Getting Back on Track
Have you fallen off the diet wagon? Well, here's how to get back in shape.
Seeing is Believing
Definitely do not punish yourself for pigging out. It happens. Instead, visualize yourself at the ideal weight you want to be and start back on that positive track once again. Keeping a diet diary is very helpful. --Kathy
I put a picture of what I want to look like on the wall in front of my computer. Others might like it on the refrigerator. I did too. But my daughter is vegan, and it upset her to see this beautiful woman wearing tight-fitting leathers. --Cindy
I take pictures of myself every month, wearing the same outfit, in the same corner of the house. This way I can evaluate my progress. If I need a jump start, I look at how far I've come. --iVillager
Do some deep "belly breathing" -- yoga or tai chi style -- try to focus only on your breath; but if you have to "concentrate" on something, visualize yourself as healthy and curvy (not model-skinny) and see yourself doing an activity you enjoy, or focus on something you've done recently that someone really appreciated you for. --Jackie
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Stock up on healthy food in your kitchen, and make it quick and easy to munch on. You can still have Snackwells or low-fat yogurt and other healthier "cheat foods." The object is not to overeat these items just because you think you can due to their lower fat content. It is calories, calories and calories in the long run that add the extra pounds. --Kathy
Call a friend and make plans to go walking, biking, swimming, etc. Time goes by so much faster with someone else along for the ride. Also make sure to surround yourself with positive, uplifting people who inspire you to get back on track by positive reinforcement, not blame or ridicule. --Kathy
Rent some great workout videos and get moving. Make sure they are fun and inspiring and not beyond your abilities or you will not feel capable and will lose interest rather quickly. This will only make you want to go pig out. Trust me. It's just like when we are young, we must first take baby steps, and then when we get confident with that level, we can move on. --Kathy
Whenever I am feeling down and I actually get off my butt and go out to exercise, I come home feeling great. Exercise is a great form of stress relief, including emotional stress. --Melanie
Set Rewards for the Upcoming Goal
Go shopping, but instead of buying the outfit you really want, put it off as a reward for your efforts. Set a goal for yourself, and once you have reached it, reward yourself. When you buy it, you will not feel guilty, but instead, you'll know it is well deserved. --Kathy
Feel Better on Track
What really helped me over the craving of "bad" foods when I was off track was the realization that sugar snacks only made me feel worse -- particularly when the sugar crash kicked in -- whereas fruit and veggies and whole grains nourish me and make me feel good physically. --Jackie
Fit Extra Fitness In
Get up just 15 minutes earlier and take a walk around the block while the sun comes up. Just moving my body in the peace and quiet of the morning makes me feel better throughout the day. --iVillager
The Holiday Party
Holiday parties are notorious diet saboteurs -- hence the five pounds the average American gains between Thanksgiving and New Year's. But believe it or not, it is possible to party like a madwoman and not gain a pound. Here are some tips to keep you from tipping the scales:
Avoid hitting the party with an empty stomach. If you do, your resistance will be that much lower. Munch on a handful of nuts or other high-protein snack immediately before the party to sate your hunger.
Go for the high-protein foods over the high-sugar ones. These satisfy hunger longer than refined carbs and make you feel fuller.
Consume as many high-fiber foods as possible before attacking the sweets. Raw veggies contain sufficient bulk to fill you up before you turn to the high-sugar, low-fiber junk that converts to fat right away.
Eat slowly and chew thoroughly. You'll be amazed how much willpower you can generate when you take your time and give your "satiety center" an opportunity to tell you that you aren't that hungry anymore.
Don't hang out near the food. Putting some distance between you and the chow creates a convenient obstacle between you and calories.
Fill up on liquids. Water, Perrier with lemon, even sugar-free soft drinks (which I don't really recommend), take up space and fill you before and during eating, lessening the desire for more food.
Try to avoid eating just because others around you are. If you aren't really hungry, nibble on a celery stick or sip on something low in calories.
Beware of crackers. Even though they aren't sweet, most are high in refined starch, which converts to sugar in the body immediately (and with no fiber to slow its release into the system).
Hit the sweets last. This way, you can fill up on less fattening foods first.
Walking: The Perfect Workout for the Holidays
No time to exercise? That's the number one reason people give for skipping their workouts. But we probably didn't have to tell you that. You're reading this article in between getting the kids off to school and racing to your next appointment. That's why you need an exercise program that fits into the nooks and crannies of your life.
