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Ask the Coaches

Why do my thin friends seem to be able to eat whatever they want? I don’t understand how they stay so skinny? It doesn’t seem fair. – Jealous Foodie

Dear Jealous Foodie,

I completely understand where you are coming from. One of my favorite articles in Real Simple magazine does a great job of tackling this question! Read on:

Thin people eat densely.

Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, has done extensive research on “calorie density,” or the ratio of calories to the weight of food.

Simply put, foods with a high water content―fruits, vegetables, water-based soups and stews, and cooked whole grains―are low in calories but satiating. Most also contain lots of fiber (an apple has three grams; one cup of cooked barley has six), which fills you up.

Whether consciously or not, many thin people follow the strategy of starting out with a sizable soup or salad, which leads them to eat less for the rest of the meal.

Thin people watch portion sizes.

No, most thin individuals don’t travel with a food scale and measuring cups or demand fat-gram counts from waiters.

But to keep an eye on what they eat without being obsessive, many focus on filling their plates with mostly fruits, vegetables, and lean protein.

They also use strategies such as buying just a single serving’s worth of food, eating portion-controlled frozen meals, passing up gargantuan-portion family-style restaurants, and using smaller-than-normal plates.

The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), an ongoing study of how more than 5,000 people keep off the weight they’ve lost long-term, has found that successful weight maintainers tend to eat five small meals a day rather than three squares, which may make it easier to scale down portions.

Thin people can put themselves first.

Thin women prioritize eating right, exercising regularly, and reducing stress―all of which are conducive to staying slim. Even if it means missing the occasional Little League game to work out… keep in mind that such behavior shouldn’t induce guilt. Rather, it’s about taking care of yourself.

Thin people don’t skip meals.

Slender people don’t drop everything to eat the minute their stomach starts to rumble, but they don’t let themselves get famished, either.

Why? Being ravenous makes you much less likely to control impulses to overeat.

Thin people don’t sit still.

At the Endocrine Research Unit of the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, a study of 20 self-proclaimed couch potatoes―half of whom were lean, half mildly obese―revealed that the thin volunteers were more likely to stand, walk, and fidget. The researchers noted that the obese participants sat, on average, more than two hours longer every day than the lean ones did.

Simply moving around more, taking walks during the workday, and parking your car at the far end of the parking lot can burn many calories. But regular exercise is important, too. Ninety percent of people who maintain their weight are exercising in a way that’s the equivalent of walking four miles a day.

Thin people weigh themselves.

For years diet experts discouraged stepping on the scale to keep weight in check. Yet one of the findings of the NWCR is that slim people do weigh themselves regularly. Not obsessively, not agonizing down to the ounce, but at least a couple of times a week. They find it easier to manage their weight if they find they are going over their goal weight.

Thin people don’t skip breakfast.

You’ve heard it ad nauseam: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s also a way to stay svelte.

A 2002 study of nearly 3,000 NWCR participants found that 78 percent ate breakfast every day; just 4 percent said they never ate breakfast. (The registry also found that people who don’t eat breakfast have caloric intakes similar to those who do, meaning the skippers make up the calories later.)

A recent study of breakfast eaters in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association backed up other findings that people who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight than those who don’t.

Thin people do what works.

Perhaps nowhere does the frequently cited definition of insanity―doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result―apply more aptly than with weight loss. The math makes this clear: By one estimate, one-third of Americans are on a diet, but 64 percent of us remain overweight or obese. Something doesn’t add up.

The biggest difference between the permanently thin and everyone else might very well be this: Those who don’t gain (or regain) have come up with effective, specific, and often personal ways to keep their weight in check. Its not about restricting or being “good or bad,” it is about using strategies that work for your lifestyle.

But when good habits are integrated into your life, something shifts. There’s no need to count calories, agonize over an order of fries, track miles walked, or (worst of all) talk endlessly about what you’re eating and not eating. For the thin, feeling strong, healthy, and, yes, slim are powerful rewards―and their chief motivation to continue, however, more than 90 percent of those who have mastered weight maintenance feel like they’re not dieting, it becomes a way of life.

Sources: Realsimple.com

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