How can I change my eating habits to lose weight?

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To change your eating habits to lose weight it's important to realize that calories from any source in excess can cause weight gain. Dietary changes are a key element of weight loss.

A lot of foods available in our stores today are high in calories but low in nutrition if they come in a box or a can.
Some helpful tips when choosing a diet include not shopping on an empty stomach and sticking to the outside aisles of the store where you can find the most fresh fruits and vegetables and lean cuts of meat.

Also, it's important to realize there are many types of diets. None of them have been shown to be more effective than another. The most important factor is being able to adhere to and maintain the diet. Most diets recommend low caloric intake of about 800-1,200 calories per day.
Natalie Castro-Romero, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
To lose weight, you should make diet changes that reduce your daily calories. Weight loss occurs when there is a calorie deficit, which means that the total calories you eat are less than the total calories burned. Our body works like a balance beam: On one side, we put the calories we eat (in-calories), and on the other side go the calories we burn through exercise and movement (out-calories). Therefore, when the in-calories are fewer than the out-calories, we lose weight.

Be sure to eat foods from all food groups. Look for high-fiber grains and watch your portion sizes. Dairy products should be made from skim milk (fat free) or low-fat milk (1% milk). Proteins should be lean cuts and more white meats like chicken breast, turkey breast and pork tenderloin. Focus on eating more fish (at least twice per week) and limiting your intake of red meat (beef, lamb). Try plant-based proteins like beans and nuts. 
Change your relationship to food. You may have heard some weight-loss experts say this. What it means is that you stop looking at food as a reward or a source of pleasure and comfort. Many people accomplish this by reminding themselves that "food is fuel," meaning that the main function of food is to keep you energized and healthy.

This is really one of the most difficult things to change about yourself. Whatever bad eating habits you have, they've been ingrained for years -- sometimes decades. They may even be connected to emotional problems or trauma in your past. You can't change these things overnight, but you can be aware of your habits and pay closer attention to how you think about food, especially if you consume certain fattening foods when you become depressed or stressed out. It's about being honest with yourself. That's the first step.

Try keeping a journal of when and what you eat, and your mood while you're eating. You may find some eye-opening facts about yourself that lead to more than a change in eating habits.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
To change your eating habits to lose weight, start small. Make a single manageable change and work to maintain it.

First, reflect on your overall eating habits. You may have some good ones, such as always eating breakfast. You may also have some habits that cause you to take in too many calories, such as always having a soft drink at lunch, snacking while watching television, eating unhealthy snacks at your job, or coming home hungry from work and eating too much before dinner.

Now, consider ways to change these habits. Say you overeat after work. To break this habit, you could stockpile some healthy snacks at home so you can curb your hunger before dinner. You may also want to consider planning in advance so you can have dinner ready faster.

Once you’ve picked a habit you want to change, start making the change. And remember, habits take time to change, so be patient with yourself. Consider rewarding yourself in a non-food way as you move toward your goals.
Ruth Frechman
Nutrition & Dietetics
In general, people don't like to change. They become comfortable with whatever they are doing. If you are used to eating dessert every night, it may not be easy to stop. You may crave something sweet after dinner. To change habits, first identify the habit. Take baby steps to undo it. Start by eating fruit for dessert. Then go for a walk after dinner. It just takes time to change a habit and get used to the new behavior. 
Melina B. Jampolis, MD
Internal Medicine
If you don't want to "go on a diet" again this year, try implementing these small changes to lose weight slowly and painlessly. Just make sure not to add back any extra food or beverage calories. These changes only work if you take things out of your diet without adding anything back in. And you don't have to do all of these things. Choose the ones that work best for you and be consistent!

BREAKFAST
  • Downsize your morning latte 5 x week - switch from large to medium and save calories a day = 40 calories day = 10,400 calories year = 3 pound
  • Eat eggs instead of a bagel 2 x week = save up to 27,456 calories at subsequent meals = lose up to 8 pounds/year
  • Go for flakes (1 cup) over granola (1/2 cup) - 5 x week = save 26,000 calories = lose up to 7.5 pounds
LUNCH
  • Eat your sandwich open faced 3 x week = save 100 calories (3 x week) = 300 cal wk = 15,600 calories = 4½ pounds
  • Eat 1-2 cups veggie soup before lunch 3 x week = eat 134 calories less per lunch = 20,904 calories = 6 pounds (could also do this with an apple before lunch and lose even more - 29,172 calories = over 8 pounds)
  • Switch to baked or popped chips 3 x week = 7,800 calories = 2 pounds
SNACK
  • Downsize the portion size - a study last year showed that eating 100 calorie pack snacks resulted in eating 840 fewer calories per week, which would be 43,000 fewer calories per year or 12 pounds lost.
DRINKS
  • Drink out of taller, thinner glasses as studies show that people drink 25-30% less.
  • Go for a spritzer (white wine or apple juice) 3 x week - pour ½ wine or juice, ½ sparkling water = save 60 calories = 9,360 calories = lose over 2½ pounds.
DINNER
  • Switch from beef or chicken to fish 2 x week - beef calories saved = 16,640 = about 5 pounds; -chicken = 7,280 = 2 pounds
  • Dilute the calories in dishes with veggies whenever possible. Aim for 3 x week = 15,600 calories = 4.5 pounds
  • Chili recipes - double the tomatoes in your recipe, cut up to 50 calories per cup. Use extra lean ground turkey instead of lean ground beef and cut another 50-100 calories per cup.
  • Make burgers with ½ ground beef (90% lean) and ½ ground mushrooms - save 100 calories per 4 ounce burger
  • Burritos - ditch the tortilla and eat or order in a bowl instead once month and save 3,600 = 1 pound
Judith Beck, PhD
Psychiatry
Start by being mindful of every bite of food that goes in your mouth. Eat only when you’re sitting down. Then eat slowly and enjoy every bite. You may be tempted to eat standing in front of the refrigerator or as you’re running out of the house or as your clearing the table. You will need to remind yourself at these times that you can continue with your old eating habits  OR you can be thinner. You can’t have it both ways. 
Leigh Vinocur, MD
Emergency Medicine
Don’t go on a diet it’s one of the dreaded four-letter words. You don’t have to go to extremes.  Start with leaving a quarter to half the foods on your plate, even leaving one last bite and not cleaning your plate is a start! And if you are in restaurant take half of their huge portion home. Another easy way to begin is to give up white foods, meaning carbohydrates, no white bread, white rice, or white pasta. Substitute with whole grains, they are filling and take a while to digest.

