Healthy dieting and weight loss tip #1: Avoid common pitfallsDiets, especially fad diets or “quick-fix” pills and plans, often set you up for failure because:
- You feel deprived. Diets that cut out entire groups of food, such as carbs or fat, are simply impractical, not to mention unhealthy. The key is moderation. Eliminating entire food groups doesn’t allow for a healthy, well-rounded diet and creates nutritional imbalances.
- You lose weight, but can’t keep it off. Diets that severely cut calories, restrict certain foods, or rely on ready-made meals might work in the short term. However, once you meet your weight loss goal, you don’t have a plan for maintaining your weight and the pounds quickly come back.
- After your diet, you seem to put on weight more quickly. When you drastically restrict your food intake, your metabolism will temporarily slow down. Once you start eating normally, you’ll gain weight until your metabolism bounces back—another reason why starvation or “fasting” diets are counterproductive.
- You break your diet and feel too discouraged to try again. Just because you gave in to temptation doesn’t mean all your hard work goes down the drain. Healthy eating is about the big picture. An occasional splurge won’t kill your efforts. Diets that are too restrictive are conducive to cheating—when you feel deprived, it’s easy to fall off the wagon.
- You lose money faster than you lose weight. Special shakes, meals, and programs may be cost-prohibitive and less practical for long-term weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.
- You feel isolated and unable to enjoy social situations revolving around food. Without some practical, healthy diet strategies, you may feel lost when dining out or attending events like cocktail parties or weddings. If the food served isn’t on your specific diet plan, what can you do?
- The person on the commercial lost 30 lbs. in 2 months—and you haven’t. Diet companies make a lot of grandiose promises. Most are simply not realistic. Unfortunately, losing weight is not easy, and anyone who makes it seem that way is doing you a disservice. Don’t get discouraged by setting unrealistic goals!
Don’t underestimate the importance of putting a stop to emotional eating. Learning to recognize the emotional triggers that lead you to overeat and respond with healthier choices can make all the difference in your weight loss efforts.
To start, consider how and when you eat. Do you only eat when you are hungry, or do you reach for a snack while watching TV? Do you eat when you’re stressed or bored? When you’re lonely? To reward yourself?
Once you’ve identified your emotional eating tendencies, you can work towards gradually changing the habits and mental attitudes that have sabotaged your dieting efforts in the past.
Strategies to combat emotional eating
- If you turn to food at the end of a long day, find other soothing ways to reward yourself and de-stress. Relax with a book and a steaming cup of herbal tea, soak in a hot bath, or savor a beautiful view.
- If you eat when you’re feeling low on energy, find other mid-afternoon pick-me-ups. Try walking around the block, listening to energizing music, or doing some quick stretches or jumping jacks. Another alternative is taking a short nap—just keep it to 30 minutes or less.
- If you eat when you’re lonely or bored, reach out to others instead of reaching for the refrigerator. Call a friend who makes you laugh, take your dog for a walk, find a fun activity to do, or go out in public (to the library, the mall, or the grocery store—anywhere there’s people).
- If you eat when you’re stressed, find healthier ways to calm yourself. Try exercise, yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises. Better manage stressful situations by either changing the situation or changing your reaction. See related articles below to learn more about stress management.
Counter this tendency by practicing “mindful” eating: pay attention to what you eat, savor each bite, and choose foods that are both nourishing and enjoyable. Mindful eating will help you lose weight and maintain your results.
Mindful eating weight loss tips
- Pay attention while you’re eating. Be aware of your environment. Eat slowly, savoring the smells and textures of your food. If your mind wanders, gently return your attention to your food and how it tastes and feels in your mouth.
- Avoid distractions while eating. Try not to eat while working, watching TV, reading, using a computer, or driving. It’s too easy to mindlessly overeat.
- Chew your food thoroughly. Try chewing each bite 30 times before swallowing. You’ll prolong the experience and give yourself more time to enjoy each bite.
- Try mixing things up to force yourself to focus on the experience of eating. Try using chopsticks rather than a fork, or use your utensils with your non-dominant hand.
- Stop eating before you are full. It takes time for the signal to reach your brain that you’ve had enough. Avoid the temptation to clean your plate. Yes, there are children starving in Africa, but your weight gain won’t help them.
Fiber: the secret to feeling satisfied while losing weightIf you want to lose weight without feeling hungry and deprived all the time, start eating foods high in fiber. High-fiber foods are higher in volume, which makes them filling. They also take longer to chew, which makes them more satisfying to eat. High-fiber foods also take a long time to digest, which means you’ll feel full longer. There’s nothing magic about it, but the weight-loss results may seem like it.
High-fiber heavyweights include:
- Fruits and vegetables – Enjoy whole fruits across the rainbow (strawberries, apples, oranges, berries, nectarines, plums), leafy salads, and green veggies of all kinds.
- Beans – Select beans of any kind (black beans, lentils, split peas, pinto beans, chickpeas). Add them to soups, salads, and entrees, or enjoy them as a hearty dish of their own.
- Whole grains – Try high-fiber cereal, oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-wheat or multigrain bread, bran muffins, or air-popped popcorn.
Focus on fruits and veggiesCounting calories and measuring portion sizes can quickly become tedious. But you don’t need an accounting degree to enjoy produce. When it comes to fruit and vegetables, it’s generally safe to eat as much as you want, whenever you want. No measuring cups or calorie tables required.
The high water and fiber content in most fruits and vegetables makes them hard to overeat. You’ll feel full long before you’ve overdone it on the calories.
- Pour a little less cereal into your morning bowl to make room for some blueberries, strawberries, or sliced bananas. You’ll still enjoy a full bowl, but with a lower calorie count.
- Replace one of the eggs and some of the cheese in your omelet or scramble with vegetables. Try tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, spinach, or bell peppers.
- Swap out some of the meat and cheese in your sandwich with healthier veggie choices such as lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, cucumbers, and avocado.
- Instead of a high-calorie snack, such as chips and dip, try baby carrots with hummus, a sliced apple, or the old-favorite: celery with peanut butter (just don’t overdo it on the peanut butter).
- Add more veggies to your favorite main courses to make your dish “go” further. Even dishes such as pasta and stir-fries can be diet-friendly if they’re less heavy on the noodles and more focused on vegetables.
- Try starting your meal with a low-density salad or soup (just watch the dressings and sodium) to help fill you up, so you eat less of your entrée.
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