right? I mean as far as goals go this one seems to be right up there on most people’s list. The United States constitution even guarantees the right to pursue happiness. So much of the modern advertising industry is built upon the premise of selling the elements that deliver happiness. It is safe to say that trying to be happy is definitely a common priority within our society.
People do many things in their unending efforts to become and remain happy. They seek friendship, love, romance, marriage, children, fame, fortune, spirituality, god and so much more all hoping that these will lead to lasting happiness. It is my observation that all of these things have at best fleeting success in attaining happiness.
Every single one of the ideals that I have mentioned above is mixed with joy and pain, happiness and sorrow. The best friendships will still occasionally disappoint. Romance waxes and wanes. Marriage and families are filled with great joys and heart-crushing events. Even religion and spirituality do not grant immunity to the trials and pains of life.
And yet mankind spends an amazing amount of time and effort chasing the dream of happiness. In this powerful pursuit we demonize sadness and depression. North America is an abundant and rich country where we enjoy a standard of living that far exceeds that of over 60 percent of the world. Still Americans currently spend an estimated $11.3 billion dollars annually on anti-depressants, consuming more per capita than any other nation. American use of anti-depressants skyrocketed 400% from 1988 to 1994. We go to great pains to avoid being unhappy in any way and in the process we treat almost all sadness as an illness.
So what is wrong? Why can’t we seem to lay hold of this ultimate prize despite our herculean efforts? We have material wealth and security like no other nations but we are failing at the very pursuit that our predecessors nobly guaranteed for us. It actually seems that the harder we try obtain happiness the more difficult it becomes to obtain. I actually believe that this principle holds true, and so I propose that it is truthfully our very quest for happiness that causes the problem.
We live in an impermanent world. All things that live will die and everything that is created eventually decays and fails. Why then do we expect our happiness to be permanent? In Zen Buddhism it is believed that our attachment to objects in this ever-changing world that leads to sadness and frustration. There is much truth to this belief, however even detachment will not guarantee happiness just as an absence of pain does not guarantee pleasure. So the problem of happiness remains.
I propose that we release our iron grip on the pursuit of happiness and instead focus our pursuit on joy. No, I am not just playing with semantics. Joy is defined as the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires (from Merriam-Webster). I believe that it is the last part of this definition that is telling: ‘emotion evoked by… the prospect of possessing.’ There can be joy in the pursuit even if the item pursued is not obtained. I would go so far as to say that we can actually enjoy pursuing happiness even if we fail in that pursuit!
I further submit that joy supersedes happiness. As my father lay in pain dying of bone cancer in I enjoyed our much of our time together and so did he. Despite all that my father was experiencing he still enjoyed the simple pleasure of a cappuccino from a local coffee shop. Were we happy? No, not at all. That did not stop joy. In my life and in others I have seen joy in the midst of sorrow, pain and even death.
We need to allow ourselves the ability to experience joy. This often involves slowing down and actually paying attention to and experiencing our lives. We can have goals and quests for worthy ideals but we need to expect that there will be bumps on those journeys. Let not our pursuits rob us of our joy. I have observed people in pain struggling to be happy at Christmas, the supposedly happiest time of the year. In their struggle, these poor souls not only fail to obtain happiness but they deprive themselves of their joy.

Can we still pursue happiness? Yes, but don’t expect to catch it and keep it. Happiness will come and go, and that is alright. Do not run from sorrow especially when the seasons of life call for it. Hold fast to joys, especially the simple ones. Joys can be our greatest treasures in times of tribulation. At all times take pleasure in kindness, smiles and love. In this challenging life, when happiness seems so far off, remember that there can still be great joy in the journey.