"Lifestyle" walking is one of the few forms of exercise that you slip seamlessly into your everyday life. It's the type of casual, low-intensity walking style you do when you walk around the mall, to the train station and around the supermarket aisles. Lifestyle walking is such a simple activity that you may think it's not worth doing. After all, how much benefit can you get from what is essentially a glorified stroll? A lot, as it turns out.
When you lifestyle walk, you strengthen and tone your calves, thighs, hips, abdominals and lower back. In recent years, major research studies have found that walking as little as a mile a day at a comfortable pace reduces your risk of heart disease, increases stamina and improves overall health. It has also been shown to reduce stress and fatigue as well as improve self-esteem and mood.
The key to successful lifestyle walking is consistency rather than intensity. We recommend that you walk 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. Aim to burn at least 500 calories through walking each week to bolster your health and make noticeable improvements in stamina. (You burn about 100 calories a mile.) If your goal is weight loss, walk enough to burn 1,500 calories a week; for most of us that's an accumulated mileage of about 15 to 20 miles a week.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to do all your walking in one shot. You can "collect" walks throughout the day and add them all up. Most experts, including the American College of Sports Medicine, think that several mini-walks are just as beneficial as one long walk. Here are several ways you can sneak some lifestyle walking into your typical day:
Walk once in the morning, once at lunchtime and once after dinner, for a total of three 10- to 20-minute walks.
Walk 18 holes around the golf course. For extra calorie burn and exercise, pull your manual golf cart. You'll walk an average of two accumulated hours during a round of golf.
Walk to the corner store or a friend's house and back for a total of two 20- to 30-minute walks.
Window-shop at the mall or your neighborhood shopping district, or do your errands on foot to accumulate an hour or more of walking time.
Walk to work, to the train or to the bus stop. If necessary, get off the train or bus a stop or two early so that you can accumulate two to four 10- to 15-minute walks daily.
Schedule an appointment in your daily planner for a 30- to 60-minute walk on the treadmill or outdoors.
I recommend that you take a twofold strategy to lifestyle walks: Go for a formal lifestyle walk three to six days a week and squeeze as much "informal" lifestyle walking into your everyday life as you can. But feel free to hit your totals any way you can.
Healthy Eating Secrets for Special Occasions
It takes a superhuman effort to say no to everything you'll be offered in the coming weeks, so instead, try for moderation. Follow these guidelines and you'll ensure minimal damage.
Guideline No. 1: Portion control is everything.
Many people lose weight and keep it off with the simple strategy of portion control. Eliminating or even limiting certain foods is brutally hard during the holidays. So do the next best thing: Eat reasonably small portions, limit the foods you know you should limit, and don't stuff yourself.
Guideline No. 2: The next best thing to behaving perfectly is behaving well.
Most of us know by now what our "trigger" foods are and the effects certain foods have on our mood, appetite and energy. If you can't abstain from problem foods all of the time during the holidays, abstain from them most of the time. "Most of the time" is a lot better than "none of the time."
Guideline No. 3: Get off the diet mentality.
This is the corollary of Guideline No. 2. If you think of yourself as being "on" or "off" a diet, you're going to get into trouble. Why? Because as soon as you go off, you go off, as in "deep end." Don't set yourself up for this disaster. A taste of Aunt Goldie's pie doesn't mean you've "sinned" and definitely doesn't mean "What the heck, I might as well eat the whole thing."
Guideline No. 4: Don't skip meals.
A common strategy during the holidays is to skip breakfast -- and lunch -- because you know a big meal is coming, so you "save up" the calories for the celebration. This strategy backfires, because you come to the meal starving and wind up eating way more than you ever intended. Which leads us to ...
Guideline No. 5: Never arrive hungry.
You know what foods you need to stay away from. Well, those foods are a lot harder to resist when you're starving and your blood sugar is in the pits. An ounce of prevention goes a long way here. A glass of tomato juice, some whole-grain crackers, a slice or two of cheese or a rice cake with some peanut butter will keep your appetite at bay. Try any of them an hour or so before the big holiday dinner and watch your willpower soar while your waistline stays in place.
Guideline No. 6: Go to the buffet line with a small plate.
A full salad plate looks like a lot of food and psychologically "feels" the same way. You can always go back for seconds, or even thirds; but all of this slows down the eating process, giving you more time to feel full. And more often than not, the larger portions of food you would have eaten if they had been on your plate will wind up staying on the buffet table.
Guideline No. 7: Bring snacks while shopping.
Prowling the mall for hours leaves everyone starving and vulnerable to the usually bad fast-food choices. If you come prepared to roam around with some crunchy, healthy snacks such as celery, carrots, or even nuts -- just don't scarf down fistfuls of peanuts -- you'll be less likely to succumb to the call of the food court.
