scaleWhen I was in high school it was easy for me to stay in shape.  I was playing 3 varsity sports and spent most of my free time at the beach or in the ocean.  As a result I could eat whatever I wanted and still had great abs.  But as I got older life happened and I put on the pounds.  Does that sound familiar?  Well I lost some weight but for years I just seemed to plateau.  I wasn’t really heavy, but I couldn’t get back to the point where my abs were visible.

I ate pretty well and worked out at least 5 days a week.  Unfortunately I was making the same costly mistake over and over again.  And they are the reason I could lose those last 5 pounds.

My nightly routine

It’s around 7:30 in the evening and I’ve just finished washing the dishes from tonight’s dinner.  My kids are upstairs taking showers and brushing their teeth before bed.   I’m on my way up the stairs when I decide to open up the pantry and grab a handful of Fruit and Nut Medley (one of my favorite snacks I pick up at Costco).

It’s no big deal.  It’s not like I’m feeding myself ice cream out of the carton.  I go upstairs to unwind and relax before falling asleep.  Maybe I’ll read a book.  Maybe Danielle and I will try to catch up on the never-ending list of shows we have recorded on our DVR.

It’s now 9:00 pm and my dog needs to go outside.  So down the stairs I go into the kitchen to let her out.  I’m waiting for her to come inside and suddenly I get the urge to slice up an apple and get some peanut butter to dip it in.  I’m tired and not thinking clearly so I give in to my will.

I wake up the next morning frustrated with myself.  Like when my San Diego Chargers give up a 4th quarter lead and lose to a rival, I had my nutrition dialed in all day only to screw it up before going to sleep.  I promise myself that was yesterday and I’m not going to do it again.

The life of an unconscious eater

While the above scenario doesn’t seem like I’m binging at night, those extra 500 Calories add up fast.  For years scientists and medical professionals have touted that since a pound of fat contains approximately 3500 calories, reducing your calorie intake by simply 500 Calories per day will help you lose a pound of fat a week.  So despite my best efforts working out and eating clean throughout the day, adding those 500 calories at night was what kept my abs hidden under a layer of fat.

Not sure on the math?  Here’s a breakdown of how we get to 3500 Calories.  It is well known that a pound of fat weighs 454 grams and is about 87% fat (the other 13% is composed of cell proteins and water).  Also we know that each gram of fat contains about 9 Calories of energy per gram.  So multiplying 454 x 0.87 gives us 934 grams of actual fat.  And then when we multiply 934 x 9 we get 3554 (and we round down to 3500).  Ok, enough with the math lesson.  I just didn’t want you to think that we pull these numbers out of thin air.

For years I hit a plateau on my weight loss journey until a few years ago.  Truth be told, I was frustrated with many parts of my life and I finally took a stand and wanted to lose the fat around my stomach just about as bad as I wanted to breathe.  While I never want anyone to feel they way I did during those down months, below are the 4 lessons that I learned about overcoming my unconscious eating habits and losing those last 5 pounds that allowed my abs to become visible again.

Tip 1.  If you bite it, you have to write it.

I began tracking my eating with the myfitnesspal app on my phone.  And if the food when in my mouth, than I had to put it in my food journal as well.  I hated having to write down things that were keeping me from my goal.  It’s no wonder that research has shown that people who track their food eat on average 600 less calories per day than those who don’t.

Tip 2.  Plan out your meals in advance.

We already made most of our meals at home, but too often I wouldn’t focus on how much I was eating.  And with food, more often than not you can have too much of a good thing.  So instead of just saying I had a salad, green beans, chicken, rice for dinner I began to weigh and measure out my portions.  I would have a salad with 2 tablespoons of homemade salad dressing, a cup of green beans, 4 oz of chicken, and a half a cup of rice.  By planning out my meals I was able to overcome the zombie-like eating habits of the past where I just ate until my mind caught up with my stomach and realized I couldn’t fit any more food in there.

Tip 3.  Eating was done at the table

Too often unconscious eating occurs while we are multitasking.  Have you ever opened a bag of pretzels or chips while watching TV only to realize you ate the whole bag before you knew it? I would snack while walking through the house and grab that handful of nuts while taking out the dog.  Or I would bring food to the bedroom and eat it while catching up on my shows.  When it’s time to eat at home I now sit down at the table until I’m finished.  And if I’m not willing to sit down to eat, than I remind myself I’m really not that hungry in the first place.  This way those late night added calories can’t sneak up on me.

Tip 4. Remind yourself of your goals

I had to use a lot of positive self-talk early on to over come years of bad habits when it came to late night snacking.  I would literally stand in front of the pantry and force myself to not open it.  Then I would quickly leave the kitchen so I was away from the temptation.  What got me through a lot of night s was reminding myself that I could reach my goals and I pictured myself with the body I was working towards.  Simply put, my desire to change had to be stronger than my desire to stay the same.

My goal in both my teaching career and in personal training has been to pay it forward.  So if you would like assistance, I would love to help you reach your goals.  I am running both an online virtual boot camp and a FREE 14 day clean eating challenge group.  If you feel you are missing the support or guidance to help you achieve your goals please use one of the links above and reach out to me for assistance.

To your health,