How to Avoid Putting on Recession Pounds
Health experts are concerned that the current economic downturn could have adverse public health consequences as more people, in the sensible quest to save money, turn to cheaper yet less-healthy eating choices, potentially aggravating the already prevalent obesity problem in this country.
Referred to as “recession pounds,” they result from the added weight that comes about from the increased consumption of cheaper junk and fast foods that also happen to be tasty by virtue of the fact that they are often loaded with salt, fat, and highly processed carbs (i.e., sugar and high fructose corn syrup). Who doesn’t love those?
It is ironic when you think that in the past, lower socioeconomic standing often resulted in people losing weight due to lack of food. In the modern era of plenty, however, obesity has now become a symptom of poverty because these highly processed foods are not only promoted vigorously and widely accessible, but they are also cheap.
But can you really put a price on your health or the health of your family? When you think about the things we spend our money on, it doesn’t always make a lot of sense to cut back so drastically on healthy eating so that you can afford a new cell phone.
Especially when you consider that, at some point, your body will let you know that you shouldn’t have eaten all that garbage. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the consequences won’t be felt for years, and like smoking two packs of cigarettes a day for 20 years, by then it’s too late.
So in an effort to keep a tab on our health and our waistlines, here are a few suggestions that might help you avoid putting on unnecessary recession pounds during these rough economic times, keeping in mind that the problem lies not in junk food in and of itself, but rather in the over-consumption of it.
1. Moderation. If possible, try your best to stop eating before you’ve eaten every crumb on your plate, and resist the urge to super-size. I know many of us were raised with the idea that it is good to clean your plate, but times have changes. Set your goal to be sated rather than stuffed, because you won’t feel any better after that second cheeseburger.
2. Don’t eat just for the sake of eating. Sure, that second Big Mac may be tasty, but don’t eat another when just one will suffice.
3. Eat junk food. Just combine it with something healthy. Let’s face it, junk food is a fact of our lives, so rather than setting the unrealistic goal of eliminating it, eat it! Just add in something nutritious, like a piece of fruit, veggies, or whole grains.
4. Eat the healthy stuff first. If you wait until after your junk food meal to eat that apple, it probably isn’t going to happen. So eat it first. Not only will you get a dose of healthy stuff, but it will probably make you eat less of the junk.
6. Be inconsistent. Like losing weight, gaining weight doesn’t happen by itself. In other words, you won’t gain weight in your sleep, you have to consume. So don’t eat junk food regularly, three times a day, everyday. Incorporate a healthy meal in there, with something nutritious that is high in fiber.
7. Don’t inhale your food. Try to eat slowly and deliberately, chewing your food completely, and don’t take another bite until you’ve swallowed the previous one. Not only with this help you digest your food, but it will spare other at the table from having to see the chewed up food in your mouth while giving your stomach time to communicate to your brain that it is full.
8. Drink more water. This takes time to develop and for some of us, may seem impossible, but water is not only cheaper (in many instances, it’s free), but unlike sweetened beverages, has no calories. Water will also help temper the feelings of hunger that encourage us to inhale our food.
9. Don’t drink (your water!) while you’re chewing, or vice-versa. This falls in line with #7. Besides nurturing good manners, it will help slow you down and avoid depositing chewed up food into your beverage.
10. Talk. And be social, if you can. Conversation is a great way to slow a meal down, not to mention enjoy it. I think of my friends from Europe who have these enormous meals drawn out over several hours, and an important part is good conversation.
11. Eat with people who either share your dietary goals or have already achieved them. There is strength numbers, not to mention inspiration by way of guilt.
12. Turn off the TV. Nothing is better at shutting off your brain and encouraging mindless eating. So just turn it off and read, or better yet, talk to your table mates.
13. Be more assertive. Even though junk food is cheap, it is also convenient, which is why many of us choose them. Sure, we’re tired from our busy lives, but a little effort can go a long way in terms of making a healthier meal. And even though it’s a lot easier said than done, it’s not impossible.
14. Exercise. I know, so painfully obvious, but so hard to employ. Given that junk food is so easy only increases our need to be active.
In the end, it all boils down to a little common sense. We all know what is healthy (and for that matter, what is not), we just need to use our heads when we make our dietary choices. And when we have to make compromises, maybe rather than targeting our food for cheaper alternatives, we could consider cutting back on other more frivolous items, like shoes, or the size of our cable package.
The question we have to ask ourselves is how much is enough. Or in the case of eating unhealthy junk food, how much is too much.
The responsibility lies with us, but employing a little more thought and effort could go a long way to improving your health, your appearance, and even your outlook during difficult times.