Guideline No. 8: Replace sweet with spicy.
Cravings for sweets sometimes evaporate when you put something pickled or spicy in your mouth. It's okay to indulge the occasional sweet craving, but eat something spicy or pickled first and you may find you no longer want to.
Guideline No. 9: Be sure it's not thirst. Many times when we crave food, it's not really hunger that's driving the urge, it's mild dehydration. So drink tons of water. A slice of orange, lemon or lime will flavor the water and cut your cravings; flavored non-caloric seltzers accomplish the same thing.
Guideline No. 10: Finish your big holiday meals within an hour of starting.
The body produces a second insulin hit if it senses a lot of food coming in continuously. You can avoid that second hit (and the subsequent fat storage that it triggers) by finishing within an hour of starting. If you see something you like that you forgot to eat within the hour, that's fine; just save it for tomorrow. It'll still be there, and you won't be wearing it on your hips.
Guideline No. 11: Begin each meal with a salad.
It fills you up, provides fiber and is a wonderful alternative to bread.
Guideline No. 12: Divide your plate into thirds.
Think protein, vegetables and the carbohydrates you probably crave. Imagine that your plate is divided into thirds, one section for each food group. The carb section has to include not only the starchy carbs that are staples of holiday dinners but the desserts too. So if you're going to eat dessert, adjust your portion of the other carbs accordingly. Together the "meal" carbs and dessert carbs should make up about one-third of the holiday meal.
Guideline No. 13: Fiber is your secret weapon.
Not only is fiber supremely healthy and directly related to the reduction of risks for a whole host of diseases, it is a huge player in the weight-loss field. It also contributes to a feeling of fullness.
Guideline No. 14: Plan ahead.
During the holidays, try to plan around where you're going, what temptations are likely to arise and how you're going to deal with them. Decide in advance what you're going to allow yourself, but prepare for it so you don't go overboard. Don't be afraid to taste things without finishing them.
Guideline No. 15: Eat slowly.
Hormones signal the brain when you're full, but it takes about 20 minutes from start time before you feel it. Slow eating not only aids in digestion but also gives your brain a chance to know what the stomach is doing. If you make the meal last, by talking, putting down your fork between bites or just plain waiting, you're less likely to eat on "automatic pilot" and more likely to realize you're full.
How To Get Through The Holidays
No one wants to be a killjoy at a Christmas party or a family get-together. But when it comes to dealing with the temptations of the season's high-calorie bounty, you don't have to be a grinch. You do need a plan, says Susan J. Bartlett, Ph.D., an associate director of clinical psychology at Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center in Baltimore, and a specialist in weight and eating disorders. Last year, she led a small group at the center through the following eat-right strategies. Her expertise and her students' experiences provide practical lessons for anyone to try.
Mark Your Calendar
The holiday season consists of nearly two months of celebrating, says Bartlett, with goodies appearing in homes and offices at Thanksgiving and continuing until the beginning of January. "By Christmas, most of the plans to eat less and exercise more have dwindled, and it's easy to gain a significant amount of weight, even seven to 10 pounds," she notes.
One way to monitor your intake over time: Keep track of your daily habits and set weekly goals around food intake and exercise.
"At any time of the year, losing weight and keeping it off is very difficult," says Bartlett. "Holidays are an especially high-risk time." The idea that you should stick to a "diet to lose pounds" is adding stress to an already stressful season.
Set achievable goals, suggests Bartlett. Sure, you may be able to exercise four days a week and eat only 1,400 calories a day at other times, but is it really feasible during the holidays? You're much more likely to stick to your plan and succeed if you set your expectations more realistically, aiming to maintain your weight, or to minimize weight gain to, say, one to three pounds.
Keep A Food Diary
When you've figured out your goals, write them down, and keep a diary of what you eat. "When researchers talk to people who are successful at losing weight and keeping it off, they inevitably say that writing everything down made the biggest difference. It's that willingness to stay in touch with what you're eating that's important," Bartlett explains. Even more critical is keeping track of your weight: Group members weighed in every week. "People say this accountability factor makes a big difference," notes Bartlett. "Often, people avoid the scale because they don't want to come face-to-face with the news." But if you detect a two- to three-pound gain, there's still time to get back on track before things escalate.
