Published Mar 1, 2016
We all know people that seem to effortlessly maintain their slender physique without giving up their favorite foods, skipping dessert, or spending hours at the gym. But chances are these enviable individuals are working harder than you think behind the scenes to maintain a healthy balance. “Naturally thin” people may not need to count calories or follow strict food rules, but they do share some universal habits that help the scale hold steady year after year.
Researchers at Cornell University recently created an online Global Healthy Weight Registry to identify the everyday behaviors that help people maintain a stable, healthy weight throughout their adult life. The registry is open to people who never fluctuate by more than 5 to 10 pounds on the scale and who have managed their weight on their own, without coaching from nutritionists or other health professionals. The database is still in the early stages of development, and the results are biased by the fact that members are self-selecting. Nevertheless, the preliminary results from 147 participants highlight some common-sense healthy living practices that experts have long been preaching.
1. Start the Day with a Healthy, Satisfying Breakfast
A resounding 96 percent of registry participants reported that they are regular breakfast eaters. While recent randomized trials have failed to show that including a morning meal accelerates weight loss, observational data suggest that eating early in the day has a meaningful impact, both among people who have consistently maintained a normal body mass index (BMI) as well as among heavier people who have successfully slimmed down. My personal (and completely unproven) theory is that making the effort to eat a balanced breakfast generates a ripple effect, priming you to make good choices throughout the rest of the day. Starting the day on a healthy note can help to structure your eating routine and get you into a good food groove. That said, grabbing a bagel or giant muffin just to check off the breakfast box isn’t likely to pay off, becauserefined carbohydrates don’t have much staying power. Participants in the Global Healthy Weight Registry leaned toward more filling foods: 51 percent included fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and 31 percent reported incorporating eggs into their a.m. meal.
2. Eat Whole, Unprocessed Foods
As at breakfast, participants reported eating a variety of nutrient-rich whole foods at lunch, dinner, and for snacks — including plenty of low-calorie produce. Sixty-five percent of respondents reported eating vegetables every day with dinner, and 35 percent made salad their lunchtime staple. For snacks, fruit and nuts were popular choices. Processed foods — especially munchies like chips, cookies, and crackers — tend to be calorie-dense and easy to overeat, so simply including more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, and lean proteins in place of packaged items is a smart way to cut back on calories without micromanaging your diet. An easy way to get started: At lunch and dinner, make half your plate non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, salad, broccoli, green beans, carrots, and cauliflower.
3. Make Time for Physical Activity
No, you don’t have to run marathons, struggle through sweat-drenching kickboxing classes, or log 90 minutes on a Spin bike every day to stay slim. But getting regular activity appears to be a key piece of the healthy living puzzle. In the Global Healthy Weight Registry, nearly 70 percent of participants reported exercising at last three times per week (and more than half of those individuals committed to an impressive five to seven days). If you’re not a gym person, you don’t have to become one — going for regular walks is one of the simplest and most user-friendly ways to step up your physical activity. (Check out this post for more tips on developing a sustainable and realistic exercise routine that you may actually come to enjoy.)
4. Don’t Deprive Yourself, But Do Eat Mindfully
About three-quarters of registry participants report that they rarely or never go on diets, but that doesn’t mean they eat whatever they want, whenever they want. Instead, participants utilize other non-restrictive strategies to keep their eating in check, such as staying in tune with their inner hunger and fullness cues. Learning to use internal signals to guide when you start and stop eating rather than relying on external ones — like an empty dinner plate — takes practice, but it’s one of the most important steps to becoming a mindful eater. By slowing down and savoring meals, you can feel more satisfied on smaller portions and avoid overindulging.Following these strategies can help you eat more intuitively and develop a healthier relationship food.
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