Yes, You read that right. The number one trick to losing weight faster is not exercise. Is it being on a diet then? No. Not even that.
What is the very basic rule of staying fit, in shape and healthy? Being conscious of what you eat, regular exercise, managing stress and being grateful for the life that you have been gifted. Yet again, it all begins with what you eat. The human mind is such a great friend of the human being that it never wants us to be sad, unhappy. So what it does is, it keeps steering us towards comfort foods, procrastination and selective memory when it comes to unhealthy eating habits. That one cookie that you ate (make it three), or the beer (or two) you shared with a pal or the two granola bars you ate when you skipped lunch but were very hungry and yet dieting – the mind makes you forget it all, very very easily. That is where most ‘healthy intentions’ fail. Miserably.
I am no exception to this rule. The summer holidays of merriment are especially bad for those who need to maintain weight or lose it. In my case, I have the excuse of a two year old foot injury which still does not let me forget it. So, because the amount of outdoors exercise that I can do, however enjoyable, is limited; I need to very carefully watch what I am eating. One month of school holidays and trying to keep my son busy with baking, cooking, movies and the family vacays, eat outs – I realised that I was at least three kilos heavier than earlier. Yet, I was exercising everyday (or so I thought!). What went wrong? My mind simply omitted all the excesses. While my pants got a little tighter, I blamed it on bloating due to PMS. That is when I had to take a call and get started on a food diary.
What is a food diary? Simply put, it is a record of all that you eat/drink during a day/night. Every single thing that you intake needs to be recorded. Even the tiniest morsel of cake that you had at a party. Sounds tedious? It is, at the beginning. But as you get the habituated to it, you realise that you are eating way less and healthier food than before. The very fact that you have to note down all that you eat or drink, in all honesty, is what makes you more and more conscious of what and how much you are eating or drinking each day.
Many studies over the years have shown that people who keep an honest food diary lose up to 3 kilos more weight than those who do not, keeping all other parameters like physiology, diet, exercise constant. Why does that happen? Simply because, by writing things down, you do not allow your mind to omit important information like the hot chocolate you had or the extra cheese you added to your burger. Whatever you eat is all out there, right in front of you. How does it help you? Say you binged at lunch and ate so much that writing it all down made you ashamed of yourself, but still you wrote it down. What happens next? Come dinner time you remember/see what lunch was and then you opt for a light meal. We learn to balance our diets simply by the act of writing it down.
When I started maintaining my food diary, even a simple thing like a sabudana khichadi (tapioca pearls and groundnut stir fried) that I had instead of lunch on my cook’s day off, bothered me so much that I went for an extra 30 minutes run in the evening. I am still a work in progress, but I can see that I have automatically started choosing a salad instead of a butter chicken gravy. I have also been able to identify the key issues in my dietary habits – late breakfast, long gaps between meals, not enough gap between dinner and sleep, inadequate sleep, eating out of boredom, so on and so forth.
You can make your diary as detailed as possible, only thing to remember is be honest and be diligent. If you cannot be honest to yourself then who can you be yourself with? And trust me, it really does not take much time. I am the last person to ask anyone to do anything tedious. Use a simple pen paper or a fancy app on your iphone or android, but make a note. And see the difference!