©Scott D. Wilson 2014

Walt Disney and John Wayne Give Great Advice

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney
I remember when I needed to wear size 3XL scrubs. I was miserable, but I had given up. I assumed I was just destined to be fat. And it was embarrassing to work in an ER and be nearly 300 pounds. I wanted to weigh less, but I was afraid to try, because I was afraid to fail. Again. I dreamt of being “near normal”, of wearing clothes that did not come from a “Big and Tall” section of the store.
When I finally made the decision, my wife and I started a “diet”. We lost weight, for a while, and then we predictably put it back on. Finally, in May 2011, I decided that enough was enough and started using LoseItand she started using Weight Watchers. We both realized that if we didn’t take action—now—things would only get worse, until very bad things began to happen.
We were both committed to our goal, and yet we were both scared. We were worried about what our friends and relatives would say, but the compliments and the sharp little attacks, such as, “Oh, so you’re trying to lose weight again, hm? What makes you think it will work this time?”
We were afraid of failing.
We didn’t stop. We lost weight. We donated clothes as soon as the no longer fit. We have supported our local Goodwills with all our donated clothes (and we shop there, too.) We got more active. I started walking and discovered that I enjoy it. I bought a Fitbit. My wife got active with DVD exercise routines and yoga.
And the losses continued. We continued to be afraid of failing, of reverting back to our old habits. We developed a habit of planning a week’s worth of meals, and buying only what we need for the meals. We got into the habit of walking our dog once or twice a day. We started parking as far from the entrance to stores as possible and getting extra walking. I stopped using elevators.
We continued have successes and we continued to be fearful of this being only temporary. We solidified our habits, sort of making them institutionalized. We developed a grocery shopping list that I have on my computer to make shopping more efficient. We have our weekend routine of hitting various thrift stores together. We eat meals together when my teaching/clinical schedule allows it, sitting at the dinner table, not in front of the TV. We get up early in the morning to walk and workout. We eat a hearty breakfast and I prepare every day. I pack our lunches and snacks for the day.
We stopped feeling “fear” about slipping back. We were too focused on our plan to have time to worry. We just kept on doing what was working. Life became routine. Weighing and measuring food was normal. The losses continued.
And then I hit my goal. To reinforce my commitment, I tattooed a phrase on my right wrist, forever reminding me to never quit. (An explanation of the phrase can be found in a blog post from January 19, 2012.)My wife continued to lose weight. Fear of failure subsided, but was replaced by eternal vigilance. And the fear of regaining. I continued to weigh/measure my food, and log everything. I still do, and plan to continue until the day arrives where I am unable to care for myself.
My wife’s losses have eclipsed my own. Her success has been remarkable and serves as my inspiration. She is my hero. My maintenance for 16+ months serves as her inspiration, as validation that successes can be realized. She calls me her hero.
We started this journey out of fear. We feared what could—no, what would—happen if we left our habits and practices continue unchecked. In the ER, I cared for people who had heart attacks and strokes. Diabetes and high blood pressure were common conditions. I was afraid of that. Moreover, I was afraid that when I had my heart attack—not if, but when—I would be that patient who required a “team boost” because I was too heavy for two people to move in the bed. I was ashamed of myself in advance.
Fear propelled us into action, and helped to keep us on track. Our fear of failure was great. It was not great enough to prevent us from quitting, but it was great enough to serve as a light whip at our backs.  We used it to motivate us, not to cripple our efforts.
Our dreams are coming true, because we were not too afraid to act. We had the courage to succeed. As David Joseph Schwartz said, “Do what you fear and fear disappears.”
John Wayne said it even better: “Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.”

Note: the links to LoseIt and Fitbit are my affiliate links. That means if you click on those and buy one (or both) 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

Accepting Praise for Your Successes

Brian Dunning is from the podcast, and he was the most recent guest on my podcast Make Your Someday Today.

Success will bring recognition. In business, that could be in the form of a pay raise, a bonus, a promotion, or a bigger office. In sports, that could be medals or sponsorships. Those are relatively easy to accept. They are tangible rewards, something that is measurable and comparable to other people.

In weight loss, the recognition is different. People will say things like “Have you lost weight?” or “You are getting so thin” or “You really shouldn’t lose any more weight.” Those can be handled with a simple “Yes”, “Not really” and “My goal is to be healthy”, respectively.

But what do you say to people who give verbal praise? (This can be in any of the above successes.) Peers and family who are unable to give that tangible recognition but are only able to say “You did great on that project” or “You were the fastest in that race” or “You look great!”

Think about those comments. What are your first responses that come to mind. Most likely the response will sound something like “I was just doing my job” or “That’s just because I practiced a lot” or “Oh, I didn’t lose that much!” People tend to be humble when presented with praise. We downplay our successes. We try to not seem boastful.

That is really wrong. In my Booster episode from today (May 8, 2014) I talk about this problem in greater detail. Listen to the entire show for my rationale and a challenge that I am putting out to everyone. You can find the show in iTunes here, in Stitcher (for non-Apple devices) here, and directly from my website here.

