Change behavior and results will follow

On January 1, 2013, an overweight client emailed me:

I lost 20 pounds in the second half of 2012 following your advice on what to eat. Thanks! Now I’m making a resolution for 2013. I was thinking I would set the goal of losing another 10 pounds. What do you think?

Here’s my reply: Congratulations on your weight loss! I know you learned a lot in 2012. For 2013, I suggest something different: Set a behavioral goal that changes your daily habits. The natural result will likely be some weight loss and a smaller waist this year. More important, it will improve your eating skills for the rest of your life.

So which behavioral goal? My coauthor Conor Hughes and I discuss several in our forthcoming book, Evolutionary Eating. Here’s a big one. I think you are ready for it.

Don’t snack.

That’s it. Don’t snack in 2013. Eat only regular meals, no more than three a day. Try to eat at regular times. But most important: Don’t snack.

The single most important predictor of weight gain isn’t how MUCH you eat, but how OFTEN. Therefore, the most important skill to master is WHEN you eat.

Not even “healthy snacks”
The answer to your next question is “no.” No “healthy snacks.” There is no such thing as a healthy snack — not even apples. Even so-called healthy snacks disrupt our body’s weight regulation.

When you eat food — sometimes when you just see or smell food — your body secretes insulin. Insulin pushes you towards fat storage mode.

If you eat often, you always have insulin circulating, causing all the cells but fat cells to become insulin resistant. Also, insulin blocks the fat cells from releasing stored fat as fuel when you need it.

To create a healthy balance, there should be times when you are not eating. When you are “fasting”, which is what happens “between meals” (which is why the first meal of the day is called “breakfast”), there is little or no insulin in your bloodstream.

Without the insulin, your body shifts to releasing stored fat as fuel.

Generally, this process occurs naturally. Snacking completely disrupts this mechanism.

If you don’t snack, your body can start to use fat. The good results will happen naturally.

Smile to succeed
I know. It’s simple, but not easy. So don’t beat yourself up if you have a snack occasionally. Do your best today and improve tomorrow. Stumbles are setbacks, not strikeouts. Find what works for you, and never give up.

I am excited about our forthcoming book Evolutionary Eating, which will have more details and practical advice.

Here’s another behavioral goal that might help. Smile. Smile about your great new eating habits! Enjoy eating real food at real meals. Living without snacks will improve your health and life. And living well is not a sacrifice. So smile. But don’t snack!, Theresa Nesbitt and her publications provide general information on health and wellness. This general information is not a substitute for health advice and medical care from physicians who know you. Please talk to them before making significant changes in your lifestyle. Complete Terms of Use and Disclaimers