Studies show they are healthy for your heart and gastrointestinal tract and don’t cause blood sugar fluctuations which in turn cause hunger and cravings. Also give up white sugars hidden in sodas, processed foods, and sweets. You’ll lose weight seemingly without the effort. Now add in as many colorful fruits and veggies you want. They are chock-full of vitamins and minerals as well as being filling with practically negligible calories!  In addition, eat  some lean protein like fish or chicken and you’ll be lighter and glowing from the inside out.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Best way, to cut out the 5 food felons. Easiest way to find out about those is to log on and look at the “You: On a Diet” book or the cheat sheet relating to “You: On a Diet” and find out how to do that.
First, have a clear understanding of the changes you need to make. Sharecare is an ideal platform to educate your family on what "healthy habits" really are.
Second, Prepare for Success. Clean out the pantry and the fridge, and make a grocery store run. You can't eat what you don't have. Be sure to include the whole family in this process!
Third, When you fall, pick yourself up and start back on the right road. You will fall but that is part of the learning process.
The healthy road less traveled is challenging at times, but the destination is a life changing experience. 
Heidi Skolnik, MS
Sports Medicine
You hit the nail on the head when you said “habits” as opposed to just the foods you eat.  Often time, our approach to eating, a mentality toward food, and patterns of eating (undereating, overeating, using food to pacify emotions, not planning ahead when it comes to food selection) sabotages even our best efforts to make better choices. 
Try and think these four things as it relates to your patterns of eating:
Consistency: do you eat a lot one day and then try and compensate by eating too little the next? Or skip breakfast or lunch thinking it is saving you calories?  Try an be consistent in when and how much you eta, distributing you calories evenly throughout the day. By 2/3rds of the day, 2/3rds of your calories should be consumed.
Quality; always trumps junk.  Eating real food will nourish you and help you feel satisfied. You can cognitively know you have fed your body well and that will help you better able to resist eating for reasons other than physiological hunger (bored, tied, angry, frustrated).
Quantity: Portions matter. If you are a big  eater, learning how to fill up on higher water content foods (Barbara Rolls Volumetrics) is beneficial.  If you just eat whatever is put in front of you, learning appropriate portions can allow you to even eat richer foods in smaller amounts and still achieve weights.
Internal  self talk: recognizing what you say to yourself that prompts overeating allows you to rewrite that “script” to a more productive outcome.  If, for instance, you tend to say to yourself “ I had a tough day, I deserve a treat, I am going to have some ice cream (chips, chocolate bar…fill in your “treat” food here)” You can rewrite that to “ I had a tough day, I am going to allow myself to relax with a magaixzine, a hot bath, calla friend, listen to music (fill in the blank here with what  can help you unwind that does not include eating).”  
By paying attention to eating in a consistent manner within the day as well as day to day, choosing quality foods and appropriate portions and recognizing how you talk yourself into or out of eating will go a long way in helping you alter your eating habits to lose weight.
You don’t have to starve yourself to lose weight. Instead, make simple changes in the foods you eat and in your eating habits. For instance, make one or two changes at a time like only eating when sitting down and using a lunch plate instead of a dinner plate. Once you accomplish these changes, make two more changes such as chewing each bite of food 20 times and eating until you are satisfied but not full.

As you start to pay more attention to your eating habits, also pay attention to your refrigerator and pantry. Remove snack foods and foods high in sugar, fat and calories. If you aren’t tempted, you won’t eat these foods. Replace the junk food with healthy snacks such as fruits, low-fat yogurt and popcorn.

Another tip is to plan your meals and your snacks each day. Once you’ve eaten your planned foods, stop eating. This will let you have much more control over what you put in your mouth -- and what you weigh.  

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.