Also, I gave a few more shout-outs to reviewers. Do you want to hear your name? Give me a rating and review on iTunes today!

A Success Story! Have You Heard It Yet?

This is a shameless plug for my podcast.

You can easily find MakeYourSomedayToday (in iTunes) or (in Stitcher). If you like what you hear, please leave me a review on one of those sites (or both!) Ratings and reviews serve to demonstrate to each company that my podcast is worth promoting. That is the only way I can grow–if you, my readers and listeners give feedback to iTunes and Stitcher!

I am asking for everyone here to listen to a show or two (or all 10?) and then give me honest ratings and reviews.

The next show that I will promote here is the most recent episode, and it will feature a few unusual foods. If you listened already, you know what I am talking about. I will show pictures and give basic recipes.

By the way, if you want to hear my story, you can find it in MYST Episode 1 at either of the links about or directly from my website.

Cold Showers: Why DO I Take Them?

Today was Cold Shower, Day 52, and the water temp is down to an even 48F/9C.
At a neighborhood party last Friday, a few neighbors wanted an explanation of my practice, and I tried to give them one. A few were polite and made comments of semi-understanding, but one guy was blunt and said, “No offense, Trev, but that is just stupid.” We all laughed. I wasn’t offended at all. I realize that my cold shower habit is “non-standard”. That’s okay, I can live with that.
But do you know what else is “non-standard”?
Losing 87 pounds and keeping it off for 22+ months in definitely “non-standard.” Statistics (I don’t have the reference in front of me) show that only 5% of people who achieve a weight loss goal maintain their goal weight for more than 12 months. That means those people are truly “non-standard.” Losing weight and then maintaining that loss requires a different mentality. It requires a different type of focus. It needs drive, determination, and the internal motivation to defer short-term immediate pleasure for long term success.
Am I saying that you can’t lose weight and maintain if you don’t take cold showers? Hell no! (THAT would be a stupid statement!) But I am saying that continued success needs a constant and definite focus, and for everyone that will take different forms. One of the LoseIt moderators, Eve, is a marathon runner (she ran in the most recent Boston Marathon.) The ability to run 26.2 miles also requires drive, determination, the willingness to accept discomfort, and internal motivation. (She has also been maintaining a successful weight loss for 11 years.) Diana Nyad swam from Cuba to Florida in 2013. Philippe Croizon swam the English Channel in 2012 as a quadruple amputee. Erik Weihenmayer climbed Mt Everest in 2001. He is blind. Those people and many more, live the “non-standard” life. All chose a task that was truly challenging and something that most people would probably not encourage anyone else to do, let alone try themselves.
I am not comparing my success to climbing Mt Everest, nor saying cold showers are the same as the English Channel. But I am saying that to achieve goals, sometimes one must be willing to accept discomfort, difficulty and the willingness to stand up and say “I am non-standard, because I will accept nothing less than success!” My cold showers, in a small way, are my daily reminder that a little discomfort is a fair price to enjoy for ongoing success.
So, find your own personal “non-standard.” Everyone can succeed. We can change that statistic to a number more than 5%. But you need to go outside the norms to achieve a goal that it not the within the norm. Embrace it. Color outside the lines—in fact, to hell with lines, draw your own picture! Use it to fuel your motivation, to keep your eyes on the goal and to never, ever quit!

What is YOUR “non-standard”? How is it helping you reach your goals? Please share your thoughts here so that others may learn from you.

Here is another article that talks about the benefits of a cold shower.

Change is an Ongoing Process

If you want to change something, there is a defined process or set of steps. Everyone takes all the steps. Sometimes the time lag between steps is brief, and sometimes the duration of one step can be very long. Some people repeat a few steps, but every step is always part of the process. Since I–and many others–are in the “weight change” process, my examples will all refer to that decision.

Step 1: Pre-contemplation
At this point, you don’t even think about a change. Life is happening and you are riding along. You rarely consider your weight, because it is not interfering with anything. Changes only occur when someone decides that an improvement can be made. At this point, you are content.