Find A Food Pal
It's easy to underestimate the toll that the season takes physically, psychologically, and emotionally. To avoid gaining weight, you need commitment and awareness. It's best to do this with a group of people even one or two friends or a close buddy whom you can call upon to talk about eating concerns. In Bartlett's group, members "got specific" when providing one another with support, preparing strategies for potentially troublesome situations coming up that week. For instance, how would someone manage her food intake with three holiday parties in a row? When the group got together the following week, they'd review how things had gone.
What if you've identified your red flags, but you don't heed them? Bohner uses a quick test to put things in perspective.
"I use a scale of zero to 10, with zero being starving and ten really stuffed. I write down how I felt when I started eating and when I finished." When she goes over seven, she knows she was eating to meet emotional needs rather than actual hunger. "There's no reason to eat until you're stuffed," she adds.
Whatever method you choose, it's best to take stock and be honest with yourself. If your goal is to exercise three times a week, how many sessions do you miss before you admit you are slipping? Going to an event without a plan (see Party Tips) is also a signal that you're not focusing on your eating.
Recognize Red Flags
One of the best outcomes of a calorie chat group is identifying the situations that cause you to overindulge. Barbara Bohner, a 55-year-old elementary-school guidance counselor, who has worked with Bartlett since last December, has her own trick for getting through parties: "I eat raw vegetables or a piece of fruit before I go out, so I have something in my stomach. I don't drink any alcohol; instead, I try to hold a glass of sparkling water, so I feel like I'm doing something with my hands. And I try to talk more than I eat."
Avoiding alcohol also appeals to Martha Barchowsky, a 43-year-old businesswoman who has lost more than 100 pounds working with Bartlett. "Last year I had a New Year's Eve party; I served everyone champagne to toast the holiday, but I had sparkling water in my champagne flute. It's not the champagne that matters; the real deal is that you're celebrating with your good friends."
Beware of Food Fables
Besides the red flags, it's important to understand other, more subtle tricks you use to justify an overindulgence. "We all tell ourselves stories that are the same, time after time, like 'if I overeat Friday or Saturday, I'll be extra good Monday morning,'" Bartlett says. "Other familiar half-truths are: 'I've eaten an extra thousand calories so I'll do an extra session at the gym,' or 'I'll eat what I want tonight and worry about it tomorrow.'"
Still, lapses are inevitable no matter how well prepared you are. And when you slip, you become vulnerable to a common pitfall abandoning your entire plan until after the holidays because you made one mistake. It's far better to forgive yourself and move on. "Recognize what's going on, stop it, and get back on track quickly," says Bartlett. "I tell people to put things in perspective and remind them that overeating on one occasion is not what causes weight gain; it's consistently eating too much."
Taking this into account, the group members did a lot of planning for "the day after." When someone slipped up at a party, they mapped out what to eat at their next meal, checking calorie and fat intake.
Surprisingly, even when someone breezed through a party, she often needed a strategy to get through the next few days. "It's easy to underestimate how difficult it will be to avoid overeating at a party, either as a reward or because you've been stimulated and you're biologically hungry. And psychologically you're tired, so you may not be as good at recognizing the danger signs," Bartlett maintains.
Re-think "Must Dos"
The holiday season can be stressful. You may be feeling financially pinched or extra tired from lack of sleep. And extended visits with your family are not always tension-free. To avoid getting trapped into using eating as an emotional crutch, devise strategies for basic self-preservation. "Focus on what you absolutely need so you don't get caught in a whirlwind," suggests Bartlett. This may mean having time alone, getting enough sleep, having your family help out with shopping or food preparation, or hiring extra help to clean.
Because you may feel under a lot of stress, it's easy to overeat at home too. Here, it pays to challenge some of your basic assumptions. For instance, just because you've always done it, do you have to bake six dozen sugar cookies this year? If you have them around the house, you'll eat them. Bake fewer, or give some away.
Several group members found themselves in a quandary about what to serve at their parties, worrying that their guests would only enjoy rich foods and eggnog. But it's perfectly acceptable to modify recipes, using lower-fat options, or to offer a variety of choices: "When I have a party, I can control the kinds of foods offered," says Barchowsky. "Obviously, I'm not going to invite my friends over and give them only low-fat, low-calorie foods. I'll serve cookies too." And share the wealth: Give calorie-laden leftovers to guests as they leave, instead of packing them into the refrigerator, where they'll be tough to resist.
Weight specialist Susan Bartlett suggests the following ways to keep your caloric count in check at a big event:
Don't arrive hungry; eat something before you go.
Pass up peanuts, pretzels, chips, and other everyday snacks. Spend your calories on the special treats you really want.
Wear a form-fitting outfit, with a belt if possible.
