Eating patterns that restrict certain food groups can certainly help you lose weight, but many people find it hard to continue to eat that way forever. If you want to think of your diet like a relationship, you don’t want to be in an “it’s complicated” or “on-again, off-again” situation. You want to find your match — a meal plan you can feel content with for the long haul. That doesn’t mean you have to ditch all of your favorite foods for eternity. It’s okay to flirt with the foods that make you swoon, but you don’t want to settle down with them. When your healthy habits are solid, enjoying your favorite foods sometimes is no big deal.
Also some research shows that the human body is primed to consume most of its calories during daylight hours. But the lifestyle is problematic for many: Because family meals and dinners with friends often are scheduled for after sunset, "people who try to stop eating after 7pm can’t do it every day for the rest of their lives," says Dr. Seltzer, who supports an alternative strategy: Eating a hearty meal at your regular dinnertime.
Mindfulness matters. “If you slow down and stop just mindless eating, you often realize you don’t need to eat as much as you thought you did; you’re already full,” said Dr. Steinbaum.” Part of this is watching portion sizes, which have ballooned in restaurants over the past 40 years, leading adults to consume an average of 300 more calories per day now than they did in 1985. Did you know that one serving of bread is actually just one slice? Or one serving of pasta or rice is just half a cup? And a serving of cheese is only two ounces, or the size of a domino? You’re probably eating much more than you realized. “There have been multiple studies that see keeping a food journal is effective,” said Dr. Steinbaum. “When you start paying attention, you can really see what you’re doing.”
Ah, the über-popular “know your why” strategy. One Brown University study found that when people are motivated to lose weight for appearance and social reasons, they stick with their weight-loss habits for significantly less time than those who are motivated by their health. After all, these external motivators (like looking a certain way or fitting into a cultural ideal) aren’t going to get you going when you’re feeling down, have had a bad day, or are frustrated with a plateau, Albers says.
Whether or not you’re specifically aiming to cut carbs, most of us consume unhealthy amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pizza dough, pasta, pastries, white flour, white rice, and sweetened breakfast cereals. Replacing refined carbs with their whole-grain counterparts and eliminating candy and desserts is only part of the solution, though. Sugar is hidden in foods as diverse as canned soups and vegetables, pasta sauce, margarine, and many reduced fat foods. Since your body gets all it needs from sugar naturally occurring in food, all this added sugar amounts to nothing but a lot of empty calories and unhealthy spikes in your blood glucose.
Eat More Produce. Eating lots of low-calorie, high-volume fruits and vegetables crowds out other foods that are higher in fat and calories. Move the meat off the center of your plate and pile on the vegetables. Or try starting lunch or dinner with a vegetable salad or bowl of broth-based soup, suggests Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan. The U.S. government's 2005 Dietary Guidelines suggest that adults get 7-13 cups of produce daily. Ward says that's not really so difficult: "Stock your kitchen with plenty of fruits and vegetables and at every meal and snack, include a few servings," she says. "Your diet will be enriched with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, and if you fill up on super-nutritious produce, you won't be reaching for the cookie jar."
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