Happy New Year! For the moment, our New Year resolutions seem to be holding fast. Surveys indicate the number one resolution to be made is to get on a diet and lose weight. How many times have I made that resolution over the years?
By now, my thoughts of sticking with the diet are beginning to falter and I sense old habits sneaking back into my routine. I am a dietitian, a chef, a nutritionist -so I am aware of what I need to do to stick to the program, but I am not good at following a diet.
I did recently lose a great deal of weight, and I thought ( if you were having trouble sticking to your diet), I would share some of the things I did that helped even when that one little freshly baked salted caramel truffle brownie beckoned to be taste tested.
Diets are a mind game
In my opinion, diets overall are a mind game. You, as flight crew, have an even more challenging time adhering to any type of diet than those of us at home, on a regimented routine each day of work and home. You have work, almost always away from home, doing what is the number one cause of weight gain – eating out more than three times a week.
You are at the mercy of restaurants, hotels and, most of all, the catering sources you use to provide your inflight meals. As a caterer, I want my food to taste incredible in the air which means that I may use more butter or seasoning than I would at home to overcome the basic pitfalls of aviation catering – drier air, engine sounds, air pressure, to name a few of the things that diminish your taste buds while flying. I am constantly attempting to enhance the flavors you taste at altitude so you will eat and enjoy your meal more, but, I am actually indirectly adding weight to your body. Simply stated, in order to lose weight fewer calories must be ingested.
When you are eating on board, you may add salt to the meal to bring out the flavor . . . or at least try to. Remember, the food you carry on board or reheat on board is, in fact, a leftover. To help maintain moistness, to keep breads from drying to such extreme, we at Tastefully Yours add extra butter to cakes, muffins, and Danish. We increase the egg proportion in many of our prepared items. In an effort to improve flavor, we are increasing calories. So what are you to do? Let’s start with sodium intake. The top items where you find salt are all prepared food items such as cold cuts and cured meats, breads and rolls, pizza, soups, sandwiches. These are all items commonly served to flight crew and passengers. They are easy to eat and easy to handle on board. A fact of science is that you need salt to sustain your body’s functions, but, high sodium can lead to water retention, bloating, high blood pressure, and even heart disease. One study I read stated that the average person consumes almost 4000mg of sodium a day ,when we should be consuming about 1500-2000mg a day. 65% of this sodium comes from processed foods (guess what those deli meats are considered??).
Another means of reducing your weight might be by increasing your exercise program, but, when traveling on the road as much as most of the flight crews do and with irregular flight schedules, this too can be challenging.
So let me share a few psychological tricks that are easy to do, and will cost you nothing. You may even find some are fun. Test yourself and see if any of these ideas decrease your daily caloric intake helping reduce your weight.
I have always used a small soup spoon, a salad size fork to eat, but research studies have shown that if you use a large spoon or a large size fork to eat, you will eat less and this will aid in weight reduction. Mothers have always cut their child’s food into small pieces before eating . Arizona State University’s psychology department has proven that you can trick your brain into eating less if you cut your food into smaller pieces. Crazy concept, right? Instead of indulging in a half sandwich at a time, cut it into fourths first. Because you see more pieces on your plate or in your box lunch your brain will be tricked into thinking you are eating more, and the result will be to eat less.
Alcohol has a lot of empty calories. A nice glass of wine or a cocktail is a great way to enjoy a meal, but, as a British Medical Journal recently stated “ an individual consumes 30% more alcohol when they use a wide, short glass than a tall slender one. “ What a simple way to reduce calorie intake! Try wine from a fluted glass rather than the proper elegant red wine barrel glass. I think we can start a new trend here.
So far these psychological ideas are relatively simple to try, but, the next one might be out of your control while in the cockpit or on a business flight. Try not eating in the cockpit, in front of television or while working on the computer. You can eat as much as two times more and even forget you ate and what you had in fairly short order and snack again when your focus is not on the meal and eating, but on work, controls, computers, etc. When possible, eat undisturbed by not performing another task.
Other ways of eating less are to eat pre-portioned foods
Take the time to scale out (or have your food source) measure and /or weight food into portions for you to eat. Frequently we are asked to provide potato chips, crackers and other snacks by the box. If those items were individually portioned for a single serving in advance, you might find a 54.1% savings in what you eat. Again, it is all about consumption, eating less if you want to lose weight.
I am a very visual person, I believe people eat with their eyes, their imagination and memories first. I have found if you think about the food you may crave or want, see it in your mind, and imagine the aroma of the food, the texture in your mouth, you can satisfy your craving for the food and get past the craving. Believe me, I have done this a lot (but, on the other side I have cheated a bunch with those fresh baked cookies and breads from our kitchen bakery with actual smells and real taste. My scale sends me a resounding message . . . ”oh, no you didn’t”).
Another thought that should be easy for you as flight crews and passengers is to not have the food you want on board; eliminate it from the catering request. Keep those goodies out of reach and your reach is considerable at 35,000 feet.
There are a few other ideas that you can try on board when eating.
First, have your food presented on a small plate. Step down a size on your dinner plate and request the same food on a salad plate. Visually it looks full and your mind feels full when it is consumed. Reduce a salad size plate to an appetizer plate; have soup in a coffee cup rather than a soup bowl. An old catering trick used to reduce portions a guest might help themselves to on an all you can eat buffet, was to give them a smaller plate, provide them with a difficult utensil to eat the food with or to serve themselves ( a small fork or spoon), put the vegetables and salad at the front of the food line so their plate fills with those items over the higher cost meats at the end of the line. Use this technique to place your plate in front of you with the vegetables and lower calories in front of you and any high calorie items away from you.
Another trick used in event catering to reduce the amount of food one eats is to have the plate a different color from the food, so the food stands out on the plate, that none of the food gets lost on the plate causing you to imagine less food.
As you move forward on your resolutions to lose weight, get healthier, trim down, live longer with a healthier life style, you might want to worry less about the foods you consume than the amount of the foods you eat.
I wish you willpower and determination to achieve your New Year’s goals the easy way!