My financial planner once told me that “It’s easier to not spend money, than it is to earn it.” That’s how I feel about calories and weight: “It’s easier not to eat it, than to burn it.” Like many, I am surprised (and saddened) that a one-hour, all-out, panting sweat session on my treadmill or elliptical machine only burns about 450 calories. Yet, if necessary, I could consume 450 calories of potato chips, cookies, or other tasty delights in less than three minutes. Where’s the fairness in that?
Research has shown that people feel full due to the amount of food we eat, or volume, not the calories we consume. Therefore, it is possible to consume fewer calories without feeling hungry. And, it is reasonable to drop a pound a week by trimming 500 calories a day. Sounds like a lot? You will be surprised how making some easy swaps and tweaks can help us drop extra, unwanted weight.

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What You Need To Know: To Sensibly Cut Calories

• Don’t eat in front of the tube. Studies have shown that eating while distracted—watching television, reading, playing games—can result in an extra 10 percent more calories consumed. Additionally, distracted eating was shown to increase the number of calories we eat later in the day by 25 percent. When people are able to recall memories of how much they had eaten in a previous meal, they were less likely to eat as much later on. In other words, pay attention while we eat.

• Limit salad toppings. The word salad equates with healthy. However, some of our favorite toppings are laden with fat and calories. Instead of sprinkling croutons (1 cup=122 calories), dried fruit (1 cup dried cranberries=123 calories), or fried chicken or shrimp, get creative with tasty toppers like roasted bell peppers or grilled onions, chicken, or shrimp. And when choosing a salad dressing, opt for fat-free, low-fat, or a healthy fat such as olive oil or grape seed oil dressing. A tablespoon of ranch dressing has a whopping 73 calories, with the majority from fat! So the next time you go out to eat, ask that the dressing be served on the side.

• Downsize our dinnerware. There is a saying that “Oftentimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs.” In other words, visual cues and perception may play a role in the amount of food we consume. This has led some experts to suggest that using a small plate or bowl can help curb the number of calories we consume. The theory behind it is that when we see a large plate with empty space, we perceive that we are eating less and will either pile more food on, or go for a second serving. One study showed that swapping a 12-inch plate to one that is 8 to 10 inches can result in 22% less calories consumed.

• Accounting. Packaged and boxed foods have standardized labels that describe the number of calories and fat in a certain serving size. Before reaching into the bag or box, make sure to read the label and ascertain how many cookies, chips, bowls, or bars are in a serving size, and limit your snack to just that.

• Separate ourselves from the gravy train. When platters and serving dishes are in front of us on the table, it is tempting to have seconds, thirds, and maybe even fourths. By plating our food in the kitchen and leaving the serving dishes there, we may be less likely to eat even when we are full.
• Saving for later. When we go out to eat, consider asking our server to pack half of our meal to take home. In addition to not stuffing our face and having an uncomfortable food coma, breakfast (or lunch) is served.

• Cheer lightly. Did you know that a 10 ounce Margarita can exceed 550 calories; a 9 ounce Mai Tai 620 calories; a 12 ounce Pina Colada 586 calories; and a Long Island Ice Tea 543 calories? Seemingly innocuous drinks can cause our weighing machines to tip the scale. When ordering mixed drinks, consider mixing with club soda, tonic water, citrus, or on the rocks to curb the calories.

• Get your zzz’s. Just one night of sleep deprivation can result in an extra 600-1000 extra calories consumed that day. And having a sleepless week can add up when we weigh ourselves. Sleep has an effect on our appetite, physical activity, metabolism, and cues that tell us we are full.

When it comes to weight loss, it is tempting to turn to crash diets that severely restrict food intake. Unfortunately, when we resume our normal diet, the weight comes back to haunt us, and this can lead us to a frustrating yo-yo phenomenon. We are more likely to be successful in maintaining an ideal weight by aiming for a slow, steady weight loss through smart maneuvers that decrease calorie intake while maintaining an adequate nutrient intake and increasing physical activity. Let’s aim to cut calories and fat without eating less nutritious food. Bon Appetit!n

Dr. Nina Radcliff is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist and a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists where she serves on committees for Young Physicians and Communications. She is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.

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