Make socializing, rather than food, the focus of the event.
Keep your portions in check to keep calories under control.
Plan how much alcohol you'll drink. It loosens your inhibitions and contributes to calorie consumption.
Don't stand near the buffet table. In fact, keep your back to it, so you won't even see it!
Make a deal with yourself that you will learn something new about someone you don't know at the party.
Wear a special piece of jewelry a sparkly bangle or big ring as a visible reminder to yourself to eat in moderation.
Practice saying "no, thank you." It's okay to turn down invitations or tell a pushy host you don't want seconds.
Fill 'em Up: Ideas for Healthy Dashboard Dining
Eating on the run, or on the road, has become a way of life. Our cars are even designed to accommodate it, with cup holders and fold-down tables. Some luxury cars even have refrigerators. But it will take more to get you to good nutrition.
In less time than it takes to stop at the corner store, you can prepare healthy, utensil-free meals at home to take along for the ride. Each one contains a good source of protein, high-quality carbs and enough energy to see you through.
Hard-boil a batch of eggs to keep in the fridge. Before heading out the door, take 30 seconds to shell one. Put it into a sealed plastic bag with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Add a juice box and a banana and you have a high-protein, low-cal meal.
Buy or bake some low-fat whole-grain muffins and store them in the freezer. Before heading out, microwave one for a minute or two. Accompany it with a container of skim milk and a mug of herb tea.
Make a sandwich with all-natural peanut butter and fruit-sweetened jelly on whole-grain toast, and bring a travel mug filled with calcium-fortified orange juice. Don't worry about the fat in the peanut butter; it is the heart-healthy, monounsaturated variety.
Take two slices of cinnamon raisin bread, spread one with apple butter and the other with almond butter, put together and cut in half. Grab a small apple and some soymilk, and out you go.
Split an English muffin in two, spread each half with cottage cheese, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and broil for a minute or two in the toaster oven while you fill your travel mug with coffee. This is a low-fat, take-along cheese Danish.
Blender breakfast: Whirl together some nonfat vanilla yogurt, a banana, a splash of orange juice and a tablespoon or more of wheat germ. Pour into a travel mug and head out.
Fill a plastic container with your favorite dried cereal squares, dry roasted peanuts and raisins. Take along a travel mug of skim milk and an orange juice box.
Nothing beats a classic sandwich. Keep a generous supply of low-fat cold cuts, cheeses and lettuce plus other favorite fillings on hand. It takes only a minute or two to make your favorite combo. Be sure to use whole-grain breads and low-fat spread such as mustard or fat-free mayonnaise. Here are some healthy sandwich ideas that beat a double cheeseburger any day for nutrition and taste. Add a bottle of flavored soda water and a piece of fruit:
Red pepper hummus and sprouts on whole-wheat bread.
Smoked turkey breast, Provolone, lettuce and pesto on pumpernickel.
Low-fat cheddar cheese, honey mustard and apple slices on cinnamon raisin bread.
Fat-free refried black beans, avocado slices and lettuce rolled up in a tortilla.
Sourdough bread spread with mustard, topped with lean ham and lettuce.
Tofu salad (make your own or buy at local natural foods store) with sprouts on whole-grain roll.
Herbed low-fat cheese spread, sliced cucumber and parsley on a bagel.
Whole-grain crackers, string cheese, nectarine, pear, grapes or an apple and spring water.
Make an English-muffin pizza. Spread each half with pizza sauce, top with a slice of mozzarella or Provolone from the deli, sprinkle on some Italian seasoning and broil it in the toaster oven. Accompany with a bottle of juice.
Use any of the lunch sandwiches ideas.
Heat a veggie burger in the microwave and put it on a whole-grain bun with lettuce or sprouts and add baby carrot sticks, dried fruit and soda water
Fill pita bread with fat-free tuna or salmon salad (made up ahead of time) and fresh spinach or romaine lettuce; take along a soymilk or juice box and fig-filled cookies.
Make dinner a wrap. Fill your favorite flavored wrap with low-fat cheese, deli meat and sprouts, or use a wrap to eat up your leftovers. For example, for a Mexican wrap, fill it with leftover grilled chicken and add a few fresh cilantro leaves, tomato slices and lettuce.
Split and toast a French baguette under a broiler. On one half of the toasted bread pile on Granny Smith apple slices, turkey slices and then sliced smoked cheddar cheese. Return to the broiler until the cheese is bubbly. Meanwhile, spread the other half of the bread with honey mustard. Pop the two halves together and eat warm.