Step 2: Contemplation
Something has happened. You had an “a-ha!” moment, and it might have been an unpleasant finding. Maybe you were invited to a nice event and when you went to try on your favorite slacks, you found that you needed to coat your legs with bacon grease (why do you have so much bacon grease on hand?) and stand on the dresser while your significant other holds them open so you can jump in. In my case, my blood pressure was up to the point where the Red Cross started deferring me from donating blood. And since I worked in an ER, and knew what happens to overweight guys with very high blood pressure, I suddenly saw the problem and realized the gravity of it. In this phase, you do nothing, but you understand that something needs to happen.

Me, at about 290 pounds, in July 2006

This is a step that many people linger on. It is easy to say “I need to…” but making the decision to do something and acting on it, is much harder. And scary.

Step 3:  Preparation
At this point, you have decided what to do and have started. This can be the most exciting step! You finally are addressing the problem and very often, you quickly see initial results. Maybe you join Weight Watchers. Maybe you join a gym. Maybe you buy a bicycle. But whatever you choose, you decide a course of action and begin. In my case, I found a diet plan (The Sonoma Diet) which was very Mediterranean and looked like I could do it. I started eating the Sonoma/Mediterranean way. And I started to lose weight! In the first eight weeks, I took off 47 pounds. Then….

Step 4: Activation
This is where the action step you chose is in full swing. You are firing on all cylinders. You are making progress, and continuing to follow the plan. You may develop a support system around you, finding strength in numbers. At this point, success becomes a self-supporting machine. It gets easy. Until…you…begin…to falter.

Maybe the action plan becomes boring. The food–the same foods every day–becomes tasteless. The bike ride becomes a chore, and now the seat really starts to hurt. You start finding reasons to skip the gym. The losses slow down, and maybe you stall. These are all the mental obstacles that pop up because you have lost the excitement of the Preparation step and forgotten the “a-ha” event that sparked your Contemplation step. This is where the support system is critical. When you find yourself standing in front of the donut display, and you are thinking “will anyone notice if I lick the display case?” you can send a text message to your supporters and gain the resolve to walk past.

But without that team effort, progress can stop. Regression begins at this point, and again, without a cast of supporting characters in your life, the regression will gain speed.

April 2009, after losing 70 pounds.

For me, this did not happen until I was nine months and 70 pounds into the plan. I just sort of stopped. I thought, “Huh. I guess I’m done now.” I didn’t know about the next step, which is…

Step 5: Preservation
I thought that once I reached my goal, I was done! But in this step, you will continue to learn new habits to lay on top of your bad habits so that you can preserve your success. That takes time. And effort. And you need to keep your focus now, just as when you were beginning your action plan in the Preparation step.

Me? Over the next eight months, I put most of the weight back on. This is not uncommon, and was another “a-ha” moment, which made me re-enter the change process at the Contemplation step and restart from there. Again, this is a common detour that many people make. And like me, many people enter into a repeating loop at this point. I restarted three additional times over the next 13 months, until May 2011 when I found the LoseIt application on my iPod. Once I had my fourth “a-ha” I found a method that has served me well into the Preservation step.

May, 2011, back up to 265. How did THAT happen???

July 2012, about six months at my goal weight, about 185. 
I am still at or under my goal, 15 months after than picture was taken.

Step 6: Termination
This step applies to many changes, but not all. If you are building your home, eventually the builders give you the keys and you move it. Or you find that your retirement fund is large enough that you can stop working, so you turn in your retirement papers and move into the next phase of your life.

Weight loss is a different change, because we keep adapting our thought process. We don’t get a hair cut just once, in the style we like and never get it cut again (unless you are my oldest son), because other changes happen around you, and your hair doesn’t stop growing. We might continue to work, even into retirement, but the definition of “work” may change.

When we reach our goal weight, the Preservation step may need to become permanent. You may need to carefully consider what you eat for the rest of your life. Or, maybe you can stop being so vigilant. We are all different. Personally, I have been at or under goal weight for 19+ months, and I still measure my food and log everything I eat. It is not a burden, so I have no issues continuing. And my LoseIt app is my security blanket. I know that as long as I am able to log my foods, I can keep the weight off. I worked too hard to go backwards. Might that change? Probably. But I am in no hurry to move to the true Termination step.

Where are you? How many times have you looped back? We need to always remember that restarting is not a failure. Failure is when you never loop back and never restart the change process.

Question: What change you working on? Where are you in this process? Give us the answer below so we can all gain more confidence and success.

Also, go to my Make Your Someday Today podcast and stay current with my changes by clicking HERE.