If you want to lose weight, you may have already tried the
latest hot diet-whether it's high-protein, cutting out all sugar or
eating for your blood type. And the plan may have worked, at least
for a while-nearly any diet will work in the short term. The
problem is that most diets don't provide lasting results.
TAKE THE QUIZ
How'd you do?
If you answered true to questions 1, 6, 11 and 15, you're
probably a Habitual Hungerer.
If you answered true to questions 3, 8, 13 and 16, you're probably
If you answered true to questions 4, 7, 10, and 14, you're
probably an Emotional Eater.
If you answered true to questions 2, 5, 9, and 12, you're probably
a Diehard Dieter.
If you want to shed pounds and keep them off, you must examine
the way you currently eat. By identifying your own eating style and
taking into account your unique dietary preferences, you can revamp
your current diet to maximize your nutritional intake and decrease
calories-without feeling deprived, hungry or irritable.
"Essentially all we're doing is modifying your current lifestyle
pattern of eating," says Kristine Clark, PhD, director of sports
nutrition at Penn State University. "The best thing to do is look
at the foods that are currently fitting in and modify or revamp it
a little bit. A diet should be a lifestyle and a way of eating, not
something to go on and off."
First, take the quiz at right to determine your eating type-and
then read on to learn the pitfalls of each type-and how to overcome
Not all habits are bad, but if you constantly eat the same
things over and over, you may be unconsciously consuming far more
calories than you need.
You're also likely to get bored easily, which can lead to
overeating. Eliminating types of foods or whole food groups can
cause nutritional deficiencies-if you rarely drink milk or consume
dairy products like cheese, you may shorting your body on calcium,
for example. Skimp on fruits and vegetables and you won't get
When you eat the same things out of habit, you may be eating far
more than you think. You probably fill your cereal bowl without
thinking about it and take the same-size portions. If those
servings are even a little too large, over time they can add up to
added pounds, says Clark. And if you're bored with your diet, you
may eat more looking for a feeling of satisfaction.
The solution? Start branching out. Try new things, even it's as
small a change as opting for peach yogurt over vanilla. When dining
out, consider what's appealing about a certain food and look for
something similar-broiled fish instead of roasted chicken breast,
Or try new ways of eating old favorites-instead of turkey
sandwiches, try a turkey casserole or turkey salad. Vary the
temperature-serve a food hot instead of cold, for example-or change
the way you usually prepare it.
"If you're a person who likes routine, you do need to broaden
out your routine just a bit," agrees Susan Kleiner, author of Power
Eating, The Second Edition.
Kleiner suggests adopting one new change a week. If you always
eat carrots, try broccoli. Buy strawberries or raspberries in
addition to apples and grapes. Within just a few months, you'll
have expanded the types of foods you usually eat, boosting your
nutritional intake and making you more likely to eat healthfully
and less likely to turn to not-so-great-for-you stuff in the
Does your car double as your kitchen table or do you find it
impossible to find time to prepare healthy meals and snacks? If you
tend to eat while doing other things, you probably eat more than
you realize-when you're distracted, you tend to consume food
without realizing it. In fact, a recent study found that women ate
15 percent more calories while listening to a recorded story than
If you tend to grab fast food when you're on the go, chances are
you're also shortchanging yourself on fiber and probably vitamins
as well, says Clark. And because fast foods tend to be high in fat
and calories, your drive-thru runs may add up to more around your
If you're a Grab-and-Runner, think like a Boy Scout: Be
prepared. Keep foods like dried fruit, high-fiber cereal and
granola bars in your car's glove compartment, in your purse and in
your desk. Toss a piece of fresh fruit, such as an apple, banana or
bag of grapes in your bag or make a peanut butter and jelly
sandwich to take along.
"You have to plan ahead and always have food with you, just like
an athlete," says Kleiner. "When you do your shopping for the whole
week, plan for your snacks and being caught away."
She suggests stocking up on energy bars that include whole
grains and meal replacement beverages. Smoothies are also a great,
easy way to get two to three servings of fruit and some milk, and
you can take them in the car.
Make time for breakfast even if you're too busy to sit down and
eat it. A bagel with peanut butter, whole grain cereal and a piece
of fruit can all help start your day off right. Heading to a soccer
game or to pick up the kids? Keep a mini-cooler in your car where
you can toss cheese, yogurt or other quick-eat treats. Take the
time to plan ahead and you'll eat more healthfully and reduce the
amount of high-fat, high-calorie meals and snacks you consume-which
add up to weight loss.
Do you find yourself munching when you're bored or turn to
chocolate and other high-fat treats when you need a lift? Women
tend to be Emotional Eaters more often than men, and this can be
one of the most difficult eating habits to break. It takes time and
effort to overcome the habit of reaching for food when you're
bored, anxious, lonely or depressed.
When you eat to suppress emotional pain, you frequently consume
calories that your body doesn't need-and the end result is higher
numbers on the scale. "The best thing to do is to keep a log of
feelings and foods," says American Dietetic Association
spokesperson and dietitian Barbara Gollman, author of The Phytopia
Cookbook. "Write down what you ate and what were you feeling when
you chose that food, and hopefully over some time you can begin to
see the pattern and realize what you're doing."
It's also helpful to eliminate the high-calorie/high-fat foods
in your house and replace them with lower calorie options like
fruit and pretzels. And make sure that you're eating out of
physical hunger, not because you need a temporary distraction or
because you're dehydrated.
"Very often, we misinterpret thirst as hunger," explains
Kleiner. If you think you're hungry, try drinking a big glass of
water first. If you still feel hungry, stop and ask what positive,
non-eating thing you can do for yourself. It might be taking a
quick walk, working in the garden, calling a friend or putting on
some upbeat music. If, after you do these things, you're still
hungry, opt for something healthful to reinforce the idea that
taking care of yourself is important, says Kleiner. Over time,
changing your behavior in this way will result in weight loss.
If you diet frequently, you probably know the calorie counts of
everything from a McDonald's hamburger to a small apple. But
research shows that if you restrict your calories too drastically,
your efforts may backfire. "It's good to be aware of calories, but
you can also shortchange your body by not eating enough, or eating
so little one day that you splurge too much the next day," says
If you diet frequently, your metabolic rate may be affected as
well. It's your body's way of protecting its fat stores-the less
you eat, the slower your metabolism becomes to make the most of
Dieters who opt for restrictive plans like the cabbage soup diet
also run the risk of getting bored quickly. "Anybody can do
anything for a short period of time, and then they get bored and
they get tired of it," says Clark. Make sure you're getting enough
fat in your diet, too-a little bit at each meal helps suppress
appetite, and both protein and fat are digested and metabolized and
absorbed more slowly than carbohydrates.
If you want to lose weight, focus on slow but steady weight loss
instead of quick-fix programs. "The bottom line is that most adult
women who are only getting moderate amounts of physical activity
need (at least) 1,600 calories," says Clark. Eat less than that and
most women will lose weight. Since it takes a reduction of 3,500
calories to lose a pound, if you can eliminate 500 calories a day
from what you eat or add more activity, you'll lose a pound a
week-well within the guidelines for safe, lasting weight loss.
It may take changing your entire mindset to bring lasting
changes, says Kleiner. "The problem with our entire society is
we've made weight loss a goal, and weight loss is a long-term
outcome of achieving some very important goals," says Kleiner.
Rather than focusing on losing weight, she suggests making your
goals behavior-oriented such as getting five fruits and vegetables
a day, drinking more water, becoming more physically active and
eating more whole grains and fewer processed foods.
As you make these changes, you'll perform better mentally and
physically and eventually reach your long-term goal of weight loss.
"You can still want to lose weight," says Kleiner. "But alter your
goal set so that you feel successful along the way."
Kelly James-Enger is a mom of two who specializes in writing
about health and nutrition.
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