Self-Awareness for Weight Loss

Self-awareness is the big new weight loss trend, and it has gotten past the fad stage to look like something that is going to stick around.

The most curious thing about this weight loss trend is where the news comes from. It is the restaurant and food companies that are talking about this new threat to their revenue. So many people in the United States are becoming more conscious of what food they are buying and eating that it is chipping away at their financial results.

Unlike the weight loss fads of the past century, I could not find any product or expert that is leading this new movement. Yes, there are apps that promote self-awareness, but by nature, self-awareness does not come from an external source.

It is easy to trace the beginning of the current self-awareness weight loss trend back to the pandemic lockdown period of 2020. When every store visit was a calculated risk, people naturally became more aware of purchases of every kind, but most of all the time-sensitive purchases such as food.

When you learn a skill, you don’t quickly unlearn it. We can now say that not only did people retain their new awareness of food decisions, but that this habit has started to spread from person to person as more people are able to observe and emulate the foodhabits of the people who lose weight during the pandemic years.

I was one of those people. I started out by spending less simply cause I eliminated all restaurant visits and reduced grocery visits by 80 percent. I saw that I was throwing much less food away. It took months for me to notice how much I was eating.

In the same way, I imagine that many of the newly conscious eaters may not be aware of how much less they are eating. It is impossible to make direct comparisons between a period of conscious decisions to an earlier period of less-conscious decision-making. It takes a large change to be obvious at the level of actions and habits if you are not keeping statistics on yourself. If you go to 20 percent fewer movies or eat 20 percent fewer donuts, it is not going to feel as if anything has changed — yet the industries that supply these things must make major changes in their planning for every 1 percent change in collective behavior.

If you want to get in on the conscious eating weight loss trend, the time-tested way of doing this is with a food diary. The food diary is one of the most effective strategies for long-term weight loss, apparently just because the accountability of a written record makes you more aware of your decisions around food. Traditionally, you would use a small book that you carry with you everywhere, but it works just as well to use the Notes app on your phone. Write the date, the approximate time, and everything you ate. Include everything you drink that is more than water or unsweetened tea. You don’t need many words, but it is important to be complete about it. Write down the smallest thing you eat.

As a step up, I would suggest also recording your food purchases including the price of each item. Your receipt and the OCR feature on your phone may make this step easier than it was in the past. Looking at your purchases one by one also makes you more aware of your decisions. Over time, you find that you are eating less and spending less money.

Some people try to count calories in a food diary, but while the diary itself is shown to lead to weight loss, the calorie-counting is less effective. The numbers may become a distraction from the reality of the food decisions you have made, or they may serve as a way to rationally justify decisions that, in truth, you regret.

I never kept a food diary for more than a year at a time, but the weight loss was permanent. To me, what that says is that it is the habit of self-awareness, more so than the practice of writing things down, that makes the difference.

To one degree or another, everyone already knows how to eat better. Self-awareness is the step that puts this knowledge